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Man holding credit card and entering card numnber to complete purchase

If you have some old credit card debt hanging around, you are probably wondering if you are still legally obligated to pay that debt. We have all heard of the statute of limitations. You might be wondering how that applies to credit card debt. Thanks and a tip of the hat to Patricia Dzikowski, an attorney from Sunrise, Florida.

Florida Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt

Under Florida law, there are generally two different statutes of limitations that can apply to credit card debt. If there is a signed written contract, the statute is 5 years. If there is no written contract, the statute is 4 years. For most credit card accounts, the statute of limitations under Florida law is 4 years. Of course, this can get more complicated and, in some situations, the statute can be less than 4 years. If the card terms state that another state’s law is controlling and the law in that state sets a shorter time to file suit, Florida courts have found that the credit card company is limited to that shorter period of time. If the time is longer under the other state’s law, it is likely that the Florida courts will apply Florida law and disregard the longer time period.

You Must Assert Your Rights under the Statute

The fact that a debt is time-barred does not prevent the filing of a lawsuit automatically. If you are sued on a debt after the statute of limitations has run, you must answer the lawsuit and assert the statute of limitations as a defense. If you do not respond, a judgment will likely be entered against you. Once a judgment is entered, the creditor has even more time to collect. If properly filed and/or recorded, a judgment can create a lien on your property for up to 20 years, or longer if additional court action is taken.

Telephone Calls and Letters From Collection Agencies

It is not illegal for collection agents to call you to try to convince you to pay a debt which is beyond the statute of limitations. In fact, there is a large market for the purchase and sale of old debt. Collectors will call to try to get a payment or a promise to pay. Unscrupulous collectors may try to convince you that the debt is still collectible or that something you said or did make old debt collectible again. There are laws that require debt collectors to provide you with accurate information when you ask about the date of your last payment and whether the debt time-barred, but not everyone is concerned about following the law and often you are given incorrect information or the collector refuses to answer. To protect yourself, it might be a good idea not to engage in conversation with them at all.

Can Old Debt Be Revived in Florida?

It is possible to revive old debt, restarting the time period for the statute of limitations. You can reset the clock on old debt in Florida by making a payment or by entering into to written agreement to pay the debt in whole or part. A promise to pay that is not in writing and signed by you do not revive old debt in Florida.

Calculating the Florida Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt

If the terms of your credit card agreement required payments on account as most do, the statute of limitations would begin to run after the last payment you made. The time period can be tolled, or paused, under certain circumstances. The time period may have been tolled if you
> were absent from the state when the period ran out
> used a false name
> otherwise concealed yourself to avoid being served with the lawsuit

Attorneys Fees and Other Remedies

There are federal and state laws that protect consumers from unscrupulous debt collectors and attorneys who sue on time-barred debt. If these laws are violated, you may be entitled to compensation, including your actual damages, statutory damages of up to $1,000 per violation, and attorney fees and costs.
Carolyn Secor P.A. focuses its practice in the areas of Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Defense in Clearwater, Florida. For more information, go to our web site or call 727-335-7151.