Statute of Limitations

Although you cannot be sued for debts that are past the limitations period, you can still receive harassing calls and unwanted letters from collectors as unpaid debts never disappear'

Your rights may be different based on how old the debt is; thus tactics used to collect old debts may or may not violate the law.

You may be able to sue a debt collector who is violating your consumer financial rights at no cost to you*.

Special agencies and consumer attorneys may be able to help you settle an old debt for less than you owe, forever ending phone calls and collection letters.

As a last option, Bankruptcy could put an end to your financial distress.

Statute of Limitations apply to open ended contracts such as credit cards and store credit accounts and contracts for sale under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). Also covered under most State's statutes of limitation are oral agreements, promissory notes, written contracts, loans, mortgages and car payments as well as foreign and domestic judgments. Under the right circumstances the statue of limitations can be renewed for just about any type of debt.

Which State's statute of limitations applies in any given situation. Section 811 of the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act; "Legal actions by debt collectors" answers this question.


In order to obtain court judgements on most debts, collectors must sue in the judicial district where the consumer resides. However, there are exceptions:

Child support orders are recognized and enforced in every state. If you have child support judgment from AL and move to WA, the AL statutes of limitation apply.

Signed contracts (not revolving credit accounts); collectors can seek a judgement in the state where the contract was signed. Once they have a judgment collectors or creditors can use either the state where it was granted or have the judgment domesticated to the state where you reside, depending on which state offers the longest SoL.

Example: You live in Alabama and a debt collector is attempting to collect on a past due credit card bill. The collector must obey the Alabama statute of limitations for open ended credit contracts which is 3 years. On the other hand, if you live in Washington but signed a contract to have body work done on a vehicle in Oregon, then a collector can sue for a judgment in Washington (good for 10 years).

Under written credit contracts such as car loans, mortgages, and so forth, creditors retain the right to decide which state to sue in, so always expect creditors to choose the state with the longest statute of limitations and/or the state with the greatest amount of award!

WARNING! A judgment, regardless of which state ordered it, can be enforced in any other state.

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