Collection Laws & Exemptions

Collection laws & exemptions as hands collecting bills of money
  • 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 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 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:
  $5,000 (can double) None $3,000 75%
Alaska   $70,200 $3,900 $1,820 or $2,860 $456-7161
  $150,000 $5,000 $150 75%
Arkansas   Unlimited (<1/4 acre) $1,200 $800 or $1250 75%
Yes $50,0004 $5,000 (2x) $0 75%
  $30,000 $5,000 None 75%
  $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%
Yes Unlimited $1,000 None 100%2
  $10,000 (can double) $3,500 (2x) $600 75%
Hawaii Yes $30,000 $2,575 None 80%
Idaho   $50,000 $5,000 $800 75%
  $15,000 (can double) $1,200 $2,000 85%6
  $7500 (can double) None $4,000 75%
Yes Unlimited $5,000 $100 75%3
  Unlimited $20,000 None 75%
  $5,000 $2,500 $1,000 75%
  $25,000 None None 75%
Maine   $25,000 (ask) $5,000 $400 75%
Yes None (if both owe $) $5,000 $6,000 75%
Yes $300,000 $700 $425 75%
Yes $35,300 or $52,925 if elderly or disabled $3,250 None 75%
  $200,000 $3,600 None 75%
Mississippi   $75,000 $10,000 None 75%
  $8,000 $1,000 $1,250 75%
Montana   $60,000 $2,500 None 75%
Nebraska   $12,500 $2,500 wildcard 85%
  $125,000 $4,500 None 75%
New Hampshire Yes $30,000 $4,000 $8,000 75%
  None (if both owe $) $1,000 $1,000 90%7
New Mexico Yes $30,000 (may double) $4,000 $2,000 75%
Yes Varies by county
$4,000 $2,5008 90%
Yes $10,000 (may double) $1,500 $500 100%
North Dakota   $80,000 $1,200 $7,500 75%
  $25,000 $3,225 $425 (2x) 75%
  Unlimited $3,000 None 75%
Yes $25,000 ($30K couple) $1,700 (2x) $400 75%
Yes None (if both owe $) None $300 100%
Rhode Island   $150,000 $12,000 None 75%
Yes $50,000 (can double) $5,000 $5,000 100%
South Dakota   Unlimited $6,000 6k-Auto 75%
  $5,000 ($7.5K cpl) $4,000 wildcard9 75%
Yes Unlimited Unlimited None 100%
  $20,000 (can double) $2,500 or $3,500 None 75%
Yes $75,000 (can double) $2,500 $1,100 75%
  $5,000 (+$500/kid 2x) $2,000 None 75%
  $40,000 $2,500 $500 75%
West Virginia Yes $25,000 (can double) $2,400 $800+ 75%
Yes $40,000 $1,200+ $1,000 75%
Wyoming   $10,000 (can double) $2,400 None 75%

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 for more information.
9. Tennessee: Up to $4,000 of any personal property, including a financial account, can be exempted. See 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 , 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 .

The Wage Exemption shows what part of your wages are protected from , 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 (441)

Shel T.
Roseburg, OR  |  July 05, 2014
Many years ago, my husband was declared at-fault in a car accident. Our insurance had lapsed. We moved to a different state (the accident was in Mississippi, we have lived in Oregon for the past 6 years.) Recently, we received a letter from Allstate about the $48K judgement against him. Our only income is his disability, which is already being garnished for student loans. We are on public assistance. What can the insurance company do to us since we have no way to pay this debt?
July 07, 2014
Collection efforts by the insurance company for this type of judgment against your husband can't touch the disability or public assistance monies. The creditor could potentially come after a bank account or certain assets in your husband's name.

You mentioned residing in Oregon. Read the article Oregon Collection Laws to learn more about your rights and liabilities as an Oregon resident.
Jodie S.
Cuyahoga Falls, OH  |  June 11, 2014
I'm in Ohio and receive direct deposited child support in my bank account. Can a creditor take any of it out of my account?
June 11, 2014
The child support money should be protected from any creditor. Issues can arise when other money is co-mingled in the account. Speak with your bank manager, to make sure that there is a note attached to your account. It may be wise to have an account that holds only the child-support money.
T/o Webster, NY  |  May 28, 2014
I live in NY, my spouse has a private Sallie Mae Loan, about to go in collection. Should we let it get to collection and deal with them instead of dealing directly with Sallie Mae, whom does not seem to budge on the lowest amount that can be paid. They are asking for 230 a month and that's too much for us, we are 4 payments late. We were paying that but it was not making any effect on the amount.
May 28, 2014
A collection agent could choose to be just as inflexible as Sallie Mae. What you face, whomever is trying to collect, is a possible lawsuit and judgment if you default on the loan. In New York, the maximum garnishment allowed on wages is 10% of your disposable income. Figure out that amount. Don't agree to any payment greater, if you are not confident that you can make it.
Carol T.
Warner Robins, GA  |  May 02, 2014
I divorced in 2002 after many years of marriage. My spouse refused to work and we were in debt. I defaulted on one credit card and he defaulted on two. He also let them reposes our new truck. I know that a bill was sent back in 1999 saying we owed $10,000 after they sold the truck. For years his credit card debt was on my credit report even though I never was a user on the accounts. Now I am remarried and rebuilding my credit. Today a collection agency called to say I owed the money for my credit card. I was not nice to her and told her to never call me again that I had been divorced for 12 years. I should have been a little nicer although I am glad I didn't say much. When she asked me if the four digits she read out were my last four SS I never answered and she continued. She knew how much credit I have these days and that is what threw me off. Now I want to know if in the state of Georgia if the statute of limitations has run out. Can they take money from my account without my permission? I am not aware of any judgements against me unless it was from the truck and I just don't know. My name is on our house now and I am afraid they will put a lien on the house. Can they sue me after all these years? Can they take my money from my accounts? Can they put a lien on my home?
May 02, 2014
You mentioned Georgia. Under Georgia law, written contracts have a 6-year statute of limitations.

Just because someone happens to know the last four numbers of your Social Security number does not mean you owe them money. Just because they have access to your credit report and know your account balances doesn't mean they have a legal right to collect money from you.

What to do? Take these four steps:
  1. Validate the debt. A debt that cannot be validated cannot be collected. Roughly half of all collection accounts cannot be validated, so it is worth your time to validate the accounts that went delinquent when you divorced.
  2. Review your state's statute of limitations rules. When the clock for your state's statute of limitations for written contracts expires, which it appears to have here, then send the collection agent a cease communications notice.
  3. If the collection agent validates the debt, and the statute of limitations clock has not expired, then negotiate a settlement to the debt. A settlement can be for less than the amount the collection agent claims you owe.
  4. If you receive a notice of a lawsuit, consult with a lawyer to file an answer. Ignoring a lawsuit will not make it go away and will almost certainly make your situation worse.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a collection agent may not add fees or interest to a collection account, unless the fees or interest are mentioned in the contract the consumer signed with the original creditor. Because most collection agents cannot produce a copy of the original contract the consumer signed, courts usually do not allow collection agents to add fees to their collection accounts. In other words, just because a collection agent adds mystery fees to your account doesn't mean you're legally obligated to pay them.

Read Georgia Collection Laws to learn more about your rights and liabilities as Georgia resident.

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?
April 11, 2014
Read the 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.
March 17, 2014
You mentioned you reside in Tennessee. See the 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!!
March 07, 2014
Payday lenders, or other lenders for that matter, cannot issue warrants for your arrest.

Please read the article Payday Loan Collections and ask any follow-up questions you may have on that page.
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.
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?
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!
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)
March 10, 2014
We receive questions like yours often. Read the article Advice on Medical Bills & Insurance Claims to learn how to handle an old medical bill.
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