Statute of Limitations on Debt

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Statute of Limitations | Scales of justice balancing a clock & currency
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Review your state's statute of limitation laws.
  • Get statute of limitation laws on various types of debt.
  • Understand that statute of limitations issues can be complicated and may require consulting with an attorney.

Statute of Limitations Laws by State

Below find consumer statutes of limitations laws for the 50 US states and the District of Columbia. Use this as a starting point for your research — it is not legal advice. Consult an attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.

Tip If debt is causing you distress, consult with a Bills.com to get no-cost advice about your debt resolution options.

The statute of limitations listed below concern breach of contract. This is the legal reason a creditor must use to file a lawsuit against a delinquent borrower. Statutes of limitation vary by debt type. A statute of limitations clock usually starts the moment a borrower becomes delinquent on a debt. The clock can be paused if the debtor leaves the country or even the state, depending on state law.

An expired statute of limitations clock does not mean the original creditor is stopped from filing a lawsuit against a delinquent debtor. (An exception to this rule applies to Mississippi and Wisconsin residents.) An expired statute of limitations gives a borrower an affirmative defense he or she can use as a shield to stop a lawsuit. A borrower must inform the court the statute of limitations defense applies — a court will not raise this issue on its own.

Wise Advice Beware: Some Internet commentators simplify statute of limitations rules to a phrase like, “An original creditor can’t sue you if the statute of limitations has passed.” This is a false interpretation of the law in all but two states. However, courts have decided the FDCPA bars collection agents from suing consumers for expired debt.

Some creditors file lawsuits against delinquent borrowers even though the statute of limitations clock expired. Creditor do so because, unfortunately, many consumers do not understand their rights or hope if they ignore a notice of a lawsuit (called a summons and complaint) it will go away. Consult with a lawyer in your state immediately if you receive a notice of a lawsuit. You must or you will lose by default.

Read the Bills.com article to learn more, including which statute of limitations applies to your situation.

You might wonder what other state laws apply to you. To learn more about your state's rules for wage garnishment and related exemptions, see the Bills.com page.

  Statute of Limitations on Debt Community
Property
Judgment Rate Mortgage
Anti-
Deficiency
Credit
Card
Verbal
Contract
Written
Contract
Judgment1
3 6 6 or 10 20   12.00%
Alaska 3 3 3 10 Yes 10.00% 2
3 3 6 5 Yes Fed + 5
Arkansas 3 3 5 10   10.50% Depends3
2 or 4 2 4 10 Yes 10.00%
6 6 6 20   8.00%
3 3 6 10 or 20   10.00%
Delaware 4 3 3 5   FedDisc+5
D.C. 3 3 3 3   70% IRS% No
4 4 5 20   10.00%
4 or 614 4 6 7   12.00%
Hawaii 6 6 6 10   10.00%
Idaho 4 5 10 20 Yes 9.00%
5 5 10 20   8.00%
6 6 10 20   10.00%
5 5 10 6   Treasury+2 (PDF)
3 3 6 5   FedDisc+4
5 5 15 15   12.00%
3 10 10 10 Yes 9.00%
Maine 6 6 6 20   7.50%
3 3 310 12   15.00%
6 6 6 20   10.00%
49 6 6 10   20.00%
6 6 6 10   6.90%
Mississippi11 3 3 3 7   5.00%
5 5 10 10   Contract
Montana 5 5 8 10   9.00% 3
Nebraska 4 4 5 55   Prime+2
413 4 6 10 Yes 9.00%
New Hampshire 3 3 3 20   10.00%
6 6 6 14   Varies
New Mexico 4 4 6 20 Yes 8.75% No
6 6 6 20   8.00%
3 3 3 10   10.00% 4
North Dakota 6 6 6 6   Bond+1%
?6 6 8 or 158 57   12.00%
3 or 5 3 5 5   10.00% 4
6 6 6 10   T-bill+4%
4 4 4 5   6.00%
Rhode Island 10 10 10 20   9.00%
3 3 3 10   Prime+4
South Dakota 6 6 6 10   12.00% 3
6 6 6 10   10.00%
4 4 4 10 Yes 10.00%
4 4 6 8   6% or 18%
6 6 6 20   12.00%
3 3 5 8   Contract
6 3 6 10 Yes 9 4
West Virginia 5 5 10 20   10.00%
12 6 6 6 20 Yes 12.00%
Wyoming 8 8 10 5   12.00%
Notes 1. Judgments can be renewed in many jurisdictions. In some cases, even a dormant judgment can be renewed.
2. The lender can collect a deficiency after judicial foreclosure, but not on a non-judicial foreclosure.
3. The lender can collect a deficiency depending on the type of foreclosure.
4. The lender can collect a deficiency after judicial foreclosure.
5. If the judgment-creditor sits on their rights for 5 years, the judgment becomes dormant ()
6. See the Bills.com resource .
7. Five years, then becomes dormant unless revived by the judgment-creditor ()
8. 15 years for actions accrued before Sept. 28, 2012, and 8 years for actions accruing after that date ( as per )
9. See , 293 Mich App 66; 810 NW2d 277 (2011), lv gtd 491 Mich 914; 811 NW2d 496 (2012)
10. Default is 3 years, but can be 12 years for "special" contracts.
11. Upon expiration of the statute of limitations clock, the creditor loses the right to file a lawsuit. “The completion of the period of limitation prescribed to bar any action shall defeat and extinguish the right as well as the remedy.” Miss. Code Ann. 8 15-1 -3.
12. Upon expiration of the statute of limitations clock, the creditor loses the right to file a lawsuit. “When the period within which an action may be commenced on a Wisconsin cause of action has expired, the right is extinguished along with the remedy.” Wis. Stat. 8893.05.
13. See for a discussion of how Nevada state courts view statute of limitations for credit cards.
14. See for a discussion of how Georgia state courts view statute of limitations for credit cards.
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Comments (270)


Benetta R.
Meridian, TX  |  July 16, 2014
I am receiving letters on medical debt that is 12 years old. It shows amount but not where the debt was accrued. Only that this company bought it from another company who was a debt collector. Statute of limitations is Texas is 4 years on most things and 10 on Judgements. The people sending me notices are out of state! What do I do? Ignore or send verification letters?
Bills.com
July 16, 2014
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.
  2. Learn your state's statute of limitations. If the clock for your state's statute of limitations for written contracts expired, 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.

You mentioned Texas, so I will assume you reside in Texas. Learn more about Texas Collection Laws to understand your rights and liabilities.

R. M.
Clinton, NC  |  June 11, 2014
Yesterday we received a Notice of Right to have exemptions designated from a judgement that was filed on April 30, 2008. I have absolutely no recollection of ever receiving summons. It is for Discover card and I do know that this is the 2nd "Law firm/Collection Agency" that we have been contacted by. Of course we plan to fill out the notice, but what other steps should we take. How can we protect our banking accounts? The debt is in my name only. I have a checking account in my name only and a joint checking and savings account with my husband. We have no real assets that they can take.
Bills.com
June 12, 2014
You mentioned being surprised by this judgment. Your experience is not unique. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience. Discuss filing a motion to dismiss based on an ineffective service of process.
Alex C.
Double Oak, TX  |  June 02, 2014
I received a complaint filed to the courts in Ohio. Its for a student loan back in 2003, but I was not living there at that time. Last time I was in Ohio was 2001. I am about to write my answer to them. Do I send one to the courts and the attorney? Also, this is over 10 years ago. Are there SOLs for student loans?
Bills.com
June 02, 2014
See the Bills.com article How to Respond to a Summons & Complaint for general instructions on how to answer a summons. You mentioned Ohio. On the page just mentioned, you will find a hyperlink to specific instructions on how to respond to an Ohio summons.

See the Bills.com article Statute of Limitations for Federal & Private Student Loans to learn more about this issue.
Anne M.
Beaverton, OR  |  May 21, 2014
I have a judgment on my account from a house fire. I was not able to show up in court nor did I know how to fill out the paperwork. So the insurance company got a judgment with inaccurate information, obviously because I was unable to show up in court. Can this insane amount of money be written off in a chapter 7 bankruptcy? There is no way I can ever pay this off -- it is in the 6 figure range. They totally took advantage of my situation. I'm concerned that due to this amount I'm never going to get ahead because I will have this lingering over my head.
Bills.com
May 21, 2014
Some judgments can be discharged by bankruptcy, and others cannot. You did not mention the cause of action against you, so we cannot say which category your judgment falls into. Consult with a lawyer who has bankruptcy experience to learn the answer to your question.
J. S.
University City, MO  |  May 13, 2014
I've had a private student loan, I think since 2009. Someone called me today and says they are a lawyer and I have to pay at least 1200 of the 2000 loan by Friday, or I would face a lawsuit. What should I do?
Bills.com
May 13, 2014
Follow the steps we described to Melissa T. on May 12, 2014 below.

The key fact you need to learn is the date you made your last payment. That date sets the starting point for the statute of limitations on your private student loan.
Melissa T.
Beckley, WV  |  May 12, 2014
Recently contacted by a lawyer or collections agency at my work regarding a charged off account from 2008, stating they were going to serve me papers to go to court. What should I do?
Bills.com
May 12, 2014
Just because someone says they're a lawyer or work for one doesn't mean you are about to receive a notice of a lawsuit. Take these four steps in this order:
  1. Validate the debt. A debt that cannot be validated cannot be collected. Roughly half of all collection accounts cannot be validated. Therefore, it is worth your time to validate a debt, especially one that's 8 years old.
  2. Learn your state's statute of limitations. If the clock for your state's statute of limitations for written contracts expired, 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.

Sue W.
Westwood, MO  |  May 07, 2014
I lost a property to foreclosure in Nov 2011. Had a 2nd mortgage with Greentree in the amount of $43,000. This debt was eventually charged off in May 2013. Now all of a sudden in April of this year (2014) I get notice from Bank of America that THEY are suing me for this debt. Apparently, Bank of America has purchased this charged off loan and is suing for the balance. My neighbor told me that over the weekend a lady came to my home looking for me. Sure enough, I looked it up online - I'm definitely being sued and the lady was here to serve me a summons. Is what Bank of America doing even legal - buying charged off loans and then suing people for the balance?? And if so, what are my options here? Thanks.
Bills.com
May 07, 2014
Charge-off and write-off mean the same thing. Both are accounting terms that mean a creditor moved an account from its current-accounts book to its general ledger as a bad debt. It does not mean the account is canceled, forgiven, extinguished or is noncollectable. See the Bills.com resource Charge Off for a more complete discussion of this oft-misunderstood phrase.

What to do? If you are about to receive a notice of a lawsuit, you would be wise to consult with a lawyer who has mortgage litigation experience immediately. You may have defenses available to you, such as your state's statute of limitations. Or maybe the lender did not follow your state's foreclosure process properly. Or perhaps you live in a state where it is illegal to collect a deficiency balance.

Learn your rights and whether you have a defense to a foreclosure-related lawsuit.
Meli M.
Goodyear, AZ  |  April 27, 2014
I voluntary called wells fargo whom i have a charged off account with, my first payment ran thru this past Friday but after reading dofd and fall of dates i put a stop payment. I live in Arizona, did i reset the sol? i did not fill out new written agreement.
Bills.com
April 29, 2014
Need more information to answer your question. Did you make a written promise to pay? Did the payment you made complete? What prompted you to call Wells Fargo to settle the delinquent debt? What is the debt balance? What is your settlement amount?
Natalia A.
April 19, 2014
4/19/14 A few years ago 4 of us were sharing an apartment. (2 couples) The other girl and my boyfriend could not get along so we all broke the lease. I didnt want to but there was nothing I could do about it. I tried to rent an apartment last year and I was told there is a report that I broke the lease and I was turned down. I was contacted by a collection agency about 6 months ago. By phone they have given me 3 different amounts that I supposedly owe. I have been trying to get them to send me a letter showing the amount I owe. I have also requested this info by fax as they told me to. More than a month ago I sent a letter to the owner of the collection agency asking him to send me a letter showing the amount I owe. I asked the owner to reply to me or assign another collection agent because the one I had been trying to talk to is very nasty and threatening to me. It has been more than a month since I sent the fax and letter by certified mail and I know they received my letter. I have not received a reply from them, so I do not know how much I owe. Yesterday I received a letter from them that was dated 2 weeks ago. The envelope had no stamp or postmark, I assume they hand delivered it to my apartment rental office to put into my mailbox. The letter said they need more time to provide me with an amount. This is very frustrating and I dont know what to do. I would be more than happy to pay my share but they wont tell me what I owe. Can you help please? Thx!
Bills.com
April 21, 2014
You have several moving pieces here, which makes it difficult for a correspondent like me to give you accurate, useful advice. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience to get advice specific to your situation.

Here's the first tough thing about a case like yours. Generally, all signers to a lease have joint and several liability. This means when there's a broken lease, the landlord can collect up to 100% of what it's due from any one of the tenants who signed the lease.

The second tough thing is the landlord has a duty to lease the property as soon as possible. Did the landlord do so here?

Finally, much hinges on the spoken or implied contract between the tenants when you four agreed to lease the space together, and whatever agreement you had when you quit the lease.

If you live in a big city, look for a tenant's union or tenant's law center where you might find low- or no-cost legal assistance.
Elly B.
Byron Center, MI  |  April 16, 2014
My question regards my husband of 3 years. He took on a federal student loan of $5,000 (I believe) when he was 18-years-old, which was never repaid in full. It definitely fell by the wayside of his consciousness over the ensuing years as he struggled to get by, but he's 50 now, gainfully employed, and I want to investigate how to best handle this long outstanding debt, which has grown to around $18,000 with taxes and penalties. His tax returns are also garnished by the IRS towards repayment. I'm not entirely sure how long that's been happening, but he guesstimates 20 years. I appreciate any input as to how we should proceed. His credit is also non-existent, so we need to turn all this around!
Bills.com
April 16, 2014
Please read the Bills.com article Federal Student Loans in Default to learn how to recover from an unpaid federal student loan. Please ask any follow-up questions you may have on that page.

Regarding building a credit score, see 7 Techniques to Improve Your Credit Score to learn sure-fire, no-gimmick, no-cost ways to rebuild a credit score.
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