Like all civil actions, debt collection is regulated by something called a statute of limitations. This statutory time limit restricts the time during which a creditor can seek repayment on an outstanding debt. Once the statute of limitations expires, Florida law bars creditors from ever attempting to collect on that debt ever again and absolve you of any legal liability for that debt in the future. The time frame allotted by the statute of limitations varies depending on the particular type of debt you owe, and some debts are not subject to any statutory time restriction.
Oral contracts--contracts that were never written down or that you never signed--are subject to a statute of limitations of four years under Florida law. The proverbial clock begins to tick on the day you first become delinquent, and any payments you make towards a debt arising from an oral contract resets the statute of limitations, giving the creditor another full four years to collect.
Written contracts include legal instruments, such as a check, money order or cashier's check and other contractual agreements that were both written down and signed by you and the creditors. Florida restricts attempts to collect on written contracts to five years, starting on the day you first become delinquent. Payments made towards a debt arising from a written contract reset the statute of limitations.
Open-ended accounts include things like credit cards, charge cards and store-based cards or accounts. It also includes revolving loans such as home equity lines and personal credit lines. Open-ended accounts are subject to a statute of limitations of four years, but the clock begins to run on each individual charge on the date on which you first become delinquent. Therefore, it is possible to have varying time frames for each item you purchased with your card or credit line. Payments made towards open-ended accounts do reset the statute of limitations for every individual charge, giving the creditor another full four years to collect on payments for each item.
If a creditor seeks a judgment against you for the amount of an outstanding debt you owe, the creditor has up to 20 years to collect on that judgment. Payments made towards judgments do not reset the statute of limitations in Florida. Judgments are also not subject to tolling, so a creditor can seek payment on a judgment in any state if you should ever move outside of Florida.
Tolling & Reviving
The term "tolling" refers to the practice of freezing or stopping a running statute of limitations. In Florida, the statute of limitations tolls every time you move outside of the state. If and when you move back into the state, the statute of limitations is "revived," meaning it starts again from the exact point where it tolled.
Certain debts are exempted from the statute of limitations. This includes back-owed child support, educational loans and overdue or back-owed taxes. Creditors can continue collecting on these debts for as long as it takes you to pay them back; in fact, a creditor can seek repayment from your estate if you pass away prior to repaying the debt in full.