The short answer is yes; however, there are some additional factors.
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A statute of limitation is a legal deadline that sets a period of time after which you cannot act on it. Debt that is un-collectable because a creditor has not gone to court to collect it is called time-barred debt. But when does a debt become too old for a creditor to collect?
State law determines when a debt becomes time barred. In Washington State, the statute of limitations varies based on how the debt was agreed upon. Written contracts, open accounts like credit cards, and promissory notes all get 6 years. Oral contracts get 3 years. Even if a debt is time-barred, there’s nothing in the law stopping a debt collector from contacting you about it. However, if you ask if the debt is time-barred, the creditor is required to tell the truth.
But you also have to know that if the creditor has sued you on the debt and obtained a judgment against you, that starts a different statute of limitation for collection on the judgment. In Washington State, judgments are good for 10 years and can be renewed for an additional 10 years (20 years total).
Also, another important factor is that if you have made any partial payments along the way. So should you pay on a debt that the law says can be forgotten? It depends. If you pay nothing on a time barred debt, the collector can still hassle you about it, and it will show up on your credit report. If you pay a portion of your time-barred debt, it can cancel out the statute of limitations, effectively “reviving” the debt and allowing the creditor to now take you to court and sue for a judgment on the remaining amount. You can also negotiate the amount down with the creditor in order to pay the entire amount or a portion of it off. If you do come to an agreement, make sure you get a copy in writing, and keep a careful record of your payments.
If you get taken to court for a debt that you think is time-barred, talk to an attorney. You can provide proof that the debt is time-barred to the judge and if it’s accurate, get the action dismissed. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if a creditor is breaking the law by suing you or threatening to sue on time-barred debt.
Over the past 30 years, the Law Offices of Christopher A. Benson has helped over 3,000 of Washington clients take control of their financial situation. We can stop your garnishment and change your monthly payments for all your combined unsecured debt, and if you have had more than $600 garnished within the last 90 days, we can get all of the money back in most cases. But you have to act quickly–call (253) 815-6940for your free consultation, or email us today.
About the Author
Chris served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity
Seattle/S. King County for 10 years and served as Vice President
of the organization during part of that time. Read More