How Long Can Debt Be Collected? Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection by State

If you are being constantly harassed by debt collectors over old debts you don’t even remember, you may feel frustrated and annoyed. However, there are stipulations and a statute of limitations for debt collection that may protect you from companies pursuing legal action against you for the debt you owe. 

This statute of limitations prohibits debt collectors from suing you once a debt has been pursued for a certain number of years.

Each state has its own statute of limitations on debt so it’s important to understand the timeline and how long a collector has the right to take legal action against you. Review this information to learn more about your rights when collectors continue contacting you about an old debt.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations on Debt

It’s important to understand the difference between your debt’s statute of limitations and credit reporting time limits. Consumers may assume that since debt no longer shows on their credit report, they aren’t responsible for paying it. 

A debt’s statute of limitations is the amount of time the debt collector can pursue legal action against you for the debts you owe. The statute of limitations is usually different than the credit reporting time limits since these refer to how long the debt will show up on your credit report.

Even if your debt no longer shows on your credit report, it may not have reached its statute of limitations for collection and vice versa. Your credit report may be used as a vital tool to better understand the current debts you owe, when you accrued these debts, and if there are current judgments against you. However, you may still owe debts that no longer show on your report because they haven’t yet reached the statute of limitations.

How the Statute of Limitations Protects You

Whether you have medical debt, credit card debt, or any other type of debt, once it passes the statute of limitations, a collector cannot pursue a legal judgment against you. This means after a certain period of time, legal action cannot be taken against you that orders you to pay the collector what you owe.

While legal action cannot be pursued, you do still owe the debt, and the collector has the right to contact you about collecting the debt. The collector may offer debt forgiveness, forbearance, or deferment after the statute of limitations passes in an effort to still collect some of this debt from you without pursuing legal action. 

However, even if the statute of limitations has passed, the only way your debt disappears is if the creditor decides to cancel it or you file for bankruptcy and it’s discharged in the process. The statute of limitations doesn’t protect you from the debt collector continuing to pursue what you owe but it does protect you from legal action.

What Is Your State’s Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection?

Since each state has its own regulations on debt collection and statutes of limitations, it’s important to review these different guidelines. These limitations refer to credit card debt, written contracts, and other open accounts. It’s up to the judge in each case to determine whether to use the statute of limitations in the state where the credit card issuer is located or the state in which the consumer lives.


State Years
Alabama 3
Alaska 3
Arizona 6
Arkansas 5
California 4
Colorado 6
Connecticut 6
Washington, D.C. 3
Delaware 3
Florida 5
Georgia 6
Hawaii 6
Idaho 5
Illinois 5
Indiana 6
Iowa 5
Kansas 3
Kentucky 5 years for credit card debt and 4 to 15 for written contracts
Louisiana 3
Maine 6
Maryland 3
Massachusetts 6
Michigan 6
Minnesota 6
Mississippi 3
Missouri 5
Montana 8
Nebraska 4
Nevada 4
New Hampshire 3
New Jersey 6
New Mexico 4
New York 6
North Carolina 3
North Dakota 6
Ohio 6
Oklahoma 5
Oregon 6
Pennsylvania 4
Rhode Island 10
South Carolina 3
South Dakota 6
Tennessee 6
Texas 4
Utah 6
Vermont 6
Virginia 3
Washington 6
West Virginia 10
Wisconsin 6
Wyoming 8


What if Debt Collectors Try to Collect Expired Debt?

Even if your debt has passed the statute of limitations in your state, a debt collector is likely to continue to attempt to collect these debts forever. The statute of limitations doesn’t mean the debt has expired and you’re no longer obligated to pay it. The debt won’t disappear when you’ve exceeded the statute of limitations. However, the debt collector cannot legally take action in court against you in an attempt to obtain the money you owe.

Even after the statute of limitations has passed, debt collectors may still attempt to seek legal action. If a debt collector still tries to take legal action against you but the statute of limitations on this debt has passed, don’t ignore the attempt.

It’s important to appear in court if the debt collector files a motion. If you ignore this action and don’t appear, it’s possible that the judge will rule in favor of the debt collector and you may be held accountable for paying the debt on the collector’s terms. By appearing in court, you can point out the statute of limitations and it’s more likely that the judge will rule in your favor.

When debt collectors contact you for payment, it’s also important to pay attention to what you say and do. If you acknowledge the old debt, agree to a payment plan, or make a new charge, the statute of limitations for the debt may start over from the beginning. This allows debt collectors another time period where they can pursue legal action against you to get the debt paid.

How a Debt Collection Harassment Lawyer Can Help

While a debt collector can’t pursue legal action against you after the statute of limitations has passed, they can continue contacting you to try and collect the debt. If you feel you’re experiencing harassment from a debt collector, it may be best to seek legal assistance. 

A legal representative may send a cease and desist letter to the debt collector if the collector is abusing, harassing, or coercing you in an attempt to get you to pay off debt. Whether you owe the debt or there’s been an error, a debt collector cannot legally harass you by phone, text, email, or mail. With the assistance of a legal professional, you’ll be more successful at getting a debt collector to limit contact with you.

While your debt won’t disappear after passing the statute of limitations in your state, debt collectors can no longer file a lawsuit against you. When you know the statute of limitations that applies to your debt, you can stand up for yourself against harassing debt collectors and legal proceedings.

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