State-by-State List of Statute of Limitations on Debt

Image shows four icons: a handshake, a contract, a credit card, and a home that says "MORTGAGE" on the side. Text reads: "Categories of debt each state has its own statute of limitations on debt, and the limitations vary depending on the type of debt you have. Oral agreements, written contracts—must include terms and conditions, open-ender accounts, promissory note—pay bak by a certain time and date"
Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019 

A statute of limitation is the amount of time a person can take in order to take legal action on a certain event. When it comes to debt, the statute of limitation is the amount of time a creditor can take before asking the court to force you to pay for a debt. The court system doesn't keep track of the statute on your debt. Instead, it's your responsibility to prove the debt has passed its statute of limitation.

Time-Barred Debts

Debts that have passed the statute of limitation are known as time-barred debts. However, just because the debts have aged past the statute of limitation doesn't mean that you no longer owe money or that your credit rating cannot be impacted. It just means the creditor won't get a judgment against you—as long as you come to court prepared with proof that your debt is too old. Proof might include a personal check showing the last time you made a payment or your own records of communication that you've made about that debt.

Categories of Debt

Debts fall into one of four categories. It's important to know which type of debt you have because the time limits are different for each type. If you're in doubt, check with your attorney about which type of debt you have.

  • Oral Agreements: These are debts that were made based on a verbal agreement to pay back the money, and there is nothing in writing.
  • Written Contracts: All debts that come with a contract that was signed by you and the creditor falls in the category of a written contract—even if it was written on a napkin. However, a written contract must include the terms and conditions of the loan. For example, the amount of the loan and the monthly payment must be included. A medical debt is one kind of written contract.
  • Promissory Notes: A promissory note is a written agreement to pay back a debt in certain payments, at a certain interest rate, and by a certain date and time. Mortgages and student loans are two examples of promissory notes.
  • Open-Ended Accounts: An account with a revolving balance you can repay and then borrow again is open-ended. Credit cards, in-store credit, and lines of credit are all examples of open-ended accounts. If you can only borrow the money on time, it is not an open-ended account.

The Statutes of Limitations for Each State

Each state has its own statute of limitations on debt, and they vary depending on the type of debt you have. Usually, it is between three and six years, but it can be as high as 10 or 15 years in some states. Before you respond to a debt collection, find out the debt statute of limitations for your state.

If the statute of limitations has passed, there may be less incentive for you to pay the debt. If the credit reporting time limit (a date independent of the statute of limitations) also has passed, you may be even less inclined to pay the debt.

These are the statutes of limitation, measured by years, in each state, as of June 2019.

State Oral Written Promissory Open
Alabama 6 6 6 3
Alaska 3 3 3 3
Arizona 3 6 6 3
Arkansas 3 5 3 3
California 2 4 4 4
Colorado 6 6 6 6
Connecticut 3 6 6 3
Delaware 3 3 3 4
Florida 4 5 5 4
Georgia 4 6 6 6
Hawaii 6 6 6 6
Idaho 4 5 5 5
Illinois 5 10 10 5
Indiana 6 6 10 6
Iowa 5 10 5 5
Kansas 3 5 5 3
Kentucky 5 10 15 5
Louisiana 10 10 10 3
Maine 6 6 6 6
Maryland 3 3 6 3
Massachusetts 6 6 6 6
Michigan 6 6 6 6
Minnesota 6 6 6 6
Mississippi 3 3 3 3
Missouri 5 10 10 5
Montana 5 8 8 5
Nebraska 4 5 5 4
Nevada 4 6 3 4
New Hampshire 3 3 6 3
New Jersey 6 6 6 6
New Mexico 4 6 6 4
New York 6 6 6 6
North Carolina 3 3 5 3
North Dakota 6 6 6 6
Ohio 6 8 15 6
Oklahoma 3 5 5 3
Oregon 6 6 6 6
Pennsylvania 4 4 4 4
Rhode Island 10 10 10 10
South Carolina 3 3 3 3
South Dakota 6 6 6 6
Tennessee 6 6 6 6
Texas 4 4 4 4
Utah 4 6 6 4
Vermont 6 6 5 3
Virginia 3 5 6 3
Washington 3 6 6 3
West Virginia 5 10 6 5
Wisconsin 6 6 10 6
Wyoming 8 10 10 8