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From the Experts at Credit.com

Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State

The statute of limitations (SOL) is the length of time a creditor or debt collector can file a lawsuit against you. Typically, the statute of limitations starts when you miss your first payment and go delinquent on the debt.

Many consumers confuse the credit reporting statute of limitations with debt collection statute of limitations. In many cases, the statue of limitations to collect a debt can be much longer than the debts can legally be reported in your credit reports.

Use the statute of limitations map provided below to determine your state’s debt collection time limits. Simply click on your state for more information.

State Statute Open Accounts Written Contracts

Note: Credit card accounts are generally considered open accounts while installment accounts – like an auto loan – would be considered a written contract.

Last updated in April 2009. The information provided above is for reference only. To report updates or corrections, please send us an email.


  • karen sheppeard

    In 2008 I was found disabled. I lost my vehicle to volentary repossession, and everything else went into collections. I got my SSD about 6 months later, and called everyone I owed to make a payoff payment. Everyone took the payoff offer except one company. They then (whenever) recently sold their company to another company who is now trying to collect this debt. When I origionally offered a payoff amount they refused it, so it went unpaid. They would have literally lost nothing except intrest if they had taken the offer. Now the 2nd company is trying to collect over $2000 dollars from me, even though after I pay my bills and expenses every month I only have about $70 dollars left. I have a court date on the 29th of May, and I’m not looking forward to it at all. If the court orders me to pay it, what will they do if I can’t? I know they won’t put me in jail, that would cost them a bundle. And I know that nobody can just “take” money from my bank or “attach” my check for it because it is government money. I’m just nervous because I don’t have any idea how this will turn out.

    • Shantelle

      What they will actually do is make harrassing phone calls to you threatening to do things, when in fact, they will do nothing. They only way they would sue you was if they could recover, it costs them money to sue, also. They didn’t buy just your loan from that company. They buy a “bundle” of bad loans and try to collect all they can. They talk tough, but they are not going to do anything, especially after your finances, etc. are revealedm in open court. They will leave you alone after that.

    • Shantelle

      At the worst, the company will be the proud owners of a piece of paper that says you owe them money and it goes on your credit as a judgement. There are no criminal penalties for not paying a debt.

    • Snailmailtrucker

      If it is small claims court…don’t worry about it…they can’t make you pay either ! Just a hit on your credit but nothing else.

    • kpanda

      Not sure if it matters that it’s government money. My aunt owed money to debtors and when she didn’t pay, they were able to garnish her disability. I hope that is not the case for you. Good luck!

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Karen –

      My first question is whether this debt is too old. If you last paid on it was six years ago it’s possible the statute of limitations has expired. I recently wrote about that here: What Happens If I Never Pay an Old Debt?

      If not, then you still may be what’s called “judgment proof.” It’s not a legal term but it essentially means that even if they get a judgment against you there is no way for them to collect. We wrote about that here: New Federal Rule Protects Benefits from Garnishment

      I would really encourage you to talk with a consumer law attorney to find out what your rights are here. If they do get a judgment against you – even improperly – it’s difficult to undo.

      You may well have a defense against this lawsuit. If you can’t afford an attorney you may be eligible for legal aid. Also many bankruptcy attorneys offer a free consultation, though you want to specifically ask them about the statute of limitations and debt defense.

      The third article I want you to read is this one: Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

      Will you let us know what happens?

    • Rick

      Beware Karen. While your SS/DIS is exempt from garnishment, any non-trust bank account that has your name appears on is an asset that any Judgment Creditor can file a writ of garnishment on. The responsibility to file a motion to quash the garnishment, due to the funds being exempt, falls directly on you. Failure to do so will result in that money being removed from your account. While not difficult or expensive, this action is required to protect your bank account. Note also, any funds deposited outside of your federal benefit are not protected.

      • karen sheppeard

        I knew that thank you. I have no assets that are deposited outside of my benefits. I do not work and am not able to work, my name isn’t on anyone elses accounts just for that purpose, because none of the money is mine but could be taken anyway. Thank You for your advise.

    • Fred

      You have nothing to worry about at all. Disability is non collectable. They can not touch it even if they have a judgment against you. I had over $20,000 in back medical bills. They should have billed the VA and instead they billed Medicare. Now while Medicare paid they of course did not pay it all, so I got sued for the rest. The attorney took me to court which I did not even show up for so he got an automatic win. He then wrote up a garnishment and sent it to my bank. Well my bank then put a hold on my account, until I called them and told them that all the money going into that account was disability. At that time they opened up my account right then and there. I then called the attorneys office and told him if he did not remove that from my account within the next 24 hours that I would own his business. It was within 10 mins of that call that I got a call from the attorneys secretary and was told that the garnishment had been removed. So don’t worry about a thing you are fine.

  • karen sheppeard

    In 2008 I was found disabled by SS. I lost everything by the time I recieved any money. When I got the settlement they owed me, for a prior year, I called everyone to make payoff arraingements. Most of the companies I owed were more than willing to get some money rather than none, and were accepting of the offers. One company however, did not take the offer. Even though they would have actually lost nothing but intrest, they still refused. Now they have sold the company to a different company who is trying to sue me. I have a court date on the 29th of May. I have made a list of all my current debts, and have about $70 a month left after paying everything. I know they can’t attach my “paycheck” because it’s government money. They can’t take my tax return because I don’t file taxes. How can the judge make me pay something I don’t have the money to pay?

  • linda smith

    we moved when our lease was up in nv (2008) from an apt complex. we didn’t owe rent nor cleaning nor damages. but now they are listed as in collections on our credit rept. how can we fix this. we cant move nor rent anything due to this. we do not owe anything to this complex. all we can think of is that they are charging some kind of after-the-fact fee. any ideas

    • Mike

      Call them (The apt. complex) and ask.

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        I agree – the first place to start is with the apartment complex. It is possible the debt collector has mixed you up with someone else with a similar name. Let us know what they say.

  • Shantelle

    What I would like to know is why the credit reporting agencies are not held more accountable for reporting erroneous information and why it is our responsibility to correct it. THEY should have to correct it, and they should be sued for defamation of character and slander when they report erroneous information. They created the business, they make money from it, it costs people jobs, loans, etc when it is wrong, so THEY should be held responsible for bad info.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Agreed. Once they get a judgment it makes things more difficult for debtors.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    As far as I know, the doctor does have the right to stop seeing you as a patient if you don’t pay an outstanding bill. And while there may be a statute of limitations, that simply means they can’t successfully sue to collect the debt. They can typically still try to collect. If you don’t think you owed it and really want to keep that doctor, then maybe you can try writing them a letter politely explaining the situation, why you didn’t pay it and perhaps offer to pay it just to settle the matter. Otherwise, it sounds like it will be time to shop for a new physician.

  • http://consumerrecoverynetwork.com/ask-a-question/ Michael Bovee

    How much is owed today on both judgments?
    What state do you live in?

    Your accounts and wages are at risk depending on the state you live in. Probably not the van depending on the value.

    Debt collectors will continue collection efforts on the judgments. You can put this all behind you with chapter 7 bankruptcy, or by negotiating a settlement.

    Do you have a dependable and consistent income?

    • nancyb

      on both it is up to around 12000.00 I lived in ny at the time, since 1012 I have been in tx. No on income, I make sure of it. and whatever gets deposited into my bank accts gets taken out the next day.The atty I had in ny told me 17 years and the judgments are taken off.

      • http://consumerrecoverynetwork.com/ask-a-question/ Michael Bovee

        Judgments, whether domestic or foreign, are good for 10 years in Texas and can be renewed. Are you prepared to live your financial life the way you currently do for all that time? It is okay if you are going that route. 12k is a lot of money to come up with (though you can settle old judgments for less, and sometimes much less).

        Chapter 7 would cost less than 2k (attorney fees and court costs all included). Settling could cost maybe 5k, and on up to the full amount.

        Texas has a good exemption allowance for vehicles (vehicles can be protected using a large wildcard exemption). Talk about your collection exposure with an experienced consumer law attorney would help set you at ease.

  • nancyb

    $40….seriously? just pay it…I WISH that’s all I had to pay for medical care

  • ydblacks

    The statue of limitatons is that according to the state you were living in when u made the actual debt or the present state u live in? Does the time period start over if I move to another state? Kinda confused on how this works

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      It does get confusing when different venues are involved. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act a debt collector may bring a suit either in the state where the contract was signed or where the consumer currently resides. So presumably it would depend on where they filed suit.

  • Deepar Regis

    You are technically bankrupt. You are insolvent.

    If you can tolerate the frequent collection calls, then bear it and save your bankruptcy filing. Otherwise, file for bankruptcy and make it all go away.

    There is nothing to fear, when you are bankrupt. Lawsuits cannot scare you. You have nothing! You are as care-free as the bum on the street.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Collection accounts may be reported for seven years plus 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor. We explained this in detail in this article: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Possibly. The post Can a Debt Collector Come After My Social Security explains which money can be garnished by the IRS and which is protected. Hope it’s useful to you.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Hannah –

    My understanding is that the statute of limitations in California for most consumer debts is four years. That time period stops when the bill was due and you failed to pay it. If you haven’t made any additional payments then it is probably too old for them to successfully sue you to collect. You can write to the collection agency, tell them you don’t believe you owe the debt and that it’s too old anyway, and ask them to stop contacting you. If they contact you again, you’ll want to consult a consumer law attorney. (Of course this is not legal advice – you’ll want to consult an attorney for that.)

    We just wrote about that very issue here: What Happens If I Never Pay an Old Debt?

  • CJTooles

    Social Security Disability payments can be garnished by the IRS, Federally Funded Student Loan Organizations and Child Support Collectors.

  • darryl

    if you are receiving social security as your sole income anyone with a judgment CANNOT garnish or take from your bank account those monies issued by the federal government under the social security act, not even the state of california

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Statutes of limitations can vary by location, and they are not the same as how long bills stay on your credit report. We wrote about it here:
    Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Are you asking what the statute of limitations is for medical bills? They often fall under consumer debts but it can vary by state. I don’t have a comprehensive list, but often your state attorney general’s office can be helpful.

  • Cam

    I bought a Timeshare in Cancaún México. Immediately I went to cancel it and they did not allow me to do it although Mexican law allows you 5 days to do it. Now I owe close to 30,000 American dollars. They have an American corporation that is trying to collect I have a credit score of 725 and I’m afraid they are going to ruin it. I have send hundred of emails and certify letters with no response. I called them after having to hung for their number and they say to allow them to keep the 7,000 dollars that they charge only credit card and they will cancel. But I refuse to give them my money for nothing. What can I do to save my credit? I’m desperate

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I’d suggest you talk with a consumer protection attorney right away. $30,000 and your credit rating is not a small matter and it would be best for you to get legal advice. Visit NACA.net to find one in your area. Alternatively, you could try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but I am not sure whether they will have jurisdiction since the transaction took place in Mexico.

  • Margaret

    Just as valid, yes….but most individuals do not know how to collect once they win the judgement, and collecting on it is your own problem.

  • helpme

    i received a collection threat from western in texas corp office claiming to send me threw court well i made payment arrgment of 50 a month . have been paying every month on time receive recpt balances i org owed like 500 bill rec shows like bal of 290 but payment of 47 everytime i try to pay alittle more only 47 is applied to bal can smone tell me what i can do i had made arrgmnts to pay the whole 50 to the balance they claim only 45 -47 is going to bal other is late fees well late fees were removed as per corp when i made arrangemnts

    • http://consumerrecoverynetwork.com/ask-a-question/ Michael Bovee

      Have you made contact with them and requested an precise outline of how all monies are being applied?

      Do you have your payment arrangements in writing?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    We’ve emailed you a couple of questions to help us better understand your situation. Meanwhile, it’s important to understand that the time a debt can be reported (7 years and 180 days after the original debt went late) is often different from the time it can be collected. We wrote about it here:
    Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    What exactly does that tradeline report? Any way to copy and paste it into an email? It is a little hard to advise without knowing exactly what is being reported.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    My understanding is that it depends on whether they try to sue you in the state where you took out the loans (North Dakota) or the state where you now live. It sounds like you have multiple debts you haven’t been able to pay. If that’s the case, you may want to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney to find out what your options are.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    We wrote about that very topic here: New Federal Rule Protects Benefits from Garnishment


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