Can Collection Agencies Sue You for a Debt Over 7 Years Old?

Debts aren’t collectible in court once the statute of limitations has passed.
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A debt collector can always ask you to pay unpaid obligations, but can't use the legal system to seek repayment after the statute of limitations has passed. Most decisions on how long debts are collectible are made at the state level. Making it even trickier is that states don't treat all debts the same way. An overdue credit card bill may be collectible for fewer years than debts secured by a promissory note, such as a mortgage.

Check with Your State

To find out whether a debt's age has exceeded the statute of limitations, check with your state's Attorney General's office or a local lawyer. Many debts will be uncollectable after seven years. For example, the statute of limitations for credit card debts often is three to six years. If the debt is too old to be collected in court and the creditor files suit against you anyway, the fact that it's past the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense. This means that you can raise it as a reason the creditor should lose the suit even if the debts are valid. Alert the creditor that the suit violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the creditor pursues the legal claim anyway you can raise the defense in court.

Check Your Credit Report

Most debts age off your credit report after seven years, so if a debt is more than seven years old it shouldn't still be dragging down your credit score. If a collection agency added a new delinquent entry in an attempt to encourage payment, or altered the date to make it appear newer, demand that the agency remove the account. Also, file a dispute with the three major credit bureaus saying that the age of the debt makes it ineligible to be included, and include any evidence you have that your position is correct.