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Collections limits

Seattle, WA |

I received a letter from a collection agency in the amount of $451.00. This is a credit card bill from 1992. Is there a statute of limitations on this type of bill?

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Attorney answers 6


I am not a Washington attorney so I would suggest you ask a Washington attorney to be sure. However, I know, for instance, that in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for "breach of contract," which would include the failure to pay a credit card bill, is four years from the date of the breach.

You have rights under a Federal statute called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. As a result, you should consider writing a certified letter to the debt collection agency advising them to make no further contact with you, advising them that you would like verification of the debt since you are disputing the debt because the statute of limitations has expired, and you should notify them that if they pursue this matter that you are reserving your right to file a Federal lawsuit against them for violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.


Welcome to the world of collateralized debt obligations! In WA, a debt is stale (not collectable) after six years from the date of last payment, contact, or promise to pay. A debt that you have not been approached about since 1992 is clearly stale. A bottom feeder debt collector has purchased the right to collect this debt as part of a portfolio of similar debts. They probably paid $4.51 cents for it, just to see if they could intimidate you into paying it. The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act forbids collectors from engaging in activities they know are improper, such as trying to collect a debt that's 16 years old. The remedy is $1,000 for each violation, plus attorney fees and costs. I don't know how to post links, but is a great resource in this area of law. I also like Hope this helps - Elizabeth Powell


The statute of limitations for debts arising out of a written contract is six years under Washington law. Udner the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, it is illegal for a bill collector to give you false information pertaining to a debt in order to try to collect. I have not researched whether this might fall in that category, since the statute of limitations is what is known as an affirmative defense that you are required to raise. You may want to try writing the agency and telling them that you dispute the debt, as you believe it falls outside the Washington statute of limitations. Generally, you should send a written answer that you dispute a debt within 30 days of receiving a demand.


While the other attorneys are jumping on this and stating that the collection agency is clearly wrong, I have to take a step back. Statute of limitations are governed by not only the last date of payment on the bill, but also the last promise to pay. Without more information, it is hard to answer this question. Did you promise to pay someone within the past six years?


I'm not a Washington attorney either. However, my research on the web suggests the following answers:


Open Account: 3
Written Contract: 6
Domestic Judgment: 10
Foreign Judgment: 10

So you may have a legitimate statute of limitation defense. You may also have a claim under the Federal Debt Collection Practice Act. Find a consumer advocate attorney in Washington from National Association of Consumer Advocates


I am not licensed in Washington State, but every state has a statute of limitation on the collection of a debt. According to the previous answer the time period is six years in Washington. I would right a letter to collection agency demanding that they cease contacting to about a debt upon which the statute of limitations has run. If they continue to contact you I am sure you can find a lawyer in your state to file suit against the collection agency for violation of the Federal (and perhaps state) Fair Debt Collection practices act.

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