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Illinois Collection Laws

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Mark Cappel
UpdatedMay 14, 2024
Key Takeaways:
  • Illinois allows wage garnishment and account levies.
  • The Illinois statute of limitations on credit card debt is five years.
  • Consult with an attorney to learn more about your rights and liabilities.

I live in Illinois. What are my rights in debt collection?

A debt collector is threatening to garnish my wages, but I live in Illinois and I did not think that was allowed. What are my rights?

A collection agent or law firm that owns a collection account is a creditor. A creditor has several legal means of collecting a debt. But before the creditor can start, the creditor must go to court to receive a judgment. See the resource Served Summons and Complaint to learn more about this process.

The court may decide to grant a judgment to the creditor. A judgment is a declaration by a court that the creditor has the legal right to demand a wage garnishment, a levy on the debtor's bank accounts, and a lien on the debtor's property. A creditor that is granted a judgment is called a "judgment-creditor." Which of these tools the creditor will use depends on the circumstances. We discuss each of these remedies below.

Illinois Compiled Statutes are available online.

Illinois Wage Garnishment

The most common method used by judgment-creditors to enforce judgments is wage garnishment, in which a judgment creditor contacts your employer and require the employer to deduct a certain portion of your wages each pay period and send the money to the creditor.

In most states, creditors may garnish between 10% and 25% of your wages, with the percentage allowed determined by state law. Garnishment of Social Security benefits or pensions for consumer debt is not allowed under federal law, but may be allowed for child support. See the Wage Garnishment article to learn more.

Illinois garnishment rules are complex, and are found in the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, Article XII, Chapter 7: Garnishment and Part 8. Wage Deductions. The maximum wages, salary, commissions and bonuses subject to collection under a deduction order, for any work-week shall not exceed the lesser of (1) 15% of the gross amount paid for the week or (2) the amount by which disposable earnings exceed 45 times the federal minimum wage hourly wage or, under a wage deduction summons served on or after January 1, 2006, the minimum hourly wage prescribed by Sec. 4 of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, whichever is greater, in effect at the time the amounts are payable (735 ILCS 5/12-803 and S. 1752, L. 2005).

In Illinois, Spouse A's earnings are free from the interference of Spouse B's creditors (750 ILCS 65/7). Child support garnishment limits are higher. Support of a spouse or dependent children have priority over all others (735 ILCS 5/12-808(c) and S. 1752, L. 2005).

In Illinois, 401(K) or other retirement funds are exempt from garnishment (735 ILCS 5/12-704 and 5/12-804).

Illinois Levy

A levy means that the creditor has the right to take whatever money in a debtor's account and apply the funds to the balance of the judgment. Again, the procedure for levying bank accounts, as well as what amount, if any, a debtor can claim as exempt from the levy, is governed by state law. Many states exempt certain amounts and certain types of funds from bank levies, so a debtor should review his or her state's laws to find if a bank account can be levied. In some states levy is called attachment or account garnishment. The names may vary but the concepts are the same.

In Illinois, a levy is called non-wage garnishment, and is allowed under 735 ILCS 5/12-701 et seq. Non-wage garnishment is allowed if the plaintiff possesses a legal instrument such as a notice commanding the financial institution of a claim against the account. Illinois 735 ILCS, 5/12-1001(b) exempts debtor's interest in $4,000 worth of personal property, including cash.

If you reside in another state, see the Account Levy resource to learn more about the general rules for this remedy.

Illinois Lien

A lien is an encumbrance — a claim — on a property. For example, if the debtor owns a home, a creditor with a judgment has the right to place a lien on the home, meaning that if the debtor sells or refinance the home, the debtor will be required to pay the judgment out of the proceeds of the sale or refinance. If the amount of the judgment is more than the amount of equity in your home, then the lien may prevent the debtor from selling or refinancing until the debtor can pay off the judgment.

Under Illinois law, an outstanding judgment can become a lien on real estate in Illinois owned by the judgment debtor. A judgment lien gives the judgment-creditor the right, under certain circumstances, to have the property sold in order to satisfy the judgment (735 ILCS 5/12-101 et seq). The Illinois homestead exemption makes it difficult to sell the residence of the judgment debtor, however (735 ILCS 5/12-901 et seq).

If you reside in another state, see the Liens & How to Resolve Them article to learn more.

Illinois Statutes of Limitations

Under Illinois law, the statute of limitations is governed by Article XIII 735 ILCS 5/ Limitations on an open account (i.e., credit card) is 5 years, and written contracts have a 10-year statute of limitations.

Collection agents violate the FDCPA if they file a debt collection lawsuit against a consumer after the statute of limitation expired (Kimber v. Federal Financial Corp. 668 F.Supp. 1480 (1987) and Basile v. Blatt, Hasenmiller, Liebsker & Moore LLC, 632 F. Supp. 2d 842, 845 (2009)). Unscrupulous collection agents sue in hopes the consumer will not know this rule.

Illinois Foreclosure

Illinois foreclosure laws are found in 735 ILCS 5/Art XV. Review Illinois laws to learn more about the rules surrounding foreclosure in this state, including deficiency balances. Illinois has no anti-deficiency rule. See also the resource Mortgage Foreclosure Illinois to learn more about Illinois foreclosures.

Illinois Payday Loan Collection

See the resource Illinois Payday Loan to learn how Illinois law protects Illinois payday loan borrowers.

Illinois Collection Agency Act

Debt collectors must obtain a license in Illinois. The Illinois Collection Agency Act (ICAA) mirrors the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but unlike other states, does not include original creditors. Violation of ICAA is not a criminal offense. If you have been victimized by a collection agency, file complaints with the:

  • Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
  • Illinois Attorney General
  • Federal Trade Commission

Consult with a lawyer to discuss filing an ICAA-based civil lawsuit against the collection agent. Some lawyers take these cases on a contingency basis, which means no out-of-pocket costs to you. ICAA's limits and prohibitions can be found in Illinois Chapter 225, Act 425.


Consult with a Illinois attorney experienced in civil litigation to get precise answers to your questions about liens, levies, and garnishment in Illinois.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.



Debt statistics

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 2023 was $17.503 trillion. Housing debt totaled $12.612 trillion and non-housing debt was $4.891 trillion.

According to data gathered by from a sample of credit reports, about 26% of people in the US have some kind of debt in collections. The median debt in collections is $1,739. Student loans and auto loans are common types of debt. Of people holding student debt, approximately 8% had student loans in collections. The national Auto/Retail debt delinquency rate was 4%.

The amount of debt and debt in collections vary by state. For example, in Montana, 20% have any kind of debt in collections and the median debt in collections is $1589. Medical debt is common and 11% have that in collections. The median medical debt in collections is $702.

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.



KKaren, Nov, 2019

My mother had me as joint owner with survivorship on her bank account. She has recently passed away. She was in a nursing home for rehab for a few month leaving a balance is several thousand. I’ve made payment arrangements and have paid past 4 months . I know I’m nit responsible for moms bills but can that nursing home try and levy my bank account ?

DDaniel Cohen, Nov, 2019

Please accept my condolences.

I am not a lawyer and can't give legal advice. I will share some information with the understanding that it is not to be considered legal advice.

First, the nursing home has a claim against your mother's estate. Assets she owned could be the source of paying the debt. Did her estate go through probate? That would be the venue where a creditor can assert a claim.

The bank account, to my understanding, should pass to you as joint owner with survivorship, and is not considered part of her estate. 

It is possible that you could be obligated to pay, and be subject to legal collections if you did not. Two possibilities that come to mind are:

• If you signed paperwork containing a personal guarantee to make payment. • If the doctrine of fillial responsibility applies in your state. More than half the states have a law that could be used to go after you, the adult child of a nursing home patient. The laws are not always enforced, but if you live in one of the states in which the law exists, it is possible. You asked your question on our Illinois Collection Law page. Illinois doesn't have a fillial responsibility law, to my knowledge.

In your case, it sounds like you are planning to pay the bill, making the issue moot. If considering otherwise, please consult with an attorney.

AAnonymous, Oct, 2019

If a person owes $20,000 in hospital bills, but has the IL homestead exemption and a judgement is entered against them-- can the court go after their house? Since the debt is larger than the exemption--what does this mean?!

PPeter Morici, Sep, 2016
I am on fed disability for past 4 years. I have 3 accounts banks that get payment every month, its my understanding they cannot garnish any of these accounts, correct?Also the one account I didnt have $ deposited from govt had only 400$ in it but the judgement people took out $300 last week, I thought if u had less than $2000 they couldnt take $ out.??I just read that here, is there a process I could get that money back. I just closed that account so they cannot get any more $ from it. thanks I never received any written notice of the garnishment or served papers, its been 5 months since judgement was made.I alos understand that they could try to put a lien on my property, but I live there, so they cant foreclose but the lien is good for 7 yearsAlso is my 401k and IRA account exempt from being garnished, thanks in advance
BBetsalel Cohen, Apr, 2017

I suggest that you consult with a Illinois attorney experienced in civil litigation to get precise answers to your questions about liens, levies, and garnishment in Illinois. They will need to review you total financial picture and see the sources of funds and the amount of money you held in your bank accounts. 

AAnna Richardson, Mar, 2015

I have credit card debt that is listed in my name only. My husband is the only one working now and will be for a while, if not forever, due to health conditions on my part. The house and both the vehicles are in his name only. However the checking account is in both of our names. I need my name on it since my husband can sometimes be gone for work for months and I need to have access to the accounts. Can creditors put a levy on our bank account or take any of the money out of it? Can they put a lien on our home or vehicles or take any of our possessions?

DDaniel Cohen, Mar, 2015

Ann, if you are sued and a judgment is obtained against you, then any bank account on which you are listed is at risk, consistent with the collection laws in your state. Property in which you share an ownership interest could very well be encumbered by a lien, post-judgment. 

If you need access to the account, one solution could be to have him sign checks to an account which is in his name only and leave the checks with you. Clearly, you have to be very careful not to lose the checks, but it seems a lot safer than leaving money in an account with your name on it, once a judgment is reached against you.

EEd, May, 2014
I have a personal loan that was written off in 2011 for 16k. I was contacted in 2013 by a collection agency that bought the debt and wanted a settlement which I could not do. The collection agency said it would set up a payment plan, after negotiating with the agent I set up a payment I was comfortable with which includes 9.9.% interest. After paying on this for a year I see I have barely made $100 in principle payments. I have been researching the laws around the agency being able to charge me interest and can't find any information pertaining to the law. Does anyone have any details?
BBill, May, 2014
I think you are asking for a citation to Illinois usury law, which can be found at 815 ILCS 205.