The statute of limitations (in most states) is between three and ten years. Each state sets it own statute of limitations which makes it important to know the laws of your state of residence.
We most often hear of a statute of limitations that is applied to criminal activity. If you commit a lesser crime you must be charged within a certain period of time.
After that time has expired, you are home free and cannot be charged for committing that crime. For major crimes such as murder most states have no statute of limitations.
You may not know there is also statute of limitations for credit card debt. Lenders and their collection agents have a window of time to sue you for nonpayment of credit debt.
If your state has a three year statute of limitations for the collection of credit card debt, the lender may try to sue you after four years. However, the suit will be dismissed in court as a time-barred debt.
That means the time for collection has passed and the lender cannot require you to pay. This does not keep collectors from calling and trying to get you to pay an old debt but it does prevent them from suing for payment through the justice system.
If you know the statute of limitations has passed on a credit card debt you owed in the past, you cannot ignore a lender or collection agency that files a suit for payment.
The lawsuit will be dismissed only if you respond to the summons and show the statute limit has passed. This is true in most states and if sued for a time-barred payment, you will need an attorney to represent your interests in court.
Federal vs State Laws
There are federal laws as part of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that governs how creditors may pursue payment. When those regulations are in conflict with state laws, the state laws prevail if those laws are more stringent than the federal regulations.
The clock on the statutes usually begins the moment a credit card account goes into delinquent status. However, in some states the time period does not begin until six months following the last payment made on the account.
If you believe you may be affected in a positive way by the statute of limitations, it is important to fully read and understand the laws of your state. You need to ascertain exactly when the statute time period begins in order to know when the debt has “aged out”.
What’s Old is New Again
Banks do not like it when consumers can use the statute of limitations to avoid payment. There is a tactic in the lending industry known as re-aging which can result in extending the time limit of the statute. Personal finance experts warn consumers to avoid falling into the trap of have their credit debt re-aged by lenders.
The problem is that any payment on an account keeps that account active. If you old debt is only a few months from being uncollectible due to the statute of limitations, even one small payment or acknowledgement of the debt by you to the lender will start the clock over again.
Consumer experts advise debtors to ignore any lender communications about the old debt. If any response is given by the consumer it should be a statement that they don’t recognize the debt.
The statute of limitations varies widely from state to state. If you have old credit debt unpaid, find out what the laws are for your state.
Know when the statute period begins and once you are following that course, do not acknowledge the debt to the lender, discuss the debt with the lender or make any payment on that debt.
I would also recommend you to use a useful strategy I have been using to pay off my debt faster, namely credit card consolidation which is really efficient when you understand how to use it.