How to Deal with Zombie Debt
Zombie debt is debt that you never paid that is now so old that creditors cannot sue you to collect it. Most of this debt gets sold to collection agencies for pennies on the dollar, who then try to trick debtors into reviving the debt and paying it back. Florida is one of the worst states for zombie debt collection.
Fortunately, freeing yourself of zombie debt is easy—and you really don’t have to do anything. The debt is so old that the collection agency cannot successfully sue you. However, there are definitely things you should avoid doing so you don’t turn zombie debt into living, breathing debt that could result in a lawsuit.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations
Every state has a maximum amount of time that a creditor can sue you after you default on a debt. This amount of time is found in the state’s statute of limitations.
Under Fla. Stat. § 95.11, the amount of time depends on the type of debt you have. For example, open-ended accounts like credit cards have a four-year statute of limitations. The same is true for personal credit lines and home equity lines of credit. The clock begins running on the date you become delinquent for the charge.
If you have a debt with a written contract, then there is a five year statute of limitations. The clock begins running on the day you first become delinquent.
Once the limitations period has run out, then the creditor cannot successfully bring a lawsuit against you. For this reason, carefully go over your debts to determine how old they are. If you made purchases on a credit card, then each purchase might have a different date that it becomes too old. Review carefully.
Not all debts are subject to the statute of limitations, however. For example, child support payments will never expire. But most consumer debt and medical debt will, and this is the type of debt that usually gets sold.
Don’t Pay Zombie Debt
One of the worst things you can do as a debtor is to make a payment on a debt that is too old. For example, if you make payment on a written debt, then you essentially reset the statute of limitations. This is how it works:
Let’s say you took out a $5,000 personal loan and stopped making payments on July 1, 2012. By July 1, 2017, the debt has become so old that the statute of limitations would prevent a creditor from suing you in court. However, if you make a payment on the debt on September 1, 2018, then the debt is resurrected from the dead and the statute of limitations clock starts all over again.
Don’t Even Agree to Pay
We recommend not talking to debt collectors about your debt because you don’t want to enter into an oral agreement to pay old debts. Tell any collector who contacts you to communicate by mail—or simply tell them to stop contacting you. You can then meet with a lawyer to review your debts. If the debt is too old, only a foolhardy creditor would try to sue you, and you could get the case dismissed.
Wipe Out Valid Debts
You can eliminate most credit card and personal loan debt quite easily with a consumer bankruptcy. However, everyone’s situation is unique, so schedule a consultation to discuss your specific situation. Nowack & Olson PLLC has helped people in South Florida get out from under their debt piles to breathe free once again. Contact our Plantation bankruptcy attorneys today.