The Illinois Debt Collection Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations are state or federal laws that restrict the length of time a party has to seek legal action. In Illinois, state laws determine how long debt collectors have to sue over an unpaid bill or breach of contract. The statutes of limitations ranges from 3 to 10 years depending on the type of debt.

Frustrated casual man sitting on couch paying bills
Bills can continue after the statute of limitations expires.
credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Loans and Written Contracts

If a contract is in writing, the statute of limitations is 10 years. Personal, auto and payday loans all have a 10-year statute of limitations. Private student loans can also be enforced for 10 years, but federal student loans don't have a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is calculated from the date of last activity. On a loan, the date of last activity typically is when the last payment is made before defaulting. If you make a payment while the loan is in collections, the statute of limitations may start over again. Even making arrangements to pay the debt or acknowledging the debt is valid can restart the clock.

Verbal Agreements

You don't necessarily need a written contract to make an agreement legally binding. Oral contracts or "handshake deals" in Illinois have a 5-year statute of limitations. If you've made a verbal agreement with another party, it can sue you in small claims court if you don't hold up your end of the deal. Oral contracts commonly are entered with babysitters, dog walkers, lawn services and mechanics. An informal loan between friends may also be considered an oral contract if there is a verbal promise to repay the money.

Credit Cards

Illinois doesn't specify a statute of limitations for open-ended accounts, which include credit cards. The statute of limitations for these type of accounts may be either 5 or 10 years. In 2009, an Illinois appeals court ruled the statute of limitations on a credit card debt was 5 years if there wasn't a written contract. If there was a written contract, the 10-year statute of limitations applies.

Other Debts

Other miscellaneous debts may not fall into one of the categories covered under Illinois statutes of limitations. For example, unpaid parking or traffic tickets are considered civil infractions. There aren't any statutes of limitations that restrict legal action, so they can be enforced until collected. There's also no statute of limitations for unpaid child support arrears in Illinois. Back child support can be collected even after the child reaches 18. The statute of limitations for audits on state income taxes is 3 to 3 1/2 years from the due date or the file date of the tax return, whichever is later. If you wrote a bad check, it may be classified as criminal or civil, depending on the check amount. The statute of limitations to sue in small claims court to recover a bad check is 3 years.