After a certain period of time, the law prohibits a debt collector or creditor from suing a consumer to collect on a debt. This is called a statute of limitations and is different in each state. Once the statute of limitations has expired, the debt may be called “time-barred” because the collector is prohibited from filing a lawsuit.
When Does the Statute of Limitations Start to Run?
You should look at your state's law in order to determine when the time period for filing a lawsuit to collect on a debt begins to run. However, even after the debt has become time-barred you must be very careful what you say or do when dealing with a debt collector who is attempting to collect on the debt, as you do not want to revive the time period the collector has to sue you. The statute of limitations may restart if you sign a new agreement or acknowledge that you owe the debt. To be absolutely sure that a debt is time barred and that you do not inadvertently say or do anything to restart the time period the debt collector has to sue you, you should consult an attorney.
Can a Debt Collector Contact Me About a Time Barred Debt?
Yes! While a debt collector may be prohibited from suing you after the statute of limitations has run, they may still contact you to ask you to pay on the debt.
What Should I do if a Collector Contacts Me about an Old Debt?
Although a debt collector may not be able to sue you if the old debt is time barred, there may be other things to consider when deciding what to do about the debt. If the debt is negatively affecting your credit and is causing you to be unable to obtain employment, housing, or additional credit, or the debt collector is harassing you may want review your options with an attorney in order to decide which one is best for your situation. Options include:
- Writing the debt collector a letter and asking them to stop contact you
- Setting up a payment arrangement
- Negotiating a settlement
- Paying off the entire amount of the debt
What Should I do if a Debt Collector Sues Me to Collect a Time Barred Debt?
That fact that a debt is time barred is simply a defense to a lawsuit if one is actually filed, so you will have to respond to the suit in order to have it dismissed. Filing a proper written response to a suit can be complicated and you may want to hire an attorney to help ensure that your rights are protected and that the lawsuit is dismissed without the debt collector getting a judgment against you.
If a debt collector or creditor is attempting to collect on an old debt please contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.