If you do not pay a debt, a debt collector can take you to court and sue for repayment. However, for some types of debts, there is a time limit on how many years a debt collector can sue to collect. This is called a statute of limitations and varies by state law and type of debt. Once a debt reaches the statute of limitation, it is a time-barred debt.
If a debt is time-barred, the debt collector can request that you voluntarily pay. However, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it’s against the law for a debt collector to sue for collection of a time-barred debt. If you do voluntarily make a new payment agreement, it might restart the clock on the statute of limitations.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) defines debt collectors as any person or organization that regularly collects debts owed to others. The term includes lawyers who collect debts for others on a regular basis.
If you are summoned to court for a time-barred debt, the FTC recommends informing the judge that the debt is time-barred. Bring documentation to prove your position. Some debts, like federal student loans, do not have a statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations does not govern how long a debt can be reported on your credit report. Most can remain on your report for seven years from they when they became delinquent. Chapter seven bankruptcies can remain on your report for ten years.
The commercial web site Bankrate has a chart with the statutes of limitations for each state at https://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/state-statutes-of-limitations-for-old-debts/