Skip to content

Florida's Collection Laws: How Long Can A Collection Agency Come After You?

Have you ever received a letter from a debt collection agency asking about an unpaid bill you barely remember? If so, you’re probably wondering just how long debt collectors can legally go after any delinquent debt. Well, the answer is complicated.

The statute of limitations in Florida for debt collection is generally five years which means a debt collector can no longer sue you for repayment in court. Without a statute of limitations, a creditor would have unlimited time to come after you for unpaid bills or personal injury claims.

But, debt collectors get paid when they recover delinquent debt, which means they can pursue you and even file lawsuits long after the 5-year limit. At this point, it’s crucial to note that the responsibility falls on you to raise the statute of limitations as a defense.

While the statute of limitations may sound like a blessing to some, there are several things you need to know before you begin counting on it.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Florida

As mentioned, the statute of limitations is five years in Florida, but this only applies to debts that came to be as a result of a written agreement. In the case of oral contracts, the statute of limitations is reduced to four years.

What’s more, the five-year limit applies for most debts, not all. Here’s a breakdown of the statute of limitations for various court actions:

  • Tax liens due to unpaid property taxes: 20 years. The county or city cannot go to court to recover unpaid property taxes after 20 years.

  • Claims involving the design, planning, or construction of real estate: 4 years.

  • Claims to enforce a payment bond involving a contractor or subcontractor: 2 years.

  • Claims concerning real estate property, with the exception of foreclosures: 4 years.

  • Mortgage Foreclosure: 5 years. A lender has five years from the date of the first missed payment to pursue a foreclosure judgment.

  • Negligence: 4 years

  • Assault and battery: 4 years

  • Claims for unpaid wages & overtime: 2 years

  • Medical malpractice: 2 years

  • Attorney malpractice:2 years

  • Court costs & fines: no statute of limitations

  • Debts arising from unpaid alimony: lack a time limit

Another thing: Some legal precepts impact when a statute of limitations begins running for different kinds of debt. When it comes to medical and attorney malpractice, the law is unclear when the 2 years statutes begin to run, as this can vary from one case to another. For most debts, however, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the missed payment or when the liability occurred.

Income and Financial Issues

Do Not Make a “Good Faith” Payment Toward a Debt

Certain actions can renew the statute of limitations. For example, making a partial payment on a contractual debt could reset the statute of limitations. It's why some debt collectors will urge you to make a small payment to offset some of the debt. The moment you make a payment in "good faith," the clock will reset on the debt, and the creditor can effectively pursue a judgment against you.

After the statute of limitations has passed, a creditor can still pursue a judgment against you under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Now, this usually happens in cases where it’s unclear when the clock starts running on the debt.

It's advisable to consult an experienced attorney when facing a court judgment to determine the best course of action depending on your situation. Never ignore the court summons even when you’re sure the statute of limitations has passed.

The statute of limitations only bars a creditor from filing a lawsuit against you. It does not erase a debt or keep the creditors from calling.

How Long Is A Debt Legally Enforceable?

Once a judgment has been passed, a creditor has 20 years to collect. During this period, a creditor is allowed to obtain information regarding your assets as they attempt to recover on the judgment. After 20 years have passed, the creditor cannot collect on the ruling, but they can initiate an action to renew it before the expiration date.

So, what happens if you’re unable to pay a debt even after judgment has been passed?

Debt collectors are known for using fear tactics to coerce people into paying their debts. That’s why it’s important to have some passing understanding of legislature regarding debt collection. The first thing to understand is that you cannot face criminal liability or get arrested for a civil debt judgment.

Even if you cannot be jailed for a debt, the negative information can harm your credit score and remain on your credit report for up to seven years.

If you have unresolved judgments or are facing a lawsuit, it’s in your best interests to consult with an attorney. An experienced attorney will review the details of your case and advice on how Florida law applies to it. Doing so is your best chance at a solid defense.

Find The Right Mortgage

For more than 20 years, Phil have been helping customers achieve their home purchase and refinance goals by providing them with invaluable resources and support.

Schedule a FREE Consultation
Phil Ganz

Subscribe to Get Your First Time Homebuyer Checklist

Sign up for the weekly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest real estate market trends, loan news, and so much more!