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Statute of Limitations on Debt

Statute of Limitations on Debt

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UpdatedMay 28, 2024
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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.

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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.

Struggling with debt?

If you are struggling with debt, you are not alone. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Quarter Q1 2024 was $17.69 trillion. Student loan debt was $1.60 trillion and credit card debt was $1.12 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 South Dakota, 18% have student loan debt. Of those holding student loan debt, 5% are in default. Auto/retail loan delinquency rate is 2%.

To maintain an excellent credit score it is vital to make timely payments. However, there are many circumstances that lead to late payments or debt in collections. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to deal with debt including debt consolidation and debt relief solutions.



AAnn Hannon Wells, Oct, 2023
My son received a letter telling him that a suit was filed against him - and he has to file an objection to the hearing by a specific date. This notice did not say who the original debtor is, the amount owed - or when this debt occurred- how do we respond
JJennifer, Mar, 2023
Hi, I live in Illinois and I was contacted by a delivery company yesterday that had papers to give me and gave me a phone number and a case number. I called and the people said they were from Northstar Acquisitions and needed to let me know that an investigation has been done and they have the burden of proof of a card that was closed out in 2013 (it has been 10 years) with a negative balance of $1,076.26 and will need to be paid or they will sue me and possibly have my wages garnished, lien on my vehicle, and freeze my bank accounts. I asked for the proof of the contract or some kind of statement because in 10 years I have heard nothing from anyone about said debt. I pulled all 3 credit reports and nothing is on there. I do not remember ever having this type of card. I have searched any and all of my paperwork. I am not just going to set up a payment plan and pay for something they won't give me proof of. They also said that they have sent me correspondence and no one has and I only have until this Friday to settle it or they will serve me. The statute above says 5 years and I have no knowledge of the said debt or any paperwork. Is this something I should really worry about?
JJo Walker, May, 2023
Sounds like scammers hardly at work
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 ?
TTed, 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 ?
TTed, 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?

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.