How Long Do Creditors Have to Collect Debts in Virginia?

Known as the statute of limitations, each state has specific statutes setting the time limits in which people can sue you. In Virginia, you may have an affirmative defense against paying a debt if a debt collector exceeds the statute of limitations for debt collections. This doesn’t mean that collection agencies cannot legally request that you to pay your debts; it only means that they typically can’t sue you. For further information, you can access and review Title 8.01, Civil Remedies and Procedure, of the Code of Virginia at no cost.

Debt Collections and Harassment

You have legal rights to stop most creditors from calling you repeatedly or harassing you under federal law and pursuant to Virginia law.

Statute of Limitations for Written Contracts for Debts

In Virginia, most debt collectors have five years to sue you. The five-year statute of limitations applies to debts based on written agreements or contracts. The five-year limitations period begins on the date the claim began. Thus, you may be able to avoid paying a specific debt if your creditor doesn’t sue you within five years.

For example, let’s imagine that you need to borrow $100 to pay for some car repairs. You go to your friend, Jim, and you promise to repay him $125 in 30 days in return for the $100 loan. He’s your friend, after all, and he doesn’t want to see you riding the bus because you can’t get your car fixed. However, Jim doesn’t want to mix friendship with business and decides that he would feel better about the entire situation if you signed a written agreement promising to repay him. You get your car fixed thanks to a loan from Jim. However, two weeks later, you discover your girlfriend and Jim together, and you decided to end your friendship with Jim. Jim feels very badly for stealing your girlfriend, and you are so pissed that you decide to forget about the loan and promise you made to Jim to repay him. 10 years go by, and Jim suddenly feels the urge to ask you about the loan and wants his $125 right away. He sues you. In this example, you may be able to claim a statute of limitations defense and have your claim dismissed. 10 years is five more than the allowable limitations period for written contracts.

Statute of Limitations for Oral Contracts or Verbal Contracts for Debts

To address the problems created by fading memories, the Virginia Legislature enacted a shorter statute of limitations for oral contracts for debts. For verbal contracts for debts, you only have three years to sue.

Using the example above, if you promised to repay Jim without a written agreement, Jim would probably only have three years to sue you — not five.

Exceptions for Mortgages, Judgments and Bank Liens

According to the Code of Virginia § 8.01-241, trustees and banks have longer statutes of limitations. Typically, banks have at least 10 years to collect unpaid mortgages through their trustees. Remember, the period begins when you default, not the date you originally signed your deed of trust or mortgage. Also, by filing specific recordings or certificates in the clerk’s office in the county or city in which your deed was recorded, your lender or trustee can extend the limitations’ period for another 10 years.

For judgments, different rules apply, and judgment-creditors have up to 20 years to collect their debts or judgments received in court.

CONTACT US: For a Virginia attorney, contact Keithley Law today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office.

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