How long can a debt collector legally pursue old debt?

In uncertain times, a person can become overwhelmed by debt and default on their payments. This is especially true if you face unexpected circumstances like job loss, natural disaster, or a devastating medical diagnosis. So you may be asking yourself, “How long can a debt collector legally pursue old debt?”

The statute of limitations on debt in Ohio is six years. After six years, a debt collector cannot take legal action against you to recover old debt. Debt that is past the six-year statute of limitations in Ohio is also referred to as “time-barred debt.” Keep in mind, though, that you still owe the debt, and it does not expire. The statute of limitations simply means that a creditor no longer has the legal option to sue you to collect the debt. Also, even if your debt is past the six-year time limit, it can still appear on your credit report and negatively impact your credit score.

A skilled attorney can explain the laws surrounding debt collection in Ohio and what your legal rights are.  They can also help you take a look at your options, including whether bankruptcy would enable you to discharge these debts permanently.  To find out more about how Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer can help, call us at 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati).

Are there differences in how long an old debt can be collected?

Although some states differentiate between different types of debt (i.e., consumer debt vs. mortgage debt), Ohio for the most part does not. Ohio’s statute of limitations is six years regardless of the type of debt in most cases (see exceptions below). After six years of dormancy on a debt, a debt collector can no longer come after and sue you for an unpaid balance.

Keep in mind, though, that a person can inadvertently restart the clock on old debt, which means that the six-year period can start all over again even if a significant amount of time has already lapsed. The types of things that can restart the clock on old debt include:

  1. Making a Charge. If you have overdue debt on a credit card or department store card that has been there for a few years, the age of that debt starts over (where statute of limitations is concerned) if you make a new charge on that credit card.
  2. Making a Payment. If you make a payment on a debt, whether in full or a partial payment, the age of the entire debt is reset and the six-year limit on collections restarts.
  3. Having a Discharge in Bankruptcy Revoked. If your debt was discharged fraudulently through bankruptcy, that discharge can be revoked by the court, the debt reinstated, and the six-year collection window restarted.
  4. Agreeing to Pay. If you are in touch with a creditor, acknowledge that the debt is yours, and agree to pay it – even at some point in the future – then the six-year clock on that old debt starts over.

Disputing a debt, per se, does not restart the clock on old debt if you don’t admit that the debt is yours.

Exceptions to how far back creditors can go to collect on a bad debt

Can a debt collector come after you after 10 years?

The statute of limitations on some limited types of debt doesn’t expire just because you ignore the debt. In Ohio, the six-year time-barred debt rule doesn’t apply if the debt falls into one of these categories:

Student Loans

There is no statute of limitations on federal student loan debt.  You will still owe this debt even if you live in Ohio and more than six years have passed since you made a payment.

Unpaid Taxes

The Ohio Attorney General has seven years from the date of a tax assessment to file a lawsuit to collect unpaid taxes.  These can include income taxes, property taxes or various other types of taxes.

Is bankruptcy an option?

Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy offers thousands of consumers a fresh start every year, and it might be the right option for you if you have significant unpaid debt.  The process is easy and does not take a lot of time if you’re in the hands of an experienced, affordable bankruptcy attorney.  You can read more about Chapter 7 here  and more about Chapter 13 here.  Trying to indefinitely delay repayment of old debt is usually not a winning strategy.  Taking charge of your future by exploring bankruptcy can give you a fresh start and put you back in control of your finances.

Credit Card Laws

If you’re worried about who can and cannot see your credit card information, Debt.org does a good job of laying out information about state laws affecting credit cards and credit counseling services.  Ohio has two laws that outline consumers’ rights to privacy in regard to their personal credit cards. These laws are in line with federal laws.

The Credit Card Truncation Act of 1993 makes it illegal for sellers to disclose consumers’ credit card account numbers, Social Security numbers, expiration dates or other key financial information.

The Credit Card Recording Act of 2004 has a similar purpose. It states that sellers cannot print expiration dates of credit cards or more than five digits of a credit card number on receipts.

Contact Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer Today

Facing overwhelming debt and creditor harassment is discouraging and stressful. Even though a creditor can no longer sue you for unpaid debt after six years in Ohio, this strategy is not the best path forward. The debt will still be there even if creditors can’t sue. A better option may be to pursue bankruptcy and have the debt discharged permanently. After all, the purpose of bankruptcy is to give you a fresh start and put you on a firmer financial footing. To find out more about how Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer can help you get a fresh start, call us for a free initial consultation at 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati).

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