All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

Paying off debt can be an excruciating process, depending on how much money you owe. But your debts may not haunt you forever. Most consumer debts have a statute of limitations. That means that after a certain amount of time has gone by, collectors can’t sue you for failing to pay off outstanding debts. Here’s everything you need to know about the statute of limitations on debt.

See how long it’ll take to pay off your credit card debt.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations on Debt

You can be taken to court for not paying off certain debts. But there’s a limit on how long debt collectors can chase after the borrowers they want to sue.

The period in which someone can take legal action against you for owing money is known as the statute of limitations. In many cases, that time period either begins on the date you last made a payment or when your account becomes delinquent (which usually happens 30 days after a borrower fails to make a payment). But sometimes, the statute of limitations begins whenever you last used the account, acknowledged that you owed debt or agreed to make a payment (more on that later).

Statutes of limitations offer consumers with old debts some protection from debt collection agencies. After the statute of limitations on a debt expires, that unpaid debt is considered to be time-barred. At that point, borrowers no longer have a legal obligation to pay off their debts.

Different states have different statutes of limitations. And there are different rules attached to different types of debts. In Iowa for example, the statute of limitations on credit card debt is 10 years. In Alaska, Alabama and Washington D.C. it’s only three years.

Not all consumer debts have a statute of limitations, however. Federal student loans, for example, haven’t had a legal expiration date for over two decades.

What to Do With Time-Barred Debts 

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

While you may no longer be legally responsible for your time-barred debts, you’re not totally off the hook. Most negative credit information – like unpaid debts – can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. But tax liens can remain on your credit report for up to 15 years and bankruptcies can be reported for 10 years.

Not repaying the old debt you owe after the statute of limitations expires could hurt your credit score. And you could have a hard time trying to buy a house or take out a new loan.

Related Article: The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

If you decide to pay off an old debt, it’s important to make sure you have documentation confirming that the debt is yours before making a single payment. You may have to pay off your debt in full in order to avoid restarting or extending the statute of limitations on your debt. So talking to a lawyer before making a single payment is a good idea.

When a Collector Asks About Your Time-Barred Debt

Even though you can’t be sued for your time-barred debts, a debt collector may try to come after you anyway. Bill collectors are required to follow certain rules under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). But they have the right to contact you even after the statute of limitations on a debt runs out. If a debt collector threatens to sue you for a time-barred debt, he or she could be violating the FDCPA.

Statutes of limitations can be tricky. So if you’re not sure whether your debt is past its legal expiration date, it’s a good idea to ask a debt collector who contacts you if your debt is time-barred. If he or she says no, it’s best to ask for the date of the last payment and request written proof that the debt they’re trying to collect is actually yours.

You’ll need to be careful when speaking to debt collectors, especially when dealing with a debt you believe is time-barred. If you say the wrong thing, the statute of limitations could be restarted or extended and you could end up having to pay a bill collector what you owe. The debt collector could also sue you and win.

The clock on your debt can restart if you admit to owing a debt, promise to start paying it or attempt to start repaying it by sending money to a debt collector. But the guidelines associated with extending and restarting the statute of limitations vary depending on where you live.

Related Article: Understanding Debt

Final Word

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

If you don’t know if the statute of limitations on your debt has expired, you can check with someone from a local legal aid society, an attorney or your state attorney general’s office. Or you can figure it out yourself by finding out when the statute of limitations begins and looking up your state’s laws regarding the statute of limitations on debts.

After you can confirm that the statute of limitations on your debt has in fact expired, you’ll have to decide what to do with it. You can pay off the debt and improve your credit score or ignore it and wait until it disappears from your credit report. You could also dispute the old debt or try to work out an agreement so that you end up paying less than what you owe your creditor.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Geber86, ©iStock.com/fstop123, ©iStock.com/ozgurdonmaz

The post All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Late Payments, Credit Scores and Credit Reports

A missed credit card or loan payment can have a seriously detrimental effect on your credit report. The golden rule of using a credit card is to make your payments on time every time, building a respectable payment history, avoiding debt, and keeping your creditor happy.

But what happens when you fall behind with your monthly payments; what happens when you miss a single loan or credit card payment as a result of a mistake, an oversight or a lack of funds? How will your creditor react, how quickly will the credit reporting agencies find out, and what options do you have for getting back on your feet?

How Late Payments Affect Your Credit Score

A late payment can reduce your credit score significantly and remain on your report for 7 years. It won’t impact your score throughout that time and the longer you leave it, the less of an impact it will have. However, the impact could be significant for individuals with good credit and bad credit.

As an example, if you have a credit score of 750 to 800, which is towards the upper end, a late payment could knock up to 710 points from your score. More importantly, it will remain on your payment history for years to come and reduce your chances of getting everything from a student loan to a credit card and mortgage.

How Soon do Late Payments Show on Credit Reports

You won’t be hit with a derogatory mark as soon as you miss a credit card payment. The credit card issuer may charge you a fee, but by law, they are not allowed to market it as a missed payment until it is 30 days due. And this doesn’t just apply to credit card debt, it’s true for loans as well.

Providing you cover the payment within 30-days, you can avoid a missed payment mark appearing on your credit report. But as soon as that period passes, your lender will inform the major credit bureaus and your score will take a hit.

Some lenders wait even longer before reporting, so you may have as long as 60 days to make that payment. Check with your creditor to see when they start reporting missed payments.

What About Partial Payments?

Many lenders treat a partial payment the same as a missed payment, especially where credit cards are concerned. If you’re struggling to meet your payment obligations, contact your creditor in advance, tell them how desperate your situation is and inform them that you can meet part of the payment.

They may offer you some reprieve, they may not, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. However, it’s worth noting that this will only impact your score if you don’t cover the remaining credit card payment before the 30-day period is up.

To avoid confusion, we should also mention that this only applies to the minimum payment. Some credit card users get confused with the difference between a balance and a minimum payment.

Simply put, the balance is what you clear at the end of the month to avoid accumulating debt and paying interest. If you fail to pay that balance on time, your debt will simply roll over to the next month, after which you will be required to meet a minimum payment on your debt. If, however, you miss that minimum payment, then you’re at risk of your credit report taking a hit.

Reporting agencies don’t record the difference between a rolling balance and a debt. If you spend $3,000 on your card every month but pay it off without fail and without delay, you won’t accumulate interest and technically, you won’t have debt. However, at the end of the month, the reporting agencies will show that you owe $3,000 on that card, just as they would show if you had accumulated a balance of $1,000 a month for three months and let it rollover.

How Long Does a Late Payment Stay?

A late payment will remain on your credit report for 7 years. But herein lies another confusion. Just because it reduces your score by 100 points and remains for 7 years doesn’t mean you will suffer a reduction of 100 points for those 7 years. 

It generally stops having a major impact on your score after a couple of years and while it will still have an impact in that 7-year period, it will be infinitesimal by the time you reach the end.

How Many Late Payments Can You Make Before it Reduces Your Score?

One late credit card payment is all it takes to reduce your score, providing that late payment was delayed by at least 30-days. However, that doesn’t mean you can forget about it once the 30-day period has passed and it definitely doesn’t mean that all the possible damage has been done.

It can and will get worse if you continue to avoid that payment. Your credit report will show how late the payment is in 30-day installments. When it reached 180 days, your account will enter default and may be charged-off, which will reduce your score and your chances of acquiring future credit even more.

Your creditor may sell your account to a collection agency. If this happens, the agency will chase you for repayment, seeking to establish a repayment plan or to request a settlement. Accounts are often in this stage when a consumer goes through debt settlement, as creditors and debt collectors are typically more susceptible to accepting reduced settlements because the debt has all but been written off.

How to Remove Late Payments from Your Credit Report

Although rare, it is possible to remove late payments from your credit report. There are also numerous ways you can reverse late payment fees, and we recommend trying these whenever you can as it will save you a few bucks.

Here are a few options to remove late payments and late payment fees:

Use Your Respectable History

The quickest way to get what you want is to ask for it. If you have a clean credit history and have made your payments on time in the past, you can request that the fee/mark be removed. 

Write them a letter requesting forgiveness, explain that it was an oversight or a temporary issue and point to your record as proof that this will likely not happen again. Creditors may seem like heartless corporations, but real humans make their decisions for them and, like all companies, they have to put their customers first.

Request Automatic Payments

Lenders have been known to remove late payment fees if the debtor signs up for automatic payments. It makes their job easier as it prevents issues in the future and ensures they get what they are owed, so it’s something they actively promote.

They may make this offer themselves, but if not, contact them and ask them if there is anything you can do to remove the late payment. They should bring this up; if they don’t, you can. It doesn’t hurt to ask and the worse they can do is say no.

Claim Difficulties

If you claim financial difficulties or hardships and make it clear that a late payment will make those difficulties much worse, the lender may be willing to help. Contrary to what you might think, their goal is not to make life difficult for you and to destroy you financially. 

It’s important to see things from their perspective. If you borrow $15,000 and your balance climbs to $20,000 with interest, their main goal is to get that $15,000 back, after which everything else is profit. If you pay $10,000 and start slipping-up, the risk of default will increase. The worse your financial situation becomes, the higher that risk will be. 

If they eventually sell the account to a debt collector, that remaining $10,000 could earn them just a couple of hundred dollars, which means they will lose a substantial sum of money. They are generally willing to help any way they can if doing so will increase their profits.

How to Avoid Late Payments

A late payment can do some serious damage to your payment history so the best thing to do is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. It’s a no-brainer, but this is a common issue and it’s one that countless consumers have every single year. So, keep your credit card and loan payments stable with these tips.

Set Automatic Payments

Occasionally, consumers forget to pay. Life is hectic, they have a lot of responsibilities to juggle, and it’s easy for them to overlook a single payment. If this happens, it should be caught and fixed before the 30-day period ends and the credit bureaus find out. But even then, fees can accumulate, and problems escalate.

To avoid this, set up automatic payments so your minimum payment is paid in full every month. You can do this for all debt, including student loan payments. Just make sure you have the money in your account to meet this minimum charge, otherwise, you could be paying for debt on one account by accumulating it on another.

Set a Budget

A credit card is designed to encourage you to spend money you don’t have. You’re buying things you can’t afford now in the hope or expectation that you will cover them later, only to realize that you’re struggling so much you can’t even cover the minimum payment.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, it’s time to analyze your finances and create a sensible budget. You may feel like you have a good idea of what you’re spending each month and how this compares to your gross income, but the vast majority of consumers seriously underestimate their expenses.

Improve Your Credit by Fixing Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Calculate your debt to income ratio by comparing your total debt (credit card payments, student loans) to your gross income. The higher this is, the harder you need to work, and the less you need to spend on your credit card. 

Your debt to income ratio should be your central focus when seeking to improve your credit score, because while it’s not considered for loan and credit card applications, it does play a role in mortgage applications and is important for calculating affordability.

Conclusion: It’s Not the End of the World

A late payment can strike a disastrous blow to your credit report, but it’s not the end of the world and you do have a few options at your disposal. Not only do you have up to 30 (and sometimes 60) days to make the payment and prevent a derogatory market, but you can file a claim to have it removed in the event that it does appear.

And if none of that works, a little credit repair can get you back on track. Just keep making those payments every month, talk with your lender when you find yourself in trouble, and remember that nothing is unfixable where credit is concerned.

Late Payments, Credit Scores and Credit Reports is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

If you’re constantly getting hassled by debt collectors, you might be left feeling helpless and anxious. Maybe you’ve thought about putting an end to these relentless phone calls but didn’t know how. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) exists to protect us from unfair and abusive debt collection practices. 

In the following sections, we will discuss the FDCPA in greater detail so that you can feel better equipped to deal with debt collectors. If your situation fits the criteria, there may be something you can do about it.

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) places restrictions on how third-party debt collectors act to handle situations in which they are trying to collect debts owed to another person or entity. 

This federal law limits the ways that collectors are legally allowed to make contact with those who owe. These restrictions include rules surrounding what time of day debt collectors are allowed to contact debtors as well as how many times they are allowed to contact them. 

If your rights, according to the FDCPA, have been violated, you have one year to file a lawsuit against the debt collection company as well as the individual debt collector. 

How the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Protects You

The FDCPA was established to protect consumers from unfair debt collection practices such as being called at odd hours of the night, being harassed, and being wrongly accused of owing a debt. This federal law puts control back in your hands so that you can feel more confident about your interactions with debt collectors.

Here are some of the ways that this law protects you:

You are in charge of the communication: You have the power to place restrictions on when and how you are contacted by debt collectors. By law: 

  • Debt collectors are not allowed to contact you at inappropriate times such as early in the morning (before 8 a.m.) or late at night (after 9 p.m.).
  • You can request to not be contacted while at work.
  • You may choose to have an attorney represent you, in which case, the debt collectors would have to communicate with them. 
  • Debt collectors are not allowed to discuss your debts with family members, employers, family, neighbors or other third parties. 

If you have any specific demands for how you want the communication to flow between you and the debt collectors, you will need to form a written request. Under the FDCPA, any requests made over the phone will not be valid. For some guidance on what your letter should look like, take a look at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website to view some examples. 

Debt collectors can NOT harass or use abusive language/behavior towards you:  In the game of unpaid debts, things can get really ugly, really fast. No one likes to be asked to pay back money they owe over and over again, but there is a fine line between asking and harassment. It starts to become harassment once the debt collector starts to use misleading language or fear tactics in order to get you to do what they want. Some examples of this could include but are not limited to:

  • Using profanity.
  • Calling excessively and repeatedly.
  • Threats or violent language. 
  • Calling without properly identifying themselves. 

In many cases, this type of hostile behavior is indicative of a scam. The last thing you want to do is give your money to a scam debt collector. Be wary and observant of this so that you do not make this mistake. Jot down any instances where this behavior has occurred and use it to file your claim.  

Debt collectors must be honest: Debt collectors lying to you about how much you owe, what consequences you will face is something that the FDCPA does not tolerate. Debt collectors must not mislead or lie to you about:

  • How much you owe.
  • Whether or not it is past the statute of limitations.
  • Legal consequences/punishments if you do not pay. 
  • The company they are representing. 

Debt collectors are always obligated to be truthful about your debt situation, but they also have a right to say nothing at all. If you find yourself unable to get information from your debt collector, it might be in your best interest to seek out advice from a legal agency in your neighborhood.

Debt collectors have to play fair: In desperate situations, some debt collectors might resort to making threats to coerce you into paying your debts. Some examples of this type of behavior may include but are not limited to:

  • Asking you to write a postdated check to cover the debt.
  • Threatening to deposit or depositing your postdated check prior to its date. 
  • Threatening to take ownership of your assets as payment. 
  • Asking for and accepting more money than what is actually owed. 

Debt collectors are required to validate your debt: They will have to send you a validation letter to prove that you are responsible for the debt they are asking for. If you still feel like you need additional information, you may also request a verification letter. In accordance with the FDCPA, debt collectors have five days to send you a validation letter once they first make contact with you. The letter must state:

  • The amount of debt you owe.
  • The name of the creditor/entity that you owe payment to. 
  • That the collector will assume the debt is valid unless it is disputed during the allotted 30-day timeframe. 
  • That you are entitled to request additional information regarding the original creditor within 30 days of the first contact.
  • That if you choose to dispute the debt, you must submit a written request within 30 days. 

Final Thoughts

In the unfortunate circumstance that your rights are violated, you basically have two options. You can either file a complaint or sue the collection agency. Filing a complaint is pretty simple. In fact, a majority of the complaints received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are regarding violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. 

The best thing you can do is keep a detailed record of the abusive practices to help prove your case. A lot of times, this malpractice occurs over the phone and can be hard to prove. Save evidence of all the phone calls, what time they took place, and notes about what was said. The more information you have about what happened, the better chance you have at proving your claim.

What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

Dealing with a bill collector is never fun and it can be particularly stressful when you’re sitting on a mountain of debt. Sometimes debt collectors fail to follow the rules outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If that’s the issue you’re facing, it might be a good idea to file a complaint. But if you’re personally making any of these mistakes, your debt problem could go from bad to worse.

Check out our credit card calculator.

1. Ignoring Debt Collectors

Screening calls and avoiding bill collectors won’t help you get your debt under control. Debts generally have a statute of limitations that varies depending on the state you live in. Once it expires, the collector might not be able to sue you anymore. But you could still be responsible for paying back what you owe in addition to any interest that has accumulated.

In addition to the potential legal consequences of unpaid bills, letting old debt pile up can destroy your credit score. Unpaid debts can remain on a credit report for as many as seven years. So if your debt collector is getting on your last nerves, it might be best to stop hiding and face him head on.

2. Saying Too Much Over the Phone

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

If you decide to stop dodging your bill collectors, it’s important to avoid sharing certain details over the phone. You never want to say that you’ll pay a specific amount of money by a deadline or give someone access to your bank accounts. Anything you say can be used against you and agreeing to make a payment can actually extend a statute of limitations that has already run out.

A debt collector’s No. 1 goal is to collect their missing funds. They can’t curse at you or make empty threats, but they can say other things to try and scare you into paying up. Staying calm, keeping the call short and keeping your comments to a minimum are the best ways to deal with persistent bill collectors.

Related Article: Dealing With Debt Collectors? Know Your Rights

3. Failing to Verify That the Debt Is Yours

When you’re talking to a bill collector, it’s also wise to avoid accepting their claims without making sure they’re legitimate. Debt collection scams are common. So before you send over a single dime, you’ll need to confirm that the debt belongs to you and not someone else.

Reviewing your credit report is a great place to start. If you haven’t received any written documentation from the collection agency, it’s a good idea to request that they mail you a letter stating that you owe them a specific amount of money.

If you need to dispute an error you found on your credit report, you have 30 days from the date that you received formal documentation from the collection agency to notify them (in writing) that a mistake was made. You’ll also need to reach out to each of the credit reporting agencies to get the error removed. They’ll expect you to mail them paperwork as proof of your claim.

4. Failing to Negotiate the Payments

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

No matter how big your debts, there’s usually room for negotiation when it comes to making payments. If the payment plan your bill collector offers doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to throw out a number you’re more comfortable with.

Sometimes, it’s possible to get away with paying less than what you owe. Instead of agreeing to pay back everything, you can suggest that you’re willing to pay back a percentage of the debt and see what happens. A non-profit credit counselor can help you come up with a debt management plan if you need assistance. Whatever you agree to, keep in mind that the deal needs to be put in writing.

Related Article: All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

5. Failing to Keep Proper Documentation

Whenever you communicate with a bill collector, it’s a good idea to take notes. Jotting down details about when you spoke with a collector and what you discussed can help you if you’re forced to appear in court or report a collector who has broken the law. Collecting written notices from bill collectors and saving them in a folder can also help your case.

Bottom Line

Dealing with bill collectors can be a real pain. By knowing how to interact with them, you’ll be in the best position to get rid of your unpaid loans and credit card debt (that is, if you actually owe anything) on your own terms.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Steve Debenport, ©iStock.com/RapidEye, ©iStock.com/JJRD

The post The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com