Do I still have to pay an old debt from 9 years ago?


Q. I stopped paying Verizon and it sold my debt to a collection agency nine years ago. In June 2019 the collection company said I still owed on the debt. Do I have to pay it?
— Debtor, still

A. What matters here is the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations for a debt collector to collect a past-due debt in New Jersey is six years, said Karra Kingston, a bankruptcy attorney in Union City.

She said although the statue only allows the debt collectors to collect on a debt for up to six years, creditors still have the right to try and collect the debt after the six years are up.

“If, however, a creditor was to sue you for the past-due amount, the case would end up being dismissed due to the fact that the statute of limitations has passed,” she said.

Keep in mind that if you made a payment on the debt within the six years, the statute of limitations starts over.

Kingston said it’s important to understand that if the creditor already has a judgment against you, then the statute of limitations extends to 20 years.*

“Often, people who have old debts were previously sued and their creditors were awarded judgments years ago due to failing to appear in court or answer any lawsuit,” she said. “This is why it is so important to answer lawsuits and to appear in court.”

If the creditor obtained a judgment against you, then they still have the right to collect a past-due debt from you, she said.

* The original post wrongly stated the incorrect statute of limitations with a judgment. The correct time period is 20 years.

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This story was originally published on Feb. 3, 2020. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.