Collection Laws & Exemptions

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Law Books | Understand Collection Laws & Exemptions
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Find out your state's consumer debt protection laws and exemptions.
  • Review FDCPA rules and collection exemptions for homesteads, autos, bank accounts, and wages.
  • Find links to learn more about your state's rules.

Collection Laws & Exemptions by State

Below find consumer protection laws and exemptions by state. See the Bills.com Statute of Limitations on Debt page to find consumer statutes of limitations laws for the 50 US states and the District of Columbia. Use this information as a starting point for your research — it is not legal advice. Consult an attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.

If debt is causing you distress, go to the Bills.com Debt Savings Center to get a no-cost quote from a pre-screened debt resolution service provider.

  Collection Laws & Exemptions
  FDCPA Applies to
Original Creditors
Homestead Exemption Vehicle Exemption Bank Account Wages
State-by-state collection laws. Source: Bills.com
Alabama   $5,000 (can double) None $3,000 75%
Alaska   $70,200 $3,900 $1,820 or $2,860 $456-7161
Arizona   $150,000 $5,000 $150 75%
Arkansas   Unlimited (<1/4 acre) $1,200 $800 or $1250 75%
California Yes $50,0004 $5,000 (2x) $0 75%
Colorado   $30,000 $5,000 None 75%
Connecticut   $75,000 (2x if married) $1,500 $1,000 75%
Delaware   None (if both owe $) None $500 85%5
D.C. Yes Unlimited $2,575 $850 75%
Florida Yes Unlimited $1,000 None 100%2
Georgia   $10,000 (can double) $3,500 (2x) $600 75%
Hawaii Yes $30,000 $2,575 None 80%
Idaho   $50,000 $5,000 $800 75%
Illinois   $15,000 (can double) $1,200 $2,000 85%6
Indiana   $7500 (can double) None $4,000 75%
Iowa Yes Unlimited $5,000 $100 75%3
Kansas   Unlimited $20,000 None 75%
Kentucky   $5,000 $2,500 $1,000 75%
Louisiana   $25,000 None None 75%
Maine   $25,000 (ask) $5,000 $400 75%
Maryland Yes None (if both owe $) $5,000 $6,000 75%
Massachusetts Yes $300,000 $700 $425 75%
Michigan Yes $35,300 or $52,925 if elderly or disabled $3,250 None 75%
Minnesota   $200,000 $3,600 None 75%
Mississippi   $75,000 $10,000 None 75%
Missouri   $8,000 $1,000 $1,250 75%
Montana   $60,000 $2,500 None 75%
Nebraska   $12,500 $2,500 wildcard 85%
Nevada   $125,000 $4,500 None 75%
New Hampshire Yes $30,000 $4,000 $8,000 75%
New Jersey   None (if both owe $) $1,000 $1,000 90%7
New Mexico Yes $30,000 (may double) $4,000 $2,000 75%
New York Yes Varies by county
See CVP § 5206
$4,000 $2,5008 90%
North Carolina Yes $10,000 (may double) $1,500 $500 100%
North Dakota   $80,000 $1,200 $7,500 75%
Ohio   $25,000 $3,225 $425 (2x) 75%
Oklahoma   Unlimited $3,000 None 75%
Oregon Yes $25,000 ($30K couple) $1,700 (2x) $400 75%
Pennsylvania Yes None (if both owe $) None $300 100%
Rhode Island   $150,000 $12,000 None 75%
South Carolina Yes $50,000 (can double) $5,000 $5,000 100%
South Dakota   Unlimited $6,000 6k-Auto 75%
Tennessee   $5,000 ($7.5K cpl) $4,000 wildcard9 75%
Texas Yes Unlimited Unlimited None 100%
Utah   $20,000 (can double) $2,500 or $3,500 None 75%
Vermont Yes $75,000 (can double) $2,500 $1,100 75%
Virginia   $5,000 (+$500/kid 2x) $2,000 None 75%
Washington   $40,000 $2,500 $500 75%
West Virginia Yes $25,000 (can double) $2,400 $800+ 75%
Wisconsin Yes $40,000 $1,200+ $1,000 75%
Wyoming   $10,000 (can double) $2,400 None 75%
Notes

1. Alaska: $716/wk (head of family) or $456/wk (non-head of family)
2. Florida: 100% (head of family only) or 75% for non-head of household
3. Iowa: 75%, but yearly total limited
4. California: $50k (single), $75k (married), $125K (65 or disabled)
5. Delaware: 85% of disposable
6. Illinois: 85% of gross
7. New Jersey: 90% of gross, unless judgment-debtor earns more that 250% of federal poverty level, then court has discretion to use federal 25% exemption.
8. New York: Account contains directly deposited exempt benefits, including Social Security, SSI, Veterans benefits, disability, pensions, child support, spousal maintenance, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, Public Assistance, Railroad Retirement benefits, and Black Lung benefits. Otherwise, $1,740 on all other accounts. See the New York LawHelp Consortium for more information.
9. Tennessee: Up to $4,000 of any personal property, including a financial account, can be exempted. See Tennessee § 26-2-103 for details.

The amounts listed in the chart’s columns are what is protected from collection, what you will be left with should a collector pursue a particular asset or your income. Pay attention to the footnotes, where listed.

FDCPA Applies refers to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which customarily applies to collection agents/debt collectors. In the states indicated, the FDCPA applies to original creditors, too.

The Homestead Exemption shows the amount of equity in your primary residence that even a judgment-creditors cannot pursue. The exact amount you can protect depends on the exemption in your state of residence. Some states have no exemption whatsoever. Some states have unlimited exemptions, where all the equity in an expensive mansion is completely protected.

The Vehicle Exemption protects equity in one vehicle up to the amount listed for your state. If you owe money on the vehicle, subtract what you owe from what it is worth, to see if your vehicle is totally exempt or not. In some states, a vehicle that is worth more than the exempt amount can be seized and sold, with the exempt amount returned to the owner.

The Bank Account Exemption lists how much is safe from a judgment-creditor’s collection efforts. Some states offer no protections; anything in your account can be levied.

The Wage Exemption shows what part of your wages are protected from wage garnishment, and is the amount that most creditors cannot pursue.

Although we believe this information to be accurate as of the date of its posting, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. Consult with an attorney in your state for specific information regarding the laws and exemptions that apply to you in your circumstances.

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Comments (433)


Laura J.
Gladewater, TX  |  April 11, 2014
My husband and I currently reside in Texas. I lost my job and his hours have been cut. We have not been able to pay our consumer loans. We have also not been able to pay a couple of our credit cards. We're about to move to Arizona. I know in the state of Texas consumer loans cannot garnish your wages, but once we get into Arizona would they be able to garnish our wages from debt we owe in Texas?
Bills.com
April 11, 2014
Read the Bills.com article Arizona Collection Laws to learn more about the rights and liabilities of Arizona residents. Please ask any follow-up questions you may have about Arizona law on the page just mentioned.
Mike J.
Memphis, TN  |  March 16, 2014
I received a letter saying my wife is being sued for my medical bills. We live in Tennessee, and it didn't think that was legal here. Can anyone shed some light on this for me? I'm disabled since my medical problems and have no income except for my private disability insurance but it's not enough to pay all my medical bills with.
Bills.com
March 17, 2014
You mentioned you reside in Tennessee. See the Bills.com resource Tennessee Collection Laws to learn more about the rules creditors must follow in your state. In particular, read the section "Tennessee Doctrine of Necessaries" to learn how Tennessee courts have looked at spousal medical debt questions. Please ask any follow-up questions you may have on that page.
Christina G.
Auburn, WA  |  March 07, 2014
A Debt Collector called Litigation Services Incorporated in San Antonio Texas bought a 200.00 Payday loan I received 3 years ago and couldn't pay back. They are saying I Have to pay them 1100.00 today or they are issuing a warrant. Is this even possible? I'd gladly pay the 200 and some interest but they only give me the option to pay 1100.00 or they will issue a warrant I really need some advice!!
Bills.com
March 07, 2014
Payday lenders, or other lenders for that matter, cannot issue warrants for your arrest.

Please read the Bills.com article Payday Loan Collections and ask any follow-up questions you may have on that page.
Avatar
Joe W.
Travis Afb, CA  |  March 12, 2014
Don't pay anything or you will reset the statute of limitations "clock" on the debt. (Varies by state) Send them letter demanding no telephone contact; certified mail. Then do nothing unless you want to pay it off. They are not the original creditor with whom you signed a contract so they can't sue and they wouldn't dream of that anyway for such an amount.
Bills.com
March 21, 2014
I agree with the first part of your comment but not the second. Unscrupulous collection agents file lawsuits on time-barred debt frequently, even though doing so is prohibited by the FDCPA. If a consumer is sued after the statute of limitations clock has run out, they should consult with a lawyer and file an answer that includes a statute of limitations defense.

Collection agents will sue for amounts of less than $500 in small claims court.
Amanda D.
Rocky Mount, NC  |  March 06, 2014
I had a bank account charged off for $108 in 2009. Just received a phone call stating they're trying to serve me with a summons to appear in court. I'm trying to settle out of court for $200. The offer they gave me was $550. As far as I know, they're making $300+ off my account. Can they really take me to court in WV after 5 years?
Bills.com
March 10, 2014
Consult with a West Virginia lawyer about this issue immediately. It is likely a West Virginia court would use the written contracts statute of limitation for your dispute, assuming you ask the bank to produce the written contract you signed and it does so. As the table above indicates, the statute of limitations for a West Virginia contract is 10 years.

Keep negotiating.
Kat A.
Mitchell, NE  |  March 06, 2014
I have outstanding medical bills in "MY Name" I am the person that received service. Can a collection company "attach" my husbands name and garnish his wages while still garnishing mine? This same collection company also emptied my son's savings account when he WAS A MINOR. I CAN FIND NO PLACE THAT THE 700.00 was applied to. HELP please!
Bills.com
March 10, 2014
Consult with a lawyer in your state to learn if the judgment-creditor's actions are consistent with your state's laws. If you cannot afford a lawyer, call your county bar association and ask for the names of the organizations that provide no-cost legal services to people with low or no income in your area. Make an appointment with one of the organizations, and bring all of the documents and letters you have regarding the debt to your meeting. The lawyer you meet will advise you accordingly.
Cerissa M.
Danville, VA  |  March 06, 2014
We recently received a bill from a medical provider for services rendered in Feb 2011. They billed our insurance and the insurance paid. However this is the first correspondence we have received stating that we owe them anything. Are we obligated to pay this bill since it has been three years? We received a cover letter stating they had a fire in Oct 2012 but that is still over a year since services rendered. (We live in Va)
Bills.com
March 10, 2014
We receive questions like yours often. Read the Bills.com article Advice on Medical Bills & Insurance Claims to learn how to handle an old medical bill.
Jean F.
Wayland, MI  |  March 03, 2014
I am a realtor and my former broker went out of business. He is suing me for office fees. Am I responsible for these fees? The contract says that either party must notify the other in writing 6 months prior to terminating employment.
Bills.com
March 04, 2014
If you are being sued, you need to speak with an attorney. Take a copy of the contract and meet with an attorney who will review the contract and the facts of the matter as well.
Robert A.
Springfield, MO  |  March 02, 2014
I sponsored a Filipino lady to come to U.S.A. and become my wife. We married but she refused to consummate or do any wife duties. When I reminded her of her promise to return to the Philippines, she disappeared. i divorced her. Now months later, I'm told she is running up huge medical bills. I'm miserable. On Social security. Can I have a small home in Texas, or Florida protected from collection for high medical bills I cannot pay? Thank you.
Bills.com
March 10, 2014
Consult with your divorce lawyer to learn if you have any liability for your ex-spouse's debts. If you are divorced, then you will not have any liability for her debts.
John D.
Billings, MT  |  March 02, 2014
I have a judgement against me in Montana for almost 2800. Will the creditor freeze my joint checking right off the bat? I have had another company levy this account and this debt is now satisfied. I think I will try to pull out the majority of the money as soon as I can. Will they levy first?
Bills.com
March 10, 2014
To be safe, you should assume the judgment-creditor will take action immediately. As you have already seen, it is difficult to predict when a judgment-creditor will act.
Geneva K.
Valrico, FL  |  February 27, 2014
Husband had wreck and we had liability. I owned the car. People suing for more. Car totaled. I'm disabled and on SSI. I own a car and a mobile home. Can they sue me?
Bills.com
March 10, 2014
Can the harmed party or parties file a lawsuit against the driver and owner of the vehicle that caused the harm? Almost certainly they can.

Can a judgment-creditor garnish your Social Security benefit? No, but there is a circumstance where it can levy your bank account containing Social Security benefits. See the Bills.com article Social Security Garnishment to learn more.

Can a judgment-creditor place a lien on your property? That depends on your state of residence and the state where the property is located. You indicated you reside in Florida. See the Bills.com article Florida Collection Laws to learn more about Florida's homestead law.
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