How to Dispute a Time-Barred Debt

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A time-barred debt is a debt for which the legal statute of limitations has expired. The statute of limitations for debt collection varies for each state and regulates the amount of time a creditor has to initiate legal action to recover a debt. A dispute for a time-barred debt only differs from a standard dispute in the respect that an expired statute of limitations provides an ideal legal defense in the event that a creditor attempts to sue.

Things You'll Need

  • Credit reports
  • Verify that the statute of limitations for the debt has, in fact, expired. The statute of limitations begins 180 days from the day the last payment was made on the account. Any payments you make on the account at any time can reset the statute of limitations---this leaves you vulnerable to a lawsuit from the creditor.

  • Pull a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Examine each credit report to see which credit bureaus are reporting the debt (sometimes debts are not reported to all three credit bureaus). If a debt is not reporting to a certain credit reporting agency, there's no need to dispute the debt with that agency.

  • Make a copy of any credit reports that reflect the time-barred debt.

  • Send a letter to each of the credit reporting agencies that currently reflect the debt on your credit report. Request a full investigation into the validity of the account. Include corresponding copies of your credit report with the time-barred debt highlighted.

  • Wait for a response from each credit bureau. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives the credit reporting agencies a maximum time limit of 30 days in which to correspond with the information provider and attempt to validate the debt. If the account cannot be validated, it will be removed. You will receive a notification of the credit bureaus' decision within a month of your dispute being received.

Tips & Warnings

  • You may dispute a time-barred debt as "obsolete" with the credit bureaus even if the reporting period on the debt has not yet expired. Occasionally the credit bureaus will remove old accounts prior to their scheduled removal date.
  • If the debt was incurred in a different state than the one you currently live in and you moved prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations in your old state, the statute of limitations for your current state will usually apply. Check local laws to verify which statute of limitations applies to you before disputing a time-barred debt.

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