Monday, August 01, 2016

Statute of limitations for and credit reporting of debts

Here at Shenwick & Associates, most clients come to us with concerns about debt, from either the perspective of a debtor or a creditor. This month, we’re going to take a look at the difference between how debts are treated by law and how debts are listed on a credit report. As with all actions (lawsuits), there is a statute of limitations on how long creditors can sue you to collect on a debt, get a judgment against you, and garnish your wages or levy against your financial accounts. In New York, the statute of limitations is six years, pursuant to section 213 (2) of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) (for “an action upon a contractual obligation or liability, express or implied . . .”). However, once a judgment has been entered against you, a creditor has up to 20 years to enforce that judgment, pursuant to section 211(b) of the CPLR. However, there are two major caveats to be aware of regarding the statute of limitations:
  1. Sometimes, creditors and/or collection agencies will attempt to sue debtors even after the statute of limitations has expired. If you or an attorney that represents you fails to appear in court to claim that the statute of limitations on the debt has expired, the court may issue a default judgment against you, and then the 20 year period for enforcing the judgment starts running.
  2. If you acknowledge a debt (in writing and signed) and/or make a payment on a debt, that will restart the 20 year period for enforcing the judgment.
With regard to reporting of debts on a credit report, rather than the state laws that govern the statute of limitations to collect on a debt and enforce a judgment, credit reports are governed by federal law, specifically the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), which is codified at sections 1681 through 1681x of title 15 of the U.S. Code. Under the FCRA, credit reporting agencies are required to remove information about a debt after seven years, regardless of the ownership or sale of the debt (i.e. to a collection agency) or whether or not you’ve acknowledged the debt. The seven year period commences 180 days after the last payment on the debt. However, there are also some exceptions to these general reporting requirements. They don’t apply to consumer credit reports to be used in connection with: (1) a credit transaction involving, or which may reasonably be expected to involve, a principal amount of $150,000 or more; (2) the underwriting of life insurance involving, or which may reasonably be expected to involve, a face amount of $150,000 or more; or (3) the employment of any individual at an annual salary which equals, or which may reasonably be expected to equal $75,000, or more. Remember that consumers are entitled to free credit reports every 12 months from the three big credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) from Annual Credit For all of your questions about debts and credit reports, please contact Jim Shenwick.

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