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How do I know if a debt is too old for a creditor to collect?

If you fail to make a payment on a debt and go into default, the creditor has a right to bring suit against you to collect. But how long do they have to do this? Is it ever too late? Is the debt ever too old to sue on? Yes, it can be, and here is how you can tell!

States have laws called Statutes of Limitation that set deadlines for people to bring suit. So if the debt is too old, you win! This often happens with creditors who sell the debt to a debt buyer, or "factor," who then sues.

The time to bring suit in New Jersey on the breach of the terms of a credit card agreement is limited to six (6) years, while a contract strictly for the sale of goods is four (4). Therefore, if enough time has passed, without you making any payments, the creditor may not be able to collect at all.

So How Can I Tell If It's Too Old?

What I recommend here in New Jersey is that if you get a demand letter from a creditor, especially if it is one that you do not recognize (or whose name is on this list) do the following:

  • respond in writing within thirty (30) days of receipt demanding a verification of debt. Under federal law the factor is required to identify the original creditor.
  • Check to see if that original creditor is still listed on any of your three credit reports (Experian, Transunion, or Equifax). If it is not, it may be too old to report, and thus too old to sue for collection. If it is, it might still be more than six (6) years old.
  • Check your own records to make sure that you have not made any payments to this creditor in the past six (6) years that might reset the clock on the statute.

At the very least, if that creditor should sue you, you should file an answering pleading and assert a statute of limitations defense. If you are correct about the timing, the claim could be barred by the court!

So What Do I Do?

If you live in southern New Jersey and you are being sued on a debt that you suspect might be too old, feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule a consultation in my Woodbury office to discuss your case. You might be able to get out of paying the debt entirely!

Want more information on how to fight back with your creditors? Then download my free book, The Biggest Secrets Your Creditors Don't Want You to Know. Become empowered and protect your rights!

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Steven J. Richardson
Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.