Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Does Requesting Debt Validation Restart the Statute of Limitations?

I've been getting a lot of comments on another post from people who all seem to want to know whether or not requesting a debt validation will restart the statute of limitations on their debts. Everybody knows the rule is to lay low--especially if the original statute of limitations has yet to expire. Nobody wants to put a target on their head. But if you're trying to clean up your credit, a debt validation request is often a vital step in that process.

The simple answer to this questions is a resounding NO. Asking for validation doesn't restart the clock on
Debt validation doesn't reset the SOL clock.
your debt's SOL or renew the credit reporting period. Nor does it give the collection agency any additional cards to play. But if the debt is old, don't get too excited when the collection agency doesn't respond. Although you are free to send a debt validation request whenever and however you please, the collection agency doesn't have to acknowledge it. I know what you're thinking, "Great! The law says no collection activity until they respond!" But, unfortunately, its not that simple.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act has the following to say about debt validation time limits (and if you're interested in looking for yourself, this is Section 809):

Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing --

(1) the amount of the debt;

(2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;

(3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector;

(4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and

(5) a statement that, upon the consumer's written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

(b) If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or any copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.

So, to put this in layman's terms, the collection agency is only bound by the "no collection until validation" rule if you fired off your validation within the first 30 days after being notified of the debt. Now, its perfectly possible to not be notified of a debt until its several years old. That doesn't affect your validation rights. You have 30 days from the initial notification.

And sure, a collection agency probably can't "prove" that it has called you over 5000 times, or sent umpteen letters to your house, but they do keep records. If they've contacted you and your 30 days has run out, claiming you weren't aware of the debt is hit or miss--and its unlikely your claim will stand up in court in the face of their records, if it comes to that.

Now, while sending a debt validation letter will not restart the statute of limitations in any way, it does call attention to you. Most people who send these letters do so because its just another rung on the clean credit ladder, not because they are legitimately confused as to whether or not they owe the debt. If this debt is several years old and there has been no activity on the account, sending a debt validation letter is basically saying, "Hi Mr. Big Bad Collection Agency!! I'm here! Been here all along! I care about getting rid of this debt so please come and harass the you-know-what out of me!"

That's not to say that you shouldn't immediately request validation of any collections you don't recognize on your credit report, but if the SOL on the debt has yet to run out and you've been "laying low", calling attention to yourself probably isn't a good idea, so validate at your own risk.

Related Posts:

Debt Validation After 30 Days

Can You Reset the Statute of Limitations on a Debt?

What to Do When a Collection Agency Validates Your Debt

Collection Lawsuit Statutes of Limitations By State


  1. Does a debt collector have to wait the full thirty days after initial contact before filing a suit or attempting to collect the debt?

    1. No. A debt collector can begin collection activity immediately. If you request a validation within that initial 30 days, the collector must put an immediate halt to any collection activity (including a lawsuit) until it provides you with validation of the debt.

      Although collection agencies can sue right out of the gate, its extremely uncommon. Almost all collectors will try to recover debts the cheap way first before dumping time and money into a lawsuit that may or may not be productive. So any lawsuit you'd face would likely occur long after the 30-day validation period expires.