What is the Statute of Limitations on Debt? A State-by-State Guide

A statute of limitations on debt is the period of time a creditor or debt collector can take legal action against a borrower for to collect unpaid debts. Statute of limitations periods vary by state.

Credit accounts that are past the statute of limitations on debt are known as time-barred debts. You’re still required to repay time-barred debts, and they will probably still show up on your credit report and drag down your credit score.

Every State’s Statutes of Limitations

Here is a breakdown of each state’s statutes of limitations on the different types of debt, and a link to your state attorney general’s office for more information. (If you want to know more about the different types of debt, click here to go directly to that information.)

For more
Alabama6663Alabama AG’s Office
Alaska3333Alaska AG’s Office
Arizona3663Arizona AG’s Office
Arkansas3555Arkansas AG’S Office
California2444California AG’s Office
Colorado6666Colorado AG’s Office
Connecticut3663Connecticut AG’s Office
Delaware3663Delaware AG’s Office
Florida4555Florida AG’s Office
Georgia4664Georgia AG’s Office
Hawaii6666Hawaii AG’s Office
Idaho4555Idaho AG’s Office
Illinois510105Illinois AG’s Office
Indiana61066Indiana AG’s Office
Iowa55105Iowa AG’s Office
Kansas3553Kansas AG’s Office
Kentucky515155Kentucky AG’s Office
Louisiana1010103Louisiana AG’s Office
Maine66206Maine AG’s Office
Maryland33123Maryland AG’s Office
Massachusetts6666Massachusetts AG’s Office
Michigan6666Michigan AG’s Office
Minnesota6666Minnesota AG’s Office
Mississippi3363Mississippi AG’s Office
Missouri510105Missouri AG’s Office
Montana5885Montana AG’s Office
Nebraska4554Nebraska AG’s Office
Nevada4634Nevada AG’s Office
New Hampshire3363New Hampshire AG’s Office
New Jersey6666New Jersey AG’s Office
New Mexico4664New Mexica AG’s Office
New York6666New York AG’s Office
North Carolina3333North Carolina AG’s Office
North Dakota6666North Dakota AG’s Office
Ohio6866Ohio AG’s Office
Oklahoma3555Oklahoma AG’s Office
Oregon6666Oregon AG’s Office
Pennsylvania4444Pennsylvania AG’s Office
Rhode Island10101010Rhode Island AG’s Office
South Carolina3333South Carolina AG’s Office
South Dakota6666South Dakota AG’s Office
Tennessee6666Tennessee AG’s Office
Texas4444Texas AG’s Office
Utah4666Utah AG’s Office
Vermont66146Vermont AG’s Office
Virginia3563Virginia AG’s Office
Washington3666Washington AG’s Office
West Virginia5101010West Virginia AG’s Office
Wisconsin6666Wisconsin AG’s  Office
Wyoming810108Wyoming AG’s  Office

Can a Debt Collector Take You to Court After Seven Years?

Yes. An expired statute of limitations is never a sure-fire way to avoid court, but in some states, the debt collector will still be able to sue you after seven years. The exact timetable will depend on your state’s laws. As you can see from the table above, in some states it will take 10 to even 20 years for the statute of limitations to expire, depending on the type of debt. And even once the clock runs out, the debt collector could still try to sue you for other reasons. 

For example, they might try to:

  • Argue that the statute of limitations isn’t applicable
  • Argue that the statute of limitations clock isn’t correct
  • Try to challenge a debt that originated in a different state with a longer statute of limitations 

Statutes of Limitation Don’t Apply to All Types of Debt

Though most debts are covered by a statute of limitations, there are a few exceptions. That means creditors can sue you for these balances no matter how old your accounts are.

These include:

  • Federal student loans
  • State taxes (in some states)
  • Child support (in some states)

Pro tip: Be sure to double-check your state’s laws and consider asking a lawyer for help if you aren’t sure whether your debt might be exempt.

Should I Pay Off Debts After the Statute of Limitations Expires?

How you should deal with debts that are past your state’s statute of limitations is complicated. If you’ve let any credit account go delinquent for several years, you will already be facing significant legal, financial and credit score repercussions.

Pro tip: It will be less damaging to your financial situation to consider debt consolidation or debt settlement, unless the statute of limitations is about to run out in three months or less.

READ MORE: Debt consolidation vs. debt settlement

Dealing with debts that are past the statute of limitations will depend on your financial situation. There are significant legal, financial, and credit-related repercussions to letting a credit account be delinquent for years.

You can’t ignore the problem forever. Though creditors and debt collectors can’t sue you for time-barred debts, they can still attempt to get their money through other means. Your account may also continue to damage your credit score and rack up late fees, penalties and interest.

Pro tip: It’s best to seek legal advice for your situation. Check for a law firm that offers a free consultation.

Types of debt

Each state groups debts into four types with separate rules for each. Here are some of the key differences.

Oral agreements

If you borrowed money from someone and promised to repay it, but never wrote down the agreed-upon terms, it’s considered an oral agreement. These usually occur between friends or family.

Written contracts

If you promise to pay a third party in exchange for specific goods and/or services, that’s a written contract. For example, if you sign a contract agreeing to pay $800 for water heater repairs and you fail to pay that bill, the service worker or company can sue you for the balance. 

Medical debt is often considered a written contract, but some states have a different statute of limitations specifically for medical bills.

Promissory notes

A promise to pay a fixed amount of money under specific situations is considered a promissory note. Installment loans, student loans, auto loans and home loans are considered promissory notes. 

Pro tip: It’s also possible to set up a promissory note without a fixed installment structure. For example, you if you borrow money from a friend and issue a promissory note that says you’ll pay them back in a lump sum at a future date.

Open-ended accounts

Open-ended accounts don’t have a fixed repayment term. Credit card debt and home equity  lines of credit that assign you a credit limit and allow you to access money on a rolling basis (as long as you make your payments) are key examples.

To learn more about statutes of limitations and how they work, check out this video:

The Bottom Line

Waiting for the statute of limitations to run out on your debt is a risky strategy, but if you have a debt that’s close to the deadline, it could keep you out of court. Still, it will likely take years for your credit score to recover. If you can’t afford to repay your debts, you’re better off considering a different option, like debt consolidation or debt settlement.


Can I Still Be Sued if the Statute of Limitations Has Expired?

No. Recent updates to Regulation F of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act changed the way this works. As of November 30, 2021, lenders can no longer threaten lawsuits or take you to court for any debt that’s passed the statute of limitations.
However, there are still ways debt collectors could legally challenge certain time-barred debts. 

Will the Expired Statute of Limitations Affect My Credit Score?

Reaching the statute of limitations requires years of inactivity on your account, which can drastically hurt your credit score.
If you miss a payment, most lenders report you as delinquent to the credit bureaus after 30 days. At that point, it will show up on your credit report and remain there for seven years.
The longer you wait to pay your account, the more damage it’ll do to your score. Because your payment history is worth such a significant part of your score (35% under FICO), the penalty for defaulting is always significant.

Are Debt Collectors Required to Stop Calling Once a Debt’s Statute of Limitations Expires?

Even if the statute of limitations has passed, a debt collector can still pursue old debts indefinitely. The law only prevents them from initiating a lawsuit against you. They are still allowed to attempt to recover their money.
In most states, debt collection agencies can and will try to attempt to pressure you into paying through other means. For example, you may still get phone calls intended to intimidate you into paying. However, the actions debt collectors can take are limited by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). For example, calling you after hours is prohibited.
The Federal Trade Commission has provided a helpful guide on how the FDCPA protects you from aggressive debt collectors.

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