How long can a creditor attempt to collect a debt?

By | March 25, 2010

If you you are currently marred in debt and wondering just how long you will have to deal with these debt collectors then I might have some sobering news for you.  Creditors have up to seven years to collect on any debt that is owed to them.  In many instances these collection agencies can try to collect on debts after seven years but they do not have any power behind them at that point and generally view collecting those debts as a waste of time and will no longer pursue them.

Now that you know just how long a creditor can attempt to collect on a debt it is important for you to know exactly when this clock will start.  The most common way to determine when the seven year window on your debt will start is when the creditor does a “charge-off.”  This is amount that was owed on the original debt when the payments stopped.  This charge off will appear on your credit history and you can use that date to determine when the seven year window will be closed. 

One wrinkle to this “charge-off”  is that if at any point after the “charge-off” occurred you agreed to a payment plan with a collection agency and made a payment your starting date will change.  The collection agency has the right to report that you made arrangements to pay back the debt that you owed and actually made a payment before stopping again.  At is at this new point when the last payment was received that will start the seven year countdown.

While the general rule is that a creditor has seven years to collect on a debt there is a certain way that creditors try to get around this rule.  Creditors reserve the right to sue you for any overdue debts.  Many times the length of time a creditor has to sue your over a debt will exceed the seven year limit stated above. 

The rules that govern when a creditor can take you to court over a debt vary from state to state.  If you think you might be taken to court over a past due debt that it is recommended that you study your state’s laws governing this issue.  It is quite unlikely that a creditor will sue you over a small amount of debt.  So the general rule of seven years is the one that most people will follow.

If you have ever been hounded by collection agencies then you might have wondered to yourself just how long they have to collect on an outstanding debt.  According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act these collection agencies have seven years to collect on outstanding debts. 

In some instances, which vary from state to state, these collection agencies can take you to court and sue you for overdue debts after the seven year limit is up.  However, because it is highly unlikely due to costs and general legal hassles many creditors will not take you to court so the general rule of thumb associated with how long a creditor can attempt to collect on a debt is seven years.