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Is there a time limit for collectors to pursue consumer debt?

When confronted by financial challenges, many Floridians are left unaware that there are some debts that they are no longer obligated to pay. This will not stop certain unscrupulous debt collectors from trying to get something from the debtor, but time-barred debts have a statute of limitations. It is against the law for a creditor or debt collector to sue a debtor for failing to pay time-barred debts.

Collectors have the right to contact a debtor regarding time-barred debts. In some instances, they will inform the debtor that the debt is time-barred and they will commence with a lawsuit if the debt is not paid. However, if a collector does not inform the debtor that the debt is time-barred but there is a chance that it is, the collector can be asked if the debt has gone beyond the statute of limitations. When the collector gives an answer, he or she is obligated by law to tell the truth. In some cases, the collector will decline to answer.

The debtor can also ask the debt collector if the debt might be time-barred and ask what the records say about the last payment. The statute of limitations begins to count down from the time of the last payment. The debt collector might not give this information either. If that is the case, then sending a letter within 30 days of getting written notice regarding the debt is the wise step. This should say that the debt is being disputed or verification is sought. Until verification is provided, the debt collector is legally obligated to stop attempts at collection.

A debtor can pay the time-barred debt if that is the desire. However, it is not absolutely required. The debtor can pay none of the debt and face the credit issues and other consequences even if there is no chance of a lawsuit; there can be a partial payment; or there can be a full payment. People who have questions about time-barred debt and are not interested in filing for bankruptcy need legal help to get beyond their financial challenges. Having assistance from an attorney who is experienced in tactics collectors can use, their contact language, and how to deal with time-barred debt is essential.

Source: consumer.ftc.gov, "Time-Barred Debts," accessed on Aug. 15, 2017

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