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Statute of Limitations on Debt

Statute of Limitations on Debt Team
UpdatedMar 23, 2023
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    4 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • 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.

Quick Tip

If debt is causing you distress, consult with a debt relief partner 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.


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 file an answer to the complaint or you will lose by default.

Read the article What Is a Statute of Limitation? 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 Collection Laws & Exemptions by State page.

Statute of Limitations on DebtCommunity PropertyJudgment RateMortgage Anti- Deficiency
Credit CardVerbal ContractWritten ContractJudgment1
Alabama366 or 102012.00%No
Arizona3365YesFed + 5Yes
California2 or 42410Yes10.00%Yes
Connecticut66610 or 2010.00%No
D.C.333370% IRS%No
Georgia4 or 6_14_46712.00%No
Iowa55106Treasury+2No (PDF)
New Hampshire3332010.00%No
New Jersey66614VariesNo
New Mexico44620Yes8.75%No
New York666208.00%No
North Carolina3331010.00%Depends4
North Dakota6666Bond+1%No
Ohio?668 or 15_8_5_7_12.00%No
Oklahoma3 or 535510.00%Depends4
Rhode Island101010209.00%No
South Carolina33310Prime+4No
South Dakota6661012.00%Depends3
Utah44686% or 18%No
West Virginia55102010.00%Depends
Notes1. 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 (Nebraska Revised Statute 25-1515) 6. See the resource Ohio Collection Laws. 7. Five years, then becomes dormant unless revived by the judgment-creditor (Ohio Revised Code 2329.07) 8. 15 years for actions accrued before Sept. 28, 2012, and 8 years for actions accruing after that date (Ohio Revised Code 2305.06 as per SB 224) 9. See Fisher Sand and Gravel Co v Neal A. Sweebe, Inc, 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 Nevada Collection Laws for a discussion of how Nevada state courts view statute of limitations for credit cards. 14. See Georgia Collection Laws for a discussion of how Georgia state courts view statute of limitations for credit cards.

Dealing with debt

Mortgages, credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and auto loans are common types of debts. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Q4 2022 was $16.91 trillion. Housing debt totaled $12.26 trillion and non-housing debt was $4.65 trillion.

A significant percentage of people in the US are struggling with monthly payments and about 26% of households in the United States have debt in collections. According to data gathered by from a sample of credit reports, the median debt in collections is $1,739. Credit card debt is prevalent and 3% have delinquent or derogatory card debt. The median debt in collections is $422.

Collection and delinquency rates vary by state. For example, in Wisconsin, 16% have student loan debt. Of those holding student loan debt, 6% are in default. Auto/retail loan delinquency rate is 3%.

While many households can comfortably pay off their debt, it is clear that many people are struggling with debt. Make sure that you analyze your situation and find the best debt payoff solutions to match your situation.

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CChristine M Winne, Feb, 2023
i live in NY our SOL was changed to 3 years. I received a summons today on a car loan i cosigned for my child. given 30 days to respond. on the bottom of so said summons it states we are debt collectors. this is an attempt to collect a debt any in formatipon will be used for that purpose. my question is its 4 yrs since last payment was made. the letter states it was drawn in November 2022. it's now February 2023 and im just recieving it. Can the SOL be used here ?
JJosh, Feb, 2023
Hello Christine, According to this article it would be your responsibility to inform the courts. Has this been done?
llinda lynn, Sep, 2022
Hi I live in Los Angeles, California. What is the statue of limitation for unpaid utility bills from LADWP ?
JJosh, Oct, 2022
Hi Linda, Thank you for reaching out. Please, do not take my answer to be legal advice as I am not an attorney. Only attorneys can offer legal advice. Depending on your agreement and how it was formed you can be looking at 2-10 Years. This narrows more depending where in California your reside in. Also, if you can specific your agreement type.
GGreg, Dec, 2020

I was contacted by a collection agency today regarding a debt of ~$11k from a business credit card from over 12 years ago, that I paid immediately to another collection agency back in 2008. The collection agency that called me today is demanding documentation of me paying that debt. I'm not going to find any files from 12 years ago, nor am I able to access anything from any banks beyond a few years ago. I have no way of proving that the debt was paid 12 years ago. I live in CA (which is where we had our business) and the original credit card company was in Florida. Is this beyond the statue of limitations for both states?

JJoshua Abreu-Rosa, Aug, 2021

Hello Greg,

Thank you for reaching out to us.

Please, do not take my answer to be legal advice as I am not an attorney. Only attorneys can offer legal advice. 

I feel you have nothing to worry about because you could easily file a response if this collector pursues litigation and be able to show they can't due to the statute of limitation.

In addition, you mentioned you paid this account off to a third party. Anytime you receive a notice always respond within 30 days of receiving the notice and ask them to prove documentation of the said debt. Nearly 60% of collection agencies cant and they do not move forward with any further correspondence.

Last, but not least, if you paid the debt. it is unlikely that the original collector will go after you.

DDavid, Nov, 2020

I was contacted by Northstar and I live in Canada, Winnipeg to be exact and I don't have alot of money to pay this debt as a matter of fact I never wanted this stuff done to my house and tried to stop it but the company went a head and did it,what can I do.

DDaniel Cohen, Nov, 2020

David, the facts of your situation are unclear to me. How much do you owe? Is the debt tied to a property in the US that you no longer own? What "stuff" did they do against your wishes? What assets do you own? I can't give you legal advice, as I am not a lawyer.

Without more information, I can't really say much more than it is possible for a debt to be collected when someone is in a foreign country, though the effort required usually restricts it to large debts. Also, if you moved abroad after incurring the debt, that could have "tolled" the statute of limitations on debt, stopping the clock on SOL from running.

NNikki, Oct, 2020

I have been summoned to a pretrial on a Loan for 2500 I took out at a credit union 7 yrs ago with an ex in another state then I’m currently in but I’m supposed to go to court in the state I’m in , however the SOL is up in my state now ! What should I do ?

DDaniel Cohen, Oct, 2020

What you need is legal advice,  not my opinion, and only a lawyer can give you legal advice. 

Do you have a copy of the loan paperwork? It may have language about where disputes are resolved that says the state from which you moved is the proper jurisdiction? A lawyer can review the paperwork and advise you, while also offering advice about the statute of limitations issue, which can be tricky. It could be that you caused the clock to stop running on the SOL due to an action you took. 

It should be your state's collection laws that govern how judgment could be collected. You would be less worried, I imagine, if you lived in a state that doesn't allow wage garnishments.

If you can't afford a lawyer, try to reach a free legal aid provider in your area. It may be a good idea to call the court clerk and ask what you can do if you live out of state. You may be able to file some paperwork as opposed to appear.  Good luck.