Does a Debt Collector Have to Notify You that a Debt is Time-Barred?

man in debt

Old debt doesn’t go away easily and can haunt you for years through the tactics of an aggressive debt collector. 

If you are being pursued for non-payment on an old debt, understanding your consumer rights and the rules governing debt collection in your state could save you money. Georgia residents struggling with debt collectors should consult a qualified Georgia bankruptcy attorney for help. 

Debt collectors often push the limits of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, including collections on debts that expired under the state’s statute of limitations. This raises the question, “Does a debt collector have to notify you that a debt is time-barred?”

What is the Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection in Georgia?

When a debt remains unpaid for an extended period, a creditor may decide to file a lawsuit against that person.  However, there are limits on how long past the date of default a debt can be collected. 

Georgia law stipulates that written contracts have a statute of limitations of six years from when the debt became due and payable. On the other hand, oral breaches and open accounts have a statute of limitations of only four years from the date of default. 

The type of debt, date of last payment, date of default, and any subsequent agreements regarding repayment will all impact how the statute of limitations applies to your debt and your obligation to repay. 

Has the Statute of Limitations Passed on Your Debt?

Typically, once the statute of limitations has passed on your debt, your debt is considered time-barred, and you are no longer subject to a lawsuit for repayment. 

That said, debt collectors are betting against the consumer’s understanding of time-barred debt and will try to trick you into committing to repayment.

Does a Debt Collector Have to Notify you if the Debt is Time-Barred?

Debt collectors are not required to voluntarily disclose if your debt is time-barred. 

If you suspect the debt is time-barred, ask the debt collector if the statute of limitations has passed. While the collector is not required to answer the question, they might answer truthfully.

Can a Debt Collector Collect Payment on a Time-Barred Debt?

Debt collectors may not sue for repayment on a time-barred debt, but they are entitled to attempt to collect on it.

Beware: certain pitfalls may reset the statute of limitations on your debt, such as acknowledging the debt or agreeing to make a payment. If you are not careful, you risk reviving the potential for a lawsuit by the creditor.

How to Protect Yourself if You Are Contacted Regarding an Old Debt

If you are contacted about an old debt, the best thing to do is to seek legal counsel to resolve the situation. If you find yourself engaged with the collector, however, there are a few critical things you must do:

  1. Ask the collector if the debt is time-barred.  
  2. Explain that you are disputing the debt.
  3. Request written verification of the debt. Debt collectors must stop contacting you until they verify the debt. 
  4. Take the verification letter to a Georgia bankruptcy attorney for review and advice on how to proceed. 

Debt collectors can be a relentless nuisance. Gather as many facts as possible without acknowledging ownership of the debt or committing in any way toward repayment. Once you have information regarding the debt and debt collector, a skilled bankruptcy attorney can help resolve the situation and protect you against legal action.

What Happens if You are Sued for a Time-Barred Debt? 

If you are sued by a debt collector on a time-barred debt, do not ignore the lawsuit. Retain an attorney to represent you in court.  If the judge agrees that the debt is time-barred, the case will be dismissed. 

If you ignore the lawsuit, a judgment may be entered against you, and the debt collector may be granted authority to garnish funds from your bank account or wages for repayment.   

Contact a Georgia Bankruptcy Attorney for Help

Many people encounter problems with old debt and debt collectors. Generally, it’s best and easiest to repay the debt if you have the means to do so. Other times, circumstances don’t allow for repayment, or the statute of limitations has protected you against debt collection.

If you are contacted by a Georgia debt collector and need help figuring out what to do, reach out to a bankruptcy attorney for help. Contact our office today to speak with an experienced Georgia bankruptcy attorney about your past debt and debt resolution options.

Posted in: Consumer, Debt