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How Long Can Creditors Keep Trying To Collect Old Debts From You?


The worst kinds of collection notices are the ones that do not clearly state when you originally incurred the debt.  You should not pay those until you have verified whether you still owe the debt.  You may have heard that debts have a statute of limitations, but this does not stop creditors from continuing to try to collect payment on expired debts.  Before you pay a creditor or collection agency, make sure they still have the right to collect payment.  In fact, unless you do your due diligence first, even a verbal promise to make a payment toward a debt can prolong the time until the debt expires.  If you are getting notices from lots of debt collectors and are not sure which ones you are actually obligated to pay, contact a Philadelphia debt collection abuse lawyer.

The Four-Year Rule and Its Exceptions

The statute of limitations for collecting debts in Pennsylvania is four years.  Some states have different statutes of limitations for different kinds of debts, but Pennsylvania observes the same statute of limitations for all kinds of debts, including promissory notes (such as auto loans and home mortgages), debts subject to written agreements (such as medical bills, utility bills, and cell phone service agreements, among others), open-ended debts (such as credit card debt and lines of credit), and even debts incurred by oral agreement (for example, borrowing money from a friend and verbally promising to pay it back).

After the four years have passed, the creditor can no longer file a lawsuit to collect a debt from you.  They can still call you and send you collection notices, but their threats about suing you and garnishing your paychecks become empty.  Of course, if things were that simple, then all you would have to do to make a debt go away would be to ignore it for four years.  What happens instead is that, every time you take an action related to the debt, the statute of limitations resets and the four years start counting down anew.  An action related to the debt can be a partial payment, a renegotiation of the terms of the debt, or even a verbal promise to make a partial payment.  This means that you can dodge a creditor’s phone calls for three-and-a-half years, but then if you pick up the phone and say that you will make a partial payment, the creditor’s deadline to sue you about the debt extends by another four years.  Therefore, creditors can and do sue debtors for debts that the debtor originally incurred much longer than four years ago.

Contact Louis S. Schwartz About Old Debts That Won’t Go Away

The best way to make debts go away is to pay them, but that is not always feasible.  A Philadelphia consumer law attorney can help you exercise your right not to pay expired debts and can help you figure out which of your debts have expired.  Contact Louis S. Schwartz at CONSUMERLAWPA.com to set up a free, confidential consultation.

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