January 18, 2024

Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection by State (Best Guide)

Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection by State (Best Guide) ZumaZip

The statute of limitations on debt sets a deadline for creditors and debt collectors to sue someone for said debt. The state in which you live, as well as the type of debt you owe, determines how many years can pass before your debt is no longer eligible for a lawsuit. Making a payment on a debt usually restarts the clock on the statute of limitations, so be sure to check your state’s laws before you give any money to a debt collector! If you’ve already been sued, use ZumaZipto fight the lawsuit and assert the statute of limitations properly.

Here’s the thing: nothing lasts forever, not even debt. That’s why we made this authoritative guide on the statute of limitations on debt collection in each state.

If you’ve had a debt hanging over your head for a few years, then there’s a chance that it’s time-barred by the statute of limitations. For those of you who aren’t lawyers, what that means is that the debt might be too old for the collector to sue you.

Now that probably isn’t the end of the story. There might still be a few hiccups, like the non-payment staying on your credit report for a few years, but the overarching principle is that you cannot be forced to pay if the debt is time-barred. And that is reason for celebration.

Ok, so that’s the good news. The bad news is that things only get more complicated from here. The first thing to figure out is what the statute of limitations for debt looks like in your state.

Just like there are different ways to answer a Summons regarding debt collection in each of the 50 States, depending on the state you’re in (excluding a state of confusion), there are different time limits for different kinds of debt.

Let’s tackle a few important points before we dive into understanding the statute of limitations on debt. Firstly, it’s crucial to remember that the statute of limitations isn’t automatic; you have to actively request it.

Secondly, even if a debt is time-barred, it may still show up on your credit reports from agencies like Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

And thirdly, imagine if the statute of limitations has expired, but you decide to make a small payment out of goodwill. Surprisingly, that can stir up legal trouble.

So, remember, you have to assert the statute of limitations yourself.

If the time limit set by the statute of limitations has elapsed, there could still be further steps to take. A debt collector might attempt to sue you. In such a scenario, don’t assume the judge will automatically bring up the statute of limitations on your behalf. Judges are busy, and they focus on the arguments presented, not those left unsaid.

Use the expired statute of limitations as a defense in your Answer to the lawsuit.

Be ready to explain the start date of the statute of limitations in court

Sometimes, the debt collector might argue about when the statute of limitations began or might simply overlook it. So, if you end up in court, make sure you’re prepared to tell the judge when the clock started ticking on the statute of limitations.

As a side note, if a debt collector sues you after the statute of limitations has passed, they might be in hot water under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Just something to think about.

Invoking the statute of limitations might affect your credit report

Imagine this: You had a debt a few years back, but now it’s time-barred thanks to the statute of limitations. You told the judge, and the case got dismissed. You might think you’re in the clear, but there’s a catch.

Credit agencies, the ones that give you a credit score, could still report your non-payment even if the statute of limitations has passed. They can typically report unpaid debts for 7 years, regardless of the statute of limitations. This means it could show up on your credit report and make it tough to get a loan or credit, even though you’re not legally obliged to pay the old debt.

So, just keep that in mind.

Also, debt collectors can still reach out to you about the debt because technically, you still owe it. They just can’t take you to court over it.

Be cautious about making a new payment on old debt covered by the statute of limitations

Sometimes kindness can backfire.

You might feel compelled to make a payment on an old debt for various reasons. I’m not saying don’t be kind, but think before you act.

Making a payment on an old debt could restart the clock on the statute of limitations.

If you find yourself wanting to make a payment on a time-barred debt, consider drafting an agreement beforehand, signed by both you and the debt collector. This agreement should clarify that the new payments won’t restart the old debt. Otherwise, you might find yourself facing a lawsuit because the statute of limitations got reset.

Honestly, this is a tricky area with lots of nuances and loopholes. Every state has its own rules. So, my best advice is to avoid making any payments without consulting a lawyer first.

Different types of debt have different statute of limitations

Money matters are rarely straightforward. “Debt” covers a lot of ground.

Let’s break down the categories your debt might fall into, so you know the statute of limitations for your specific debt in your state.

Here’s a rundown of debt categories:

  1. Oral debt: Agreed verbally without any written documentation.
  2. Written debt: Formal agreements, even if jotted down informally.
  3. Promissory debt: Like mortgages, with a written promise to pay back.
  4. Open debt: Revolving accounts, like store credit.
  5. Credit card debt: The common unsecured credit type.
  6. Court judgments: When someone takes you to court and wins.

Statute of limitations on debt by state—find out your state’s law

And now, the moment of truth. It’s time to check what the rules are in your state. A table awaits you, filled with numbers sorted by state and debt type. Is there anything more beautiful than that?

Statute of limitations on debt by state—find your state’s law

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. The moment where you find out what happens in your state. It’s a table full of numbers sorted by state and debt type. Is it possible for anything more beautiful to exist?

Find the statute of limitations on debt in your state below:

StateOralWrittenPromissoryOpenCredit CardJudgments
Alabama66 OR 1066320
Alaska3333310
Arizona366364
Arkansas3533510
California2444410
Colorado66666
Connecticut3663620
Delaware333435
District of Columbia3433312
Florida4554520
Georgia466665
Hawaii6666610
Idaho455556
Illinois510105520
Indiana66106620
Iowa51055510 OR 20
Kansas35533
Kentucky510155515
Louisiana1010103310
Maine6666620
Maryland3363312
Massachusetts666666
Michigan666666 OR 10
Minnesota6666610
Mississippi333337
Missouri510105510
Montana5885810
Nebraska455445
Nevada463446
New Hampshire3363320
New Jersey6666620
New Mexico4664414
New York6666620
North Carolina3353310
North Dakota6666610
Ohio68156621
Oklahoma355353
Oregon6666610
Pennsylvania444444
Rhode Island101010101020
South Carolina3333310
South Dakota6666610 OR 20
Tennessee6666610
Texas44444
Utah466468
Vermont665366 OR 10
Virginia3563310 OR 20
Washington3663610
West Virginia510651010
Wisconsin6610666 OR 20
Wyoming81010885

So before you give in to a debt collector’s demands, make sure you consider whether the debt has been time-barred by your state’s statute of limitations.

Note: State laws may change as new legislation is passed.

Let’s delve into an example:

Example: Meet Timmy from Alabama. Back in 2010, he racked up a credit card debt with Capital One, and their contract was governed by Alabama law. Fast forward to 2011, Timmy stopped paying off that debt. Then, in 2015, Capital One decides to take legal action against Timmy and sues him over the debt.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Since Timmy’s last payment was back in 2011, and the statute of limitations on credit card debt in Alabama is 3 years, by 2015, that clock has run out. Legally, Capital One can’t pursue Timmy for that debt anymore.

But, here’s the catch: if Timmy doesn’t do anything and ignores the lawsuit, he could still end up losing and having to pay the money. So, Timmy decides to take action. He uses ZumaZip to assert the expiration of the statute of limitations as a defense in court. And what do you know? The court dismisses the case. Timmy’s day just got a whole lot brighter!

And that’s how Timmy turned a potentially sticky situation into a happy ending with the help of ZumaZip.

One important thing to consider is the “choice of law” clause in your credit agreement. Here’s a heads-up.

For some types of debt, the governing law might not be where the debt originated. Take major credit card issuers, for example. They often specify which state’s laws apply, regardless of where you live or where the card was issued. So, even if you’re in one state, your credit agreement might say that another state’s laws govern the debt.

To find out, check your agreement for a “Choice of Law” or “Jurisdiction/Governing law” clause. This will clarify which state’s laws you need to abide by and which court system you might find yourself in.

Big Takeaways

In the words of Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride: “There is too much, let me sum up.” So for those of you living that TL;DR life, let me rehash the big points:

  1. Debt can expire because of something called the “statute of limitations.”
  2. Debt will expire at different times in different states.
  3. Different kinds of debt will expire at different times.
  4. Not paying time-barred debt can still affect your credit score and report.
  5. The statute of limitation is usually calculated from the last activity on the account, which means that activity after the statute has run could restart the clock.
  6. You is smart, you is kind, you is important – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


ZumaZip is your ally when it comes to standing up to debt collectors.

With ZumaZip, you can handle various aspects of dealing with debt collectors effortlessly. Whether you need to respond to a debt lawsuit, send letters to collectors, or negotiate a settlement, ZumaZip has got you covered.

ZumaZip’s Answer service is a user-friendly web application that guides you through the process step by step. It prompts you with all the essential questions needed to complete your response accurately. Plus, once you’re done, we’ll have a qualified attorney review your document before filing it for you. It’s all about making the process as smooth and stress-free as possible for you.

Featured articles
Premium online guides