Friday, March 9, 2007

Collecting bills - Statute of Limitations?

If some recent inquires indicate anything, collection agencies must be dusting off old accounts. A spate of calls ask if collection agencies can collect a bill 6 - 7 years old. The only answer is: "Yes, they can."

Statute of limitations have nothing to do with bill collectors. They have everything to with the courts and law suits. Even then, a statute of limitation does not bar a law suits. Barring a law suit means that the law suit cannot be filed.

A statute of limitation acts as an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is a defense that has to be made when a suit is filed. Do not raise the defense, then you lose it.

A bill collector calling on the telephone or sending a dunning letter is not covered by any statute of limitations statute. People can make the choice not to pay an old bill and hope that they get it right when suit is filed - assuming they do not hire an attorney.

Nor does collecting an old debt violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA says that the debt collector cannot attempt to collect a debt the collector knows is barred by the law. Since Indiana law does not bar collecting a debt that might have a statute of limitations defense, the debt collector is not attempting to collect a debt forbidden by the law.