What’s the Florida Debt Statute of Limitations? Know the Twists and Turns
Debt, or at least liability to pay it off, does not necessarily last forever. In Florida, for everything except debt involving real estate, the statute of limitation for debt is generally five years for debts with a written agreement. Credit card debt for example has a five-year Florida debt statute of limitations. So does medical debt.
That means that after five years, if certain things do not happen to keep a debt alive, a creditor may no longer sue you for payment.
The Florida statute of limitations for debt is shorter than that of many other states, where you may find a range of six to 10 years.
Section 95.11(2)(b), Fla. Stat. states,
“…Actions other than for recovery of real property shall be commenced . . . within five years, — a legal or equitable action on a contract, obligation, or liability founded on a written instrument…”
Of course, there are exceptions to the five-year rule.
- Debts as a result of injury or property damage or deriving from an oral agreement have statutes of limitations up to only four years.
- Debts for fraud are actionable for up to 12 years.
- Tax liens for unpaid property tax may be actionable for up to 20 years.
- And some debts such as court fines and alimony debt have no statute of limitations.
And one more thing we are often asked about: Once a debtor has sued you in court, whether the litigation is ongoing or they already have a judgment, the statute of limitations no longer applies. The debt statute of limitations only applies before a creditor has filed the lawsuit.
The Beginning of the Countdown
So when does the period for the statute of limitations begin? It starts when you incur the debt (in the case of a contractual arrangement) if you made no payments, or when you made your last payment.
If your debt arises from you causing an injury, then the statute of limitations begins on the date the injury occurred.
Be aware, however, that you can restart the beginning of the statute of limitations as explained below.
How Debts Can Be Given a New Lease on Life
Sometimes it is the debtor themselves who inadvertently extends the normal debt statute of limitations. This is true only when there is a written agreement.
Here are some ways it can happen.
Debtor Actively Avoids Creditor
If you take concrete action to keep the creditor from contacting you, it may extend the statute of limitations. This would be something that goes beyond avoiding debtor phone calls.
For example, if you move to another state when the statute of limitations has almost run and then move back when you think you are safe from being sued, the creditor could make the argument you did it to avoid them and run out the statute of limitations. In that case, the statute of limitations would likely be extended for the time period you were out of state.
Debtor Acknowledges the Debt
On the flip side, if you admit to the creditor that you owe the debt, enter into a settlement agreement or make a payment toward the debt, that can also extend the statute of limitations.
You’ll Need to Make Your Case
If you think the statute of limitations has run out on a debt, don’t breathe a sigh of relief too quickly. You are going to have to make a case. You need to establish when the debt was incurred and when was the last time if ever you acknowledged that you owed the debt. If you can establish the statute of limitations has run out (most likely in a motion to dismiss), the court will throw out your case.
However, as you may have gathered, this is by no means a slam dunk. If the debt is substantial, you would be wise to hire an experienced debt collection defense attorney.
An Expired Statute of Limitations Only Stops a Lawsuit
Let’s be clear. If the statute of limitations expired on your debt, your creditor cannot sue you in court. But you still owe the debt, which means they can still call you and do anything else within the law to try to collect the debt. And if that debt is on your credit report, it will remain there until the law says it can’t. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), most debts may remain on your report for seven years.
There are of course, tactics you can employ if you do not want to deal with debt collectors. One effective method is to simply hire an attorney and have them request all communications go through them.
Call Us If You Fear Being Sued by a Creditor
Do you need a Florida debt collection defense attorney to advise you whether the Florida debt statute of limitations has run out or to help defend you against creditors? Call us so we can advise you of your options.
If you are being sued or if a debt collector is threatening to sue you, immediately contact Ziegler Diamond Law: Debt Fighters for a free consultation by submitting this form. Or just call us directly at (727) 538-4188 in Clearwater, (813) 225-3111 in Tampa or (352) 600-1326 in Mt. Dora. There is no time to waste!