ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Old Debt and You: The Statute of Limitations on Collections

Updated on March 17, 2010
There is a time limit on old debt.
There is a time limit on old debt.

Old debt doesn’t have to haunt you forever. There is a statute of limitations on collections in every state that serves to protect consumers from being hounded for old debt years after the debt itself has been long forgotten. This also protects consumers from being held responsible for 15 years or more worth of interest charges. Once a debt has pased the statute of limitations for collections in a given state, it is known as a “time-barred” debt.

How Time-Barred Debt Works

Each state has a different statute of limitations for different types of debt. For example, a debt in Florida that is categorized as an “open account” (credit card debt, medical debt, collection agencies, etc.) has a statute of limitations of 4 years. Written debts and promissory notes, such as a mortgage loan, also fall under the 4 year statute. Should a debt be considered an oral contract, however, the statute of limitations is reduced to 2 years. Each state’s statutes are different.

Once the designated time period for legal collection has passed, a debt collector still has the right to contact the debt via telephone, email, or mail about the debt, but no longer has the right to file a lawsuit against the debtor to recover the old debt. Unfortunately, this rarely stops collection agencies from trying. If a collection agency files a lawsuit against you over a time-barred debt and you fail to respond or appear at the hearing to defend yourself, the collection agency will be awarded a default judgment against you. The default judgment allows the debt collector permission to garnish your wages and bank accounts in 41 states.

The Statute of Limitations on Collections Can Be Reset

Many debt collectors purchase debts they know to be time-barred debts and offer the debtors extremely low payments on debt settlement agreements in the hope that some will make the mistake of accepting it and submitting a payment. Once a payment is submitted toward the new settlement agreement, the statute of limitations for collection on that particular debt is automatically reset.

This often results in the debtor being served an immediate court summons, as the collection agency now has the right to sue and garnish a much larger amount from the debtor than the “teaser payment” originally offered in the debt settlement agreement.

If you are served with a summons over an old debt that you know for a fact is time-barred, it is imperative that you respond to the summons and appear in court to defend yourself in order to avoid being forced to pay the old debt. Remember, the judge at the hearing will only find out that the debt is time-barred if you are there to tell him. Otherwise, you may find yourself at the mercy of a default judgment.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this is not to be taken as legal advice. See a licensed attorney in your state for guidance specific to your situation.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)