Failing to pay a debt does more than shred your credit report. You can also be sued by your lender. New York, like other states, gives lenders a limited amount of time to bring a lawsuit. This deadline is set out in the New York statute of limitations, found in Article 2 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR). If the deadline has passed, then you can get a lawsuit dismissed and not have to worry about the debt.
Scott J. Goldstein, Attorney at Law, carefully reviews whether the statute of limitations period has expired. New York has recently revised its statute of limitations, and we review the highlights below.
Creditors Have Three Years to File a Lawsuit
New York has recently updated its statute of limitations for consumer debt. Previously, the statute of limitations was six years. Today, the period is three years. Once three years have passed, a creditor/lender cannot win a lawsuit for an unpaid debt in New York court.
This change in the statute of limitations will help countless New York debtors, but not all debt is impacted. For example, if you have unpaid family obligations, like child support or alimony, then you can still be sued. These debts are created by court order, not by contract.
Creditors Can Still Try to Collect on the Debt
Filing a lawsuit isn’t the only way to collect on a debt. Creditors can use other collection methods, such as calling you and trying to convince you to pay or foreclosing on collateral. Even if the statute of limitations has expired, a creditor can still use non-litigation methods.
There’s good news, however. Under the old law, if you made a payment on an old debt, the clock started all over again. Your debt could have been 10 years old—well outside the old limitation period (which used to be 6 years). But because you made a new payment, the debt was “re-aged” and the lender could sue.
The state’s Consumer Credit Fairness Act has changed that. Now a payment on an old debt doesn’t make the debt new again. It will still fall outside the limitation period. Still, you aren’t obligated to pay—and there really isn’t any reason to, unless you are afraid of other collection methods.
You Shouldn’t Ignore the Lawsuit
Let’s say three years have passed since you stopped paying a debt. Can you just ignore a lawsuit filed against you? No! Typically, it’s up to the defendant to tell the judge that the statute of limitations period has expired. You would be foolish to count on the creditor suing you to disclose that fact in court. Unfortunately, the judge might not figure that out on their own, either.
If you don’t respond to a lawsuit, you are vulnerable to a default judgment entered against you. This means you lose the case simply because you failed to respond.
We strongly recommend contacting an attorney if you’ve been sued for an unpaid debt. We can analyze what steps to take next, including possibly responding to the lawsuit.
Unpaid Debts Take 7 Years to Fall Off a Credit Report
So a creditor can’t sue you after three years on an unpaid debt. But what about your credit report? Most people realize that having derogatory information, like an account in collections, will hurt their credit score. It will be much harder to secure new credit, and if you do, your interest rates will be much higher.
New York’s law doesn’t really change how most negative information gets reported to credit bureaus.
If you have charge-offs or an account in collections, it will fall off your report in 7 years. That timeline has not changed because New York passed a new debt collection law. Although a creditor can’t sue you, they can still report the negative information to the credit bureaus, hurting your credit.
There are ways to mitigate negative information on a credit report. Timely, recent payments and reducing your debt levels with help.
Is a Creditor Suing You for an Old Debt? Contact Us
Scott J. Goldstein is an experienced bankruptcy lawyer helping those with debt problems. If you’ve received notification of a lawsuit, contact him right away. He can review whether the creditor can even sue and will identify the path forward which protects your legal rights. You can schedule a consultation by calling his office, 973-453-2838. Banks and other lenders have large law firms working for them—you need someone in your own corner.