Old Debt and the Statute of Limitations

Old Debt and the Statute of Limitations

Receiving calls from a collections agency on an old debt can be a confusing and scary process. Depending on how old the debt is and the information that the collections agency provides, you may not recall the debt or the particular amount. Even if you do remember the debt, you may have certain legal rights based on the statute of limitations on debts in your state.

The Statute of Limitations on Debt

The statute of limitations (in relation to debt collections) provides a timeframe in which collectors can sue a consumer to collect a debt. Once the statute of limitations of a debt has been reached, it is considered a time-barred debt. This does NOT mean a debt is not valid or no longer collectible, as stated in the beginning, it simply means you can’t be forced to pay the debt by legal means.

The statute of limitations varies from state to state. It also varies depending on the type of debt. According to The Federal Trade Commission, state law generally determines how long debt lasts. The timeframe generally starts when you fail to make a payment. When the timeframe stops typically depends on two areas of interest: the type of debt, and either the law that applies in your state of residence or the state specified in your credit contract.

If you want to determine the statute of limitations on different kinds of debt, specified by state, please check with your State Attorney General's Office.

If your debt is still within the statute of limitations

If you have checked with your local and state regulations, and your debt is still collectible within that statute of limitations, you have several options as you proceed. Read our Five Tips for Dealing with Debt Collectors article to learn more about your rights, best practices and how to negotiate your debt.

If your debt is past the statute of limitations

If your debt is outside the time limit, but a debt collector is still pursuing you for payment, you may be wondering about your rights.

I have moved since my original debt was incurred. Which state's statute of limitations applies to me?

If you have moved to a new state since you incurred a debt, the statute of limitations from the state where in incurred the debt will apply to you. The statue of limitations laws for the new state you live in apply only to any new debts you incur.

Can a debt collector still call you after your debt has passed the statute of limitations?

Except in a handful of states, a debt collector can continue to contact you about payment, but they can no longer sue you for the debt. You may send them a request to cease attempts to contact you, however, and they must stop all communications. You must send a letter or, in some cases, an email with your information requesting that they stop attempting to contact you. Once they have processed your request, you will stop receiving attempts to collect the debt. However, the unpaid debt can still be submitted to the credit bureaus and impact your credit score. Read the FTC's Guidelines.

If I make a partial payment, will it restart the clock on the statute of limitations?

Depending on the laws in your state or region, paying any amount on your debt can restart the clock on your debt’s statute-of-limitations. This could give the debt collector up to three years or more to continue to pursue you to collect the debt. It also may give the debt collector the right to sue you for payment.

Can I pay off a debt in full that is past the statute of limitations?

Yes, you can pay off your debt in full. This option will close out the account for the debt collector and may improve your credit score. In many cases, debt collectors are willing to negotiate a lower amount to settle your debt. Learn more about negotiating your debt.

Learn More

View our other resource articles for more information about debt collection practices:

More FAQs


Convergent Outsourcing is a third party collection agency that abides by the standards outlined in the FDCPA. If you’ve experienced difficulty with any of our representatives pertaining to the issues above, please let us know via our online contact form. We seek to provide excellent customer service to our consumers and appreciate any feedback you may have. To make a payment or ask questions about your debt, please give us a call at 1-800-444-8485.

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About Us

In business since 1950, Convergent is one of America’s leading collections agencies. As an accredited agency, all of our representatives are thoroughly trained on customer service and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act compliance. We believe in customer service and want to make it easy as possible for people to pay the debts they owe.

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