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Virginia Collection Laws: Virginia's Rules For Statute of Limitations, Garnishment, Liens, and Foreclosure

Virginia Collection Laws

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Mark Cappel
UpdatedMay 10, 2024
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    6 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • Virginia residents may exempt up to $5,000 from wage and account garnishment.
  • Mortgage deficiency balances can be collected be lenders.
  • Liens may not be attached to the personal property of Virginia residents.

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

The court may grant a judgment to the creditor. A judgment is a declaration by a court the creditor has the legal right to demand a wage garnishment, a levy on the debtor’s bank accounts, a lien on the debtor’s property, and in some states, ask a sheriff to seize the debtor’s personal property. The laws calls these remedies. A creditor granted a judgment is called a judgment-creditor. Which of these tools a judgment-creditor will use depends on the circumstances. We discuss each of these remedies below.

Virginia requires you to receive a notice of garnishment and a list of exemptions found in Virginia § 8.01-512.4.

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Virginia wage garnishment

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

Virginia follows the federal exemption limits, and adds some state-specific wage garnishment exemptions. The maximum amount of disposable weekly wages subject to garnishment is generally 25%, unless you earn less than 40 times federal minimum wage. At the rate of $7.25 per hour, you would need to earn $290 per week before being subject to garnishment (Virginia § 34-29). If you are head of household with children, and your gross income is less than $1,750 per month, you as a parent can receive additional exemptions for up to three children (Virginia § 34-4.4.2).

Virginia requires you to receive a notice of garnishment and a list of exemptions found in Virginia § 8.01-512.4.

Levy Bank Accounts

Some states or commonwealths like Virginia call bank account levy garnishment. A levy means the creditor has the right to take whatever money is 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.

Under Virginia law, consumers have the option to file a homestead exemption of up to $5,000 to exempt funds in a bank account from levy/exemption. Consumers who are subject to a garnishment should receive a Request for Hearing - Garnishment Exemption Claim [Form DC-454] when they are notified of a pending garnishment. Consult with a Virginia lawyer to learn more about this exemption, and how to file a DC-454.

See the following Virginia codes to learn more about wage and account garnishment: 6.1-125.3, 34-1 through 34, and 8.01-512.4 and .5

Lien in Virginia

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 refinances 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.

In Virginia, a judgment lien can be attached to real estate, and not to personal property (Virginia § 8.01-251(c) and 8.01-458).

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

Virginia Statute of Limitations

Each state or commonwealth has its own statute of limitations on civil matters. Here are some of Virginia’s statutes of limitations for consumer-related issues:

Credit card5*8.01-246(2)
Spoken contract38.01-246(4)
Written contract58.01-246(2)
Contract covered by the UCC4 or shorter by agreement8.2-725(1) and 8.01-246
Judgment Lien108.01-251(c)
Judgment10 or 20**16.1-94.1 and 8.01-251(a)
Promissory Note68.3A-118
* The Virginia attorney general’s office wrote an advisory in 2011 indicating it believes 8.01-246(2) applies to credit card debt. Commonwealth courts are, of course, free to interpret the law differently from the AG. ** 10 years for general district court judgments, and 20 years for other courts. Can be extended.

When the statute of limitations clock starts depends on the circumstances and the particular statute. Generally, it starts when the action accrues, which means the date of breach. For credit card debt, this means the date the payment was missed.

Pro tip: 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.

Virginia foreclosure

Virginia mortgage and foreclosure laws can be found in Title 55. A lender may foreclose judicially or non-judicially in Virginia. The common method is non-judicial, which takes a minimum of 45 days. A notice of foreclosure must be given to the homeowner 14 days before the sale occurs. Judicial foreclosure is also available in Virginia.

Lenders may pursue a borrower to collect a deficiency balance relating to mortgage foreclosure (Title 8.9A and Title 55).

Virginia debt collection laws

Virginia does not require collection agents to register with or be licensed by the state. The Virginia legislature has not written a law similar to the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. File a complaint with the Virginia Office of Attorney General and the FTC if a Virginia collection agent violates the FDCPA. Consult with a lawyer to discuss filing a civil lawsuit against the collection agent. Some lawyers take these cases on a contingency basis, which means no out-of-pocket costs to you.

Virginia & spouse debt liability

Virginia is a common-law state when it comes to family law, and is not one of the dozen community property states. Generally, Virginia spouses have no liability for the debts of the other (Virginia § 55-37). However, under Virginia's doctrine of necessaries rule, spouses have liability for the emergency medical treatment for the other, including follow-up care as long as they are living together (Virginia § 8.01-220.2).


Consult with a Virginia lawyer who is experienced in civil litigation to get precise answers to your questions about liens, levies, garnishment, and foreclosure.

Struggling with debt?

Debt is used to buy a home, pay for bills, buy a car, or pay for a college education. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Q4 2023 was $17.503 trillion. Auto loan debt was $1.607 trillion and credit card was $1.129 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%.

Each state has its rate of delinquency and share of debts in collections. For example, in Virginia credit card delinquency rate was 3%, and the median credit card debt was $423.

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.



mmelissa, Jan, 2021

I got a 06, 2015 judgement for a credit card about 4 -5 yrs after stopping payments and they just started taking out the garnishment in 12, 2020 of my check, can they do that after five years, any why wait five years and are they getting 6% interest on that almost 6 years they waited. Thank you.

JJosh, Aug, 2021

Hello Melissa. 

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. 

According to the research that I made bad on the Code of Virginia laws and regulations. As per S 8.01-251, the creditor has about 20 years to execute the Judgment rendered in the state of Virginia. 

If you require more information you can review the website where I confirm the answer to your inquiry.

I would also recommend speaking with an attorney to get precise answers. 

Regards, Josh 

FFrank, Oct, 2020

We are Virginia residents. My wife will likely have a $3k judgment as of Nov. 4th (from a credit card we used to pay her medical bills). She has a bank account. If I am added to the account to where the account reads "Jane Doe and Frank Doe" as owners of the account, will that prevent creditor from being able to levy her account?

DDaniel Cohen, Oct, 2020

Frank, my answer is not to be taken as legal advice.

Adding your name to the account of a judgment-debtor does not protect the account from having funds seized. Any account that is attached to the name and SSN of the judgment-debtor is at risk, even if all the funds in the account were deposited by the other party.

EEmmely Byrd, Jun, 2020

In November of 2012, I left my home in Chesterfield, Virginia during a divorce. Payments ceased in September of 2012. I filed a Chapter 13 BK, in the BK, I surrendered the property North Chesterfield, VA 23234, as did my ex-spouse. However, during a 5 year period, I called Chase (the servicer), on numerous occasions asking them to proceed with foreclosure. It was an FHA loan. The home was not foreclosed on until September of 2018. Therefore the house sat empty from November 2012 until September 2018. Almost 6 years. After calling time after time to Chase. After surrendering the property in two bankruptcies, etc. Why did Chase wait over 5 years to foreclose on this property knowing that it was vacant and knowing it was surrendered and also knowing that I was calling in asking them to foreclose on the property? Now that I have re-established my credit, etc., this house is appearing as a foreclosure still new. There was absolutely no reason for this home to sit for almost 6 years in the state of Virginia. Had the home been foreclosed on within the 90 days to 120 day period, I would now qualify as a 1st time home buyer. I am suffering from irreparable damages. What legal recourse do I have?

DDaniel Cohen, Jun, 2020

Emmely, your very reasonable question needs to be directed to an attorney who can advise whether Chase can be succesfully held liable for their actions. You should be able to get a free consultation.                                                     

DDon lovak jr, Feb, 2020

If a credit card debt in Virginia has a statute of limitation of 5 years from your last payment, when a creditor obtains a judgement in his favor on a warrant in debt, does the statute of limitations go from 5 to 10?

DDaniel Cohen, Feb, 2020

Once there is a judgment, the statute of limitation on debt no longer applies. Similar to the SOL on debt, there are specific rules, which vary by state, as to how long a judgment stays in effect, whether it can be renewed, or can be revived if not renewed before it expired.

My understanding is that a judgment in Virginia is valid for 10 years and can be extended for 20 years.