Collection Statutes of Limitations?

Updated on March 13, 2011
M.B. asks from Lafayette, LA
10 answers

In 1997, I had a car repossessed ('93 Nissan Sentra). I was unemployed and about two steps away from living in the thing. Today, I received a collection letter from a company, wanting me to pay on this debt that is 14 years old. Is this possible? I had my credit pulled less than a year ago, to get a townhouse and it didn't even show up on there. Can this "reappear" on my credit after all these years? Can they come collect on something so old? They are trying to get me to agree on a settlement for a percentage of the value due.
It was bizarre because this letter was addres to my former married name...I even chuckled and thought "What in the world?" I have been divorced, re-married (for five years), purchased cars and a house (in addition to leasing out 2 others) in the past fourteen years. This seriously has never come up and I know it wasn't on my report this past year.
Any thoughts on this? Do I address it? Do I ignore it? I was once told that the moment I make any contact with an old bill, the collection process "starts over" and I will have seven years of this on my report.

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answers from Jacksonville on
Statute of limitations by state

Be careful not to restart the statute of limitations. Anytime you take an action with an account, the statute of limitations is restarted. Making a payment, making a promise of payment, entering a payment agreement, or making a charge using the account can restart the statute of limitations on an account. When the clock restarts, it restarts at zero, no matter how much time had elapsed before the activity.

The statute of limitations on debt in Florida puts a time limit on the amount of time you can be sued for a debt.

Oral Contract: 4 years

Written Contract: 5 years

Promissory Note: 5 years

Open-Ended Accounts: 4 years

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answers from Chicago on

I would not address it unless it shows on your credit. Pull your report in about 3 months. I had received a collection notice for a doctor visit for my son from 2004. It is for co-pay that I did in fact pay before we saw them Either they entered the info wrong or did not enter at all. The doctor's office would tell you to go find an ATM if you forgot your checkbook. I cannot prove I paid this bill since I do not have the bank account anymore and the bank does not even have to keep records that far back. The collection agency called me and because I told them I did not owe the money but did admit the date matches my son, they tried to claim it was new under statute. Once it showed on my credit report, I disputed it and it was taken off. They cannot restart the statute just by talking ot you. You have to admit you owe and setup payment arrangements.

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answers from Minneapolis on

If you never intend to pay this debt, do not contact them.

But if it was now financially possible, I would pay it in order to honor a commitment that in a time of trouble I had to default on. I would sleep better.

I am not sure why it would be considered "immoral" for a company to collect that which is owed to them? No more than I would call it "immoral" to default on a debt -- It can happen to the best of people.

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answers from Boca Raton on

Many of the replies focus on how to avoid paying a debt which you apparently had - that you admit. From your letter, it seems as though you are now in a position to afford to "make right" on a debt that you previously couldn't pay. (You stated that you now own a townhouse, and have purchased cars and leased others...)
Honoring your debt - to me - would seem the right choice... this world would be a better place if everyone would honor their commitments instead of trying to get off on technicalities.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Don't agree to pay them anything!! It can restart the statue of limitations and then it WILL show up on your credit report!! Send them a cease and desist letter asking them to no longer contact you and that the debt is beyond the statue of limitations for collections. Send it certified mail so it has to be signed for which will prove that they received your letter just in case they keep contacting you. You can google search for example letter that you can copy and paste to word and fill in the blanks for everything else.

Good luck



answers from Orlando on

You have to ignore it, as soon as you make contact it will start the contract to pay all over again, and you will have to resume responsibility for it. After all of these years, it is GONE. The collection company will continue to try and collect, but you do NOT have to respond. It's going to be a pain, because you will probably get more mail, but nothing more than that. You'll be fine :)



answers from Atlanta on

Kitty's right on the statute of limitations on how much time companies have to sue. All communication can start that statute over again. I am a former collections manager. I left because I couldn't stand the immoral, albeit legal, actions that the company I worked for executed. The company you borrowed from probably sold the loan to another company for pennies on the dollar. That being said, the company has the right to report the information as long as they want to. If it's correct you have no way to fight it EXCEPT call the company and try to get them to remove it as a favor to you, lol... They are trying to start the communication over again so they can begin the statutes of limitations on a lawsuit all over again. Resist the urge to communicate with them unless you have full intention of paying them off in one lump sum soon....

You're not alone in these circumstances. It happens to all of us at different times in our lives. Continue to press forward.

God bless,




answers from Tampa on

I am with you and don't think that they can do this all the years later. But if I were in your shoes, I would call a lawyer and ask. They usually give the first consultation for free, so you can find out what you have to do and what you don't. Good Luck.



answers from Washington DC on

I had this same thing happen and because I was affraid of it showing back up on my credit report I paid the company that contacted me off. It was NOT the original lender. I found out later that was a mistake and should have just let it go.

Check the laws in the state where the debt originated (if different from where you are currently living) for the specific type of contract it was to know the statute of limitations and the laws that apply to them. And whether those laws apply to the original lender only or anyone who buys the account later.

Or contact an attoney for a free consultation to see what your options are. I wouldn't respond to it until you've done that.



answers from Daytona Beach on

from what my bankruptcy attorney told me (after i had the same thing happen to me) that there was some law that was passed recently that allowed these people to collect after years of no contact. what might have also happened is that the business that had the collection could have sold it to another company and they picked up where the other left off. it is legal unfortunately. my mom had a sears card more than 20 yrs ago and they recently contacted her also. i would ignore it and see if anything happens

EDIT: just wanted to add that i did not speak with anyone or answer any letters and they sent me a certified letter with a court date. i went asap to a bankruptcy attorney who told me that i had way more debt than i thought that i did.

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