Statute of Limitations for Debt in Pennsylvania

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Many consumers want to know when debts become “uncollectible” in Pennsylvania. To answer that question, you must look to the “statute of limitations” (“SOL” for short). Generally, a debt is past the statute of limitations if its been around four years since the date of missed payment. This type of debt is called “time-barred” debt. You can’t get sued for time-barred debt. Debt collectors can’t threaten to sue you either.

If a debt collector tried to deceive you into paying a time-barred debt, or threatened to or actually took legal action against you on a time-barred debt, contact BCJ Law for help. You can call us at 1-800-997-5561 or fill out our contact form

What is the statute of limitations for debt in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations (SOL) for oral contracts, written contracts, promissory notes, and open accounts is four years. This four year period covers the vast majority of consumer debt, with some exceptions. The chart below details which debts are covered by the four year SOL, and which debts are not:

Four year SOL debt:

  • Bank, retail, or store credit cards
  • Personal loans
  • Most unsecured lines of credit
  • Private student loans
  • Auto loan deficiencies
  • Medical or telecom bills
  • Second mortgages

Non-four year SOL debt:

  • First mortgages
  • Federal, state or local taxes
  • Judgments
  • Federal student loans
  • Support payments
  • Civil fines or penalties

How do I know when the statute of limitations began to run?

The statute of limitations usually begins to run on the date you failed to meet your payment obligation. So, if you missed a credit card payment on June 1, 2015, and did not make any payments afterward, then a credit card company or debt collector has until June 1, 2019 to sue. You can, however, restart the statute of limitations by making full or partial payments after you default. For example, if you missed a credit card payment on June 1, 2015, then made a payment on November 1, 2015, a credit card company or debt collector may have until November 1, 2019 to sue.

Can debt collectors sue me after the statute of limitations expires?

"You likely have a claim for damages if a debt collector takes unlawful action on a time-barred debt.

No. Debt collectors can’t sue you for debts passed the statute of limitations. Debts passed the statute of limitations are called “time-barred” debts because the passage of “time” has “barred” debt collectors from filing suit.

In addition to not being able to sue you, debt collectors can’t threaten to sue you for time-barred debts. Debt collectors also can’t mislead you about their ability to enforce time-barred debts. So, if your last payment on a credit card account was five years ago, you can’t get sued, debt collectors can’t threaten to sue you, and debt collectors can’t mislead you about their ability to enforce the debt against you.

Time-barred debt lawsuits, as well as threats to sue or legally enforce time-barred debts are unlawful and violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (FCEUA). You likely have a claim for damages if a debt collector takes unlawful action on a time-barred debt. Visit our debt collection harassment page to learn how BCJ Law can help.

Can debt collectors contact me after the statute of limitations expires?

Yes. Debt collectors can call you and send letters with regard to time-barred debt. They also can file claims in bankruptcy for debt that is past the statute of limitations.

Nevertheless, debt collectors can’t deceive you into making payments on time-barred debt. For example, a debt collector may offer to “settle” an account past the statute of limitations without revealing that the debt is too old for litigation. Debt collectors also may try to hid the legal statutes of your debt. If a debt collector actively hides the status or your debt, or if it tries to trick you into paying, most likely have claims for damages.

Practical tips for dealing with debt and the statute of limitations.

Use these tips if you’re getting sued for a debt, if debt collectors are contacting you, or if you think your debt is past the statute of limitations.

Find out whether your debt is time-barred.

The easiest way to find out whether your debt is time-barred is to ask. Debt collectors can’t lie to you. If they know your debt is past the statute of limitations, or if they know the date of last payment, they must disclose that information if asked.

If you don’t have luck through informal requests, you can request debt verification. The FDCPA provides for a formal debt verification process through which you may be able to request documents and information concerning the age of your debt. To learn more about this process, visit our debt verification page.

Another option is pulling your credit report or bank records. Your credit report may show many of your past and current financial accounts If it does, it likely will show the date of delinquency for the account at issue. If that date is over 4 years, then the debt may be time-barred. Your bank records may provide similar information with regard to the date of last payment. 

Don't ignore a lawsuit even if the debt is time-barred.

Even if you know your debt is past the statute of limitations, never ignore a lawsuit seeking to collect a time-barred debt. If you ignore such a lawsuit, a default judgment is entered against you. When debt collectors get judgments, they can engage in aggressive collection tactics, like garnishing bank accounts or seizing property.

Courts will not look through the legal papers to ensure that debt collectors aren’t violating the law. You must answer the lawsuit and let the court know the debt collector filed suit for a debt it can’t legally enforce. If you need help, call BCJ Law’s debt defense attorney at 1-800-997-5561 or complete our contact form.

Don't make payments on time-barred debt.

Making payments on time-barred debt can restart the statute of limitations. That’s one reason why we caution consumers not to make payments on such debt. If you restart the statute of limitations by making payments, a debt collector may be able to sue for the debt. You can avoid this problem by refusing to make payments on debts past the statute of limitations.

Making payments on time-barred debt also may leave those debts on your credit report for longer periods of time. Adverse debt information usually is removed from your credit report after 7-8 years. If you make a partial or full payment on a time-barred debt, it may stay on your credit report for a longer period of time.

Stop debt collectors from calling about time-barred debts.

Since debt collectors can’t take legal action for time-barred debts, they don’t have much recourse to collect. For that reason, there isn’t much harm, absent special circumstances, in requesting debt collectors to stop calling or contacting you about a debt past the statute of limitations.

The FDCPA requires debt collectors to stop calling or contacting you about debts if you tell them to stop. So, if you’re not going to pay a time-barred debt, and if you don’t want to be bothered by debt collectors, simply tell the debt collector to stop calling you or sending you letters.

Debt collectors that continue to call are violating the FDCPA. They also may be violating another law called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Visit our pages on debt collection harassment and debt collection robocalls to learn more. You could be entitled to $500-$1500 per unlawful call and other damages.

Other unlawful practices related to time-barred debts.

Suing you, threatening to sue you, or calling you after you request contacts to stop, are just some of the unlawful practices debt collectors utilize in regard to debts past the statute of limitations. For example, debt collectors frequently try to “settle” debts that are past the statute of limitations. But, since these debts aren’t legally collectible, there isn’t anything to settle. If the debt collector doesn’t disclose that it can’t sue, it may be misleading you. If a debt collector in any way falsely represents the enforceability of a time-barred debt, or attempts to deceive you about the legal status of a time-barred debt, it likely is violating the FDCPA and the FCEUA.

Credit reporting of time-barred debts.

If your debt is passed the statute of limitations, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be on your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates what can and cannot be on your credit report. Generally, adverse information about debts that are 7-8 years old can’t be reported. So, a five-year old debt that’s past the statute of limitations can be on your credit report. If an old adverse debt is on your credit report and you want it removed, the FCRA allows you to dispute the debt directly with a credit reporting agency.

Laws related to debt collection and the statute of limitations.

Here’s a list of laws pertinent to debt collection and statute of limitations issues:

  • Title 42, Chapter 55, Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - the provisions of Pennsylvania law that set forth the statute of limitations that govern most types of debt in Pennsylvania.
  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) - a federal law that prohibits time-barred debt lawsuits, threats of such lawsuits, and misrepresenting the legal status or enforceability of a time-barred debt.
  • The Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (FCEUA) - a Pennsylvania law that has the same prohibitions as the FDCPA, but that applies to creditors in addition to debt collectors.
  • The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) - a federal law that prohibits debt collectors from contacting you by cellphone without your consent when debt collectors use a prerecorded or artificial voice, or an automated telephone dialing system.
  • The Dragonetti Act - a Pennsylvania law that prohibits debt collectors from filing lawsuits against you without probable cause.

Hire BCJ Law to help!

If you’re getting sued for a time-barred debt, if a debt collector misrepresented the legal status of a time-barred debt, or if you want help in determining whether your debt is past the statute of limitations or uncollectible, please contact BCJ Law’s debt defense/debt harassment attorney for help. We don’t get paid unless we win your case or get monetary recovery for you. Please fill out our free case review form or call us at 1-800-997-5561.

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