Categories: Debt Collection

Can a Debt Collector Collect after Ten Years?

As with most legal questions, there is a long answer in a short answer.

The short answer is that, “They can try.” Under certain circumstances, they may succeed.

The long answer is a little tricky.

Understanding Time-Barred Debts

You might not think that a statute of limitations could apply to debt. However, the state of Florida, and just about every other state, regulates how long interested parties have to pursue collection. In Florida, for example, the following statutes of limitation apply.

  • Judgments may be collected 20 years from the date of the judgment.
  • Judgment liens are good for 10 years but can be extended for another 10.
  • Written contracts and promissory notes may be pursued for five years.
  • Oral contracts and open-ended accounts – including credit cards – have a limitation of four years.

All of these time periods referred to how long a debt collector or other party is allowed to sue you for collection after your last payment date. Debt can be bought and sold just like any other commodity, and debt collectors made by a catalog of debts from another collector. None of this has any bearing on the statute of limitations, just because they purchase a debt does not mean that they have the legal standing to begin collecting on. Yes, they may see you in a court of law, but by showing up and proving that the debt is time-barred, that suit may be dismissed with prejudice – meaning that the holder of the debt may not refile.

How That Dead Debt Can Reanimate

How can a debt collector collect after 10 years? It doesn’t take much work to resurrect the dead. All it takes is for the collector to talk you into resetting the clock yourself. Simply by making a small payment to the collector, the debt then goes “live” and it becomes collectible once more. By making a payment, you have reopened the entire statute of limitations again and made yourself subject to any collection action that may reasonably be taken. Interestingly, collectors and other states must follow their own state laws when collecting data, even if the debt was incurred in Florida and falls under the Florida statute of limitations.

Looking at your overall debt picture, you may see a combination of multiple types of debt. Whether time-barred or not, or subject to a judgment, debts do remain on your credit report for as much as seven years. In the case of a 10-year-old debt, making a payment will reanimate the debt and put it back on your credit report even if it had been previously expunged.

Don’t do that.

How Debt Collectors Get Your Help

The primary tool that debt collectors use is urgency. When they get in touch with a debtor they know that people are ashamed of being in debt, and in some cases are even afraid of being sued or arrested for death. They are going to play to peoples fears about debt – about being sued, about having their wages garnished, about even going to jail. What they count on the most is that people don’t understand their rights and the laws surrounding the collection of debt in Florida. When it comes down to being contacted by a debt collector here is the best advice that we have to give you.

  • Don’t pay anything.
  • Don’t promise to pay anything.
  • Don’t give any payment information.
  • Don’t give any information to the collector that they could use later.

What they are trying to do is to get paid and recoup part of their expense in buying your old debt. If they can get you to pay just a little, or even pay off the whole thing, you’re helping them to make some money back on the deal. Debt collectors use high-pressure tactics to create fear and urgency where there is no need for it.

How to Deal with Collectors

Old debts have often been passed around from party to party. These debts may have significant errors as to the amount owed, and in some cases, you may have already paid the debt, or have had the debt discharged in bankruptcy. If you are receiving calls and letters from a debt collector trying to collect after 10 years or more, here are some tips and tricks to handling them.

  1. Ask for a validation letter. This is a letter that includes details about the origination of the debt, the collection company contacting you, and how to challenge the debt.
  2. It might be difficult to find records that old but gather what you can of your own information on the debt. You may be able to find bank statements or canceled checks, and rebuild a picture of the debt and how you dealt with it.
  3. Document all communication between yourself and the debt collector. Keep a phone log and notes of telephone calls, keep copies of all correspondence. When it comes to communicating by mail, send your letters by certified mail to have proof of receipt.
  4. If things escalate to the point where you need the services of an attorney, informed the debt collection company that you have retained an attorney, provide your attorneys contact information, and request that all communications to you go through your attorney.
  5. At any point in your communications with a debt collection agency, if you request that they cease to contact you, then they must cease contact.

You should also know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This is a comprehensive federal law that governs how debt collectors may contact debtors in order to collect. They govern all types of debt collection regardless of the source of the debt.

Need Help? We’ve Got That!

Van Horn Law Group has been dealing with debt, bankruptcy, and associated subjects for 10 years. We are the law group with the difference in how we treat our clients. Our offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach are open Monday through Saturday, and we welcome walk-ins. We will even open on Sunday, but asked that you make an appointment first. Your first consultation is absolutely free, so get your paperwork together and let’s get started on getting debt – and collectors – out of your life.

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Can a Debt Collector Collect after 10 Years
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If you are receiving calls and letters from a debt collector trying to collect after 10 years or more, here are some tips and tricks to handling them.
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Van Horn Law Group
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Chad Van Horn

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