Dealing with debt collectors can feel like a never-ending nightmare that keeps you tossing and turning all night. But here's some good news to help you sleep: not all debts last forever.

In Florida, like many other states, there's a time limit, a “statute of limitations,” on debt collection.

Read on to get answers to the most often asked questions about Florida’s statute of limitations on debt, and to understand your rights and duties.

FAQ about the statute of limitations on debt in Florida

Anything related to laws and finances can often feel like a foreign language, making it difficult to grasp the implications for your personal situation. Following, you find answers to the most important questions about the Florida statute of limitations on debt in straightforward, easy-to-understand language.

How long before a debt is uncollectible in Florida?

The statute of limitations on debt in Florida is typically five years for written contracts and four years for open accounts (like credit cards), as stated in the state's statute. The clock usually starts ticking from your last payment date or when you first defaulted on the debt.

Keep in mind that just because the statute of limitations has expired, collectors can still try to collect. It only means they can't use the court to force you to pay.

How long can a creditor pursue payment in Florida?

If a creditor sues you and obtains a judgment before the expiration of the statute of limitations, they can pursue the debt much longer, often up to 20 years. This includes any accrued interest and associated costs.

In Florida, not all debts are created equal. The timeline for the debt collection statute of limitations that Florida follows varies by the type of debt:

  • Open accounts (like credit cards): four years
  • Written contracts, promissory notes, and personal loans: five years
  • Judgment debts: up to 20 years

Is there an expiration date for debt collection?

Yes and no. While the statute of limitations in Florida for debt collection can limit legal action, it doesn't eliminate the debt.

Creditors may still contact you to pay, they just can't take you to court if the statute of limitations has expired. Furthermore, debts that have passed the statute of limitations can still appear on your credit report, typically for seven years from the date of delinquency.

Know your rights and responsibilities in Florida's debt collection process

Navigating laws and statutes can feel like trying to assemble a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Blindfolded. With so many details and complicated legal jargon, it is no wonder people avoid this topic like gum on the sidewalk.

But learning about laws, especially ones that directly affect your life and money, is a way to empower yourself and take control. The better informed you are, the better you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of—for example, by being asked to make a “good faith” payment.

The implications of a "good faith" payment against debt

A debt collector might encourage you to make a small "good faith" payment toward your debt. Sounds reasonable, but it’s crucial that you are aware of the potential consequences. Submitting such a payment can reset the clock on the statute of limitations. That would give debt collectors more time to pursue payment and possibly file a lawsuit against you, using the date of your new, “good faith” payment as a reference point.

Knowing the debt collection practices in Florida

The good news is that in Florida, you have more protections from unfair collection practices than in other states.

Contrary to popular belief, in Florida, you cannot be imprisoned for debt non-payment. But creditors do have the right to share your credit information with national credit bureaus such as Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. This can negatively affect your credit score and linger on your credit report for up to seven years.

The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) strictly prohibits debt collectors from engaging in harassment or using aggressive tactics to collect debt. For example, threatening behavior or false arrest claims are not allowed.

It's also against the rules to call you outside the hours of 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM without your explicit consent, or to misrepresent the amount you owe.

If you're facing aggressive debt collection tactics in Florida, you can lodge a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Still, if the debt remains unpaid, debt collectors can legally sue you, resulting in a judgment made against you and turning you into a "judgment debtor."

The debt collector may persist in debt collection for up to 20 years, the duration some judgments last in Florida. Note that some debts may accrue interest over this period, as stipulated by Florida State's Chief Financial Officer.

Once a judgment is made against you, a Florida court may request information about your property, income, assets, employer, and social security number. The court could also authorize an execution, a process permitting the creditor to seize your personal or real estate property.

Consequences of a court judgment against you

The aftermath of a judgment against you may involve the seizure of your bank account and wage garnishment. But there are certain limits on what assets can be claimed:

Your home: In an incorporated area, your home and up to half an acre are exempt from seizure to settle your debt. This exemption increases to 160 acres in an unincorporated area. Only lien holders or mortgagees can claim your home.

Your wages: Federal law in Florida shields residents from extensive wage garnishment. The garnished amount "cannot exceed 25% of your net wages per week or more than 30 times the minimum hourly wage." The lesser of these two figures applies. As the head of the household earning under $750 per work-week, your wages are protected from creditor collection.

Your vehicle: Florida law allows you to exempt up to $1000 of your car's value from seizure. Creditors cannot claim your vehicle unless its value exceeds $1000. You may also file an affidavit with the Florida court if your seized car is believed to be worth less than the stipulated $1000.

The bottom line

Dealing with debt can be stressful, but understanding the statute of limitations on debt in Florida can equip you with crucial knowledge and possibly relieve some anxiety. But remember that it’s always best (and wise) to consult with a legal expert or financial advisor for advice tailored to your unique situation.