A statute of limitation is the amount of time a person can take legal action on a certain event. When it comes to debt, the statute of limitation is the amount of time a creditor can ask the court to force you to pay for a debt. The court system doesn't keep track of the statute on your debt. Instead, it's your responsibility to prove the debt has passed it's statute of limitation.
Debts that have passed the statute of limitation are known as time-barred debts. Just because the debts have aged past the statute of limitation doesn't mean you no longer owe. It just means the creditor won't get a judgment against you - as long as you come to court prepared with proof the debt is too old. Proof might include check showing the last time you made a payment or your own records of communication you've had about that debt.
Categories of Debt
Debts fall into one of four categories. It's important to know which type of debt you have because the time limits are different for each type. Ask an attorney if you have questions about which type of debt you have.
- Oral Agreements are debts were made in an oral contract. With an oral contract, you only made a verbal agreement to pay back the money. Nothing was in writing.
- Written Contracts are debts with a contract that was signed by you and the creditor. A contract includes terms and conditions of the loan, e.g. the amount of the loan and monthly payment. A medical debt or would be a type of written contract.
- Promissory Note is a written agreement to pay back a debt in certain payments, at a certain interest rate and by a certain date and time. Mortgages and student loans are types of promissory notes.
- An Open-Ended Account is an account with a revolving balance that you can repay and borrow again. Credit cards, in-store credit, and lines of credit are open-ended accounts. If you can only borrow the money on time, it is not an open-ended account.
Statute of Limitations by State
Each state has its own statute of limitations on debt - the amount of time the court will force you to pay a debt. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of debt you have - credit card or loan - and is usually between three and six years, but is as high as 10 or 15 years in some states. Before you respond to a debt collection, find out the debt statute of limitations for your state
If the statute of limitations, there maybe less incentive for you to pay the debt. If the credit reporting time limit (a date independent of the statute of limitations) has also passed, you may be even less inclined to pay the debt.
Click on your state's name to find out the statute of limitations on debt.