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Statute of Limitations on a Debt

What Is a Statute of Limitations on a Debt?

Every state has a statute of limitations that limits how long a creditor or debt collector can successfully collect a debt. In California, for instance, the statute of limitations varies by the type of lawsuit.

A breach of a written contract is given four years from the date the contract was broken, while property damage allows three years from the date the damage occurred.

Typically, the statute of limitations starts when you miss your first payment with the original creditor. It does not start when the account was placed for collection. If a debt collector tried to sue you after this time period has expired, you could raise the SOL as a defense against the lawsuit.

Many consumers confuse the length of time that debts can appear on their credit reports with the debt collection statute of limitations. However, these are often two different time periods. If you have debts that have been charged off and/or are in collections, it’s critical that you get your credit reports to find out what is being reported.  (You can view two of your credit scores for free on

Not only will this give you helpful information about the dates you fell behind, but it may also alert you to collection accounts or even judgments you did not know existed.

Here are two things you can do:

  • Get your free annual credit reports from to see the specific information that is reported.

  • Find out whether these items are affecting your credit by checking your credit scores.

Use the statute of limitations map provided by

. Simply click on your state for more information. You can also learn to fix your own credit, saving hundreds of dollars by paying someone to do it for you with Score Navigator.

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