Debt Collection Statute of Limitations

Past due bill from a debt collection agency
Learn how collection agencies work.

A debt collection statute of limitations occurs when a lender fails to collect on a debt for a period of time. If that time expires without any contact from the lender, the debt may not need to be repaid. Check with an attorney if you are unsure if your debt qualifies for this type of limitation before you speak to the lender.

What Is the Debt Collection Statute of Limitations

A debt that is past the statute of limitations may be uncollectible by the lender, debt collectors or by other means. This debt may also be ineligible to be listed on your credit report. If you have a debt which you believe is uncollectable due to being past the statute of limitations, it is important to avoid contact with the lender and to instead contact an attorney first.

Debt collection laws make it the responsibility of the debt collector to pursue the borrower. These laws also put in place very strict limitations on how debts may be collected. For example, debt collectors may not be abusive to you.

In addition, federal laws also limit how long debts may remain on your credit report. If you have debts that have been on your credit report for too long, you may be able to file a complaint with the credit bureau to have them removed. Credit report limitations include the following:

  • Most debts stay on a credit report for seven years from the date of the first delinquency. Any activity on the account, such as payments from the borrower, may extend this.
  • Bankruptcy and tax liens remain on your credit report for up to 10 years from the discharge date of the bankruptcy.
  • Other public records will remain on the credit report for up to seven years from the initial placement.
  • Any account that closed in a positive state, such as the debt paid off in total, will remain on the credit report for up to 10 years from the time the account closed.
  • Incidentally, inquiries, which occur when a potential lender checks your credit report, remain on your report for two years.

Debt Collection Limitations

Other forms of debt collection limitations are in place on a state-by-state basis. Each state has laws governing how debt collectors are allowed to collect debt, including how old debts may be to try and collect on them.

Man calling debt collector about a bill

The following are some examples of these limitations. To learn about regulations specific to your state, visit Privacy or your attorney general's website.

  • Florida: In the state of Florida, contracts and mortgage foreclosures have a statute of limitations of five years. Judgments may collect for up to 20 years. Most other debts have a four-year catch all limitations period.
  • Indiana: Breach of contract offers a limitation of four years. Judgments may be collected on for 10 years unless renewed. Other debts are collected for six years.
  • Michigan: Breach of contract has a six-year limitation. Judgments are ten years, but may be renewable for up to ten additional years. All other debts are collectable for four years.
  • New York: Debts are collectable for 20 years for bonds, money judgments, real property debt, support and alimony. Other debts may be collectable for four to six years, depending on the type of debt.
  • North Carolina: Under North Carolina law, an express or implied contract is collectable for three years, if not under seal. If under seal, this changes to 10 years. Judgments have a limitation of 10 years. If any payment -even partial payment- is paid, this renews the statute of limitations.
  • Ohio: In Ohio, written and oral accounts have a limitation of six years in which the debt may be collected. In some cases, this may be as long as 15 years.

Note that each state sets laws on what is a contract. Contact your attorney prior to making contact with any agent. Debt collection statute of limitations is also subject to change.

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Debt Collection Statute of Limitations