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Georgia statute of limitations on debt : Credit card, and utility bills

Georgia statute of limitations on debt

Do you know why offenders commit offenses and go underground? Of course, the most obvious reason is to avoid getting caught and thrown into a cell. But, another reason may be to invoke the statute of limitations that acts in favor of such offenders, if the crime was committed some years ago. This federal law may differ from state to state, for example, the Georgia statute of limitations provides extended time periods, as compared to other states.

What is the statute of limitations?

A statute of limitation is a law that when invoked saves a debt offender from prosecution if the offender has defaulted over more than a specified number of years. This law ensures that the debt defaulter is not prosecuted for an offense committed years ago. It means that the debt defaulter, after a specified number of years, is virtually free.

To prevent this, the onus of filing a lawsuit promptly lies on the creditors to recover unpaid debts. If they fail to do so within a set time limit, they cannot sue the borrower. Georgia recognizes four categories of time-barred debts. Each type of mortgage has statutes of limitations established by the state laws. Let’s see what these are:

● Oral contract:

This is a verbal contract to repay the money you have borrowed from your creditors. As the name implies, in an oral contact, there is no written contracts or promisory notes. The deal is usually sealed with a promise or a handshake. Georgia oral contracts are legally binding and enjoy a four-year statute of limitations in Georgia. Of course, in the absence of any written proof, it becomes difficult for creditors to prove such agreements, since it is the creditors’ word against yours.

● Written contract:

This is the usual form of agreement, in which everything is taken down in writing and signed by the two parties. In Georgia, it has a six-year statute of limitations. This period cannot be extended, even if the original creditor sells the debt to a collection agency. The only way it can be extended is if you make a partial payment or promise to pay.

● Promissory note:

This is a written promise to repay the debt by paying a specific amount of money. A promissory note differs from a written contract since it includes a payment schedule and interest due on the debt. It also has a six-year statute of limitations. Promissory notes are usually associated with mortgage loans.

The Georgia statute of limitations concerning debt collection

Not repaying the debt to your creditor is a legal offence for which you can be prosecuted. Your creditor may threaten to take legal action against you for the unpaid debt. But, if you manage to cross a specified time limit, within which you were to repay your debt, and your creditor does nothing about it, then, under the Georgia statute of limitations, your creditor cannot sue you to collect, since the debt has become old.

However, if your creditors can receive a judgment against you, then the applicable statute of limitations no longer applies. This empowers the creditors to collect the amount due to them, as per the judgment, through garnishment of wages or seizure of other property.

The 6-year statute of limitations

Georgia statute of limitations has a limitations period. Has six years passed since from the time your debt becomes due and payable on written contracts? If yes, then there will not be any actions against you in court. The period begins from the date of the last payment.

Even credit card debt is considered a written contract in Georgia and fall under the purview of GA Code §9-3-24 six-year statute of limitations. And you don’t have to sign any contract. Why is it so? This is because merely using the credit card is deemed a legal contract.

It may interest you to know that Georgia is ranked third-worst state in the US concerning credit card debt. According to CreditCards.com, it will take Georgia credit card holders 18 months to pay off their credit card debt, if they pay 15 per cent of their gross monthly income every month. This amounts to $378.55 every month.

However, paying at this rate will still saddle them with $716 in interest. Paying less would take them longer to clear the debt, that too, with increased interest.

The 4-year statute of limitations

For an open account, Georgia statute of limitations is four years.

What does it mean?

All actions upon open account need to be brought within four years. In this case, the period begins from the date of the default and not the date of the last payment.

Georgia debt collection laws

For the residents of Georgia, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)protects them from intrusive, harassing or deceptive debt collection tactics often employed by creditors for debt collection. These creditors usually include merchants, credit card companies or those who have extended household debts to you.

Although GA debt collection laws protect you from your creditors, it does not erase the debt. Furthermore, your creditors are at liberty to take legal action against you.

The statute of limitations takes away creditors’ legal rights

Georgia statute of limitations forbids your creditors to collect from you. If they persist, they will not have access to any legal route to force you to pay. Of course, for this, you will need to be confident that the debt is still due and that the statute of limitations has come into force. Does your creditors still compel you to pay? They can be charged under FDCPA.

Basically, debt collection practices act FDCPA protects you from harassment from your creditors. In case any of your creditors violate fair debt collection practices, it gives you the liberty to sue them in court. The punitive actions that FDCPA ensures against defaulting creditors include monetary damages, attorney fees and other expenses.

Periods when the statute of limitations become effective

Besides debt repayment, the statute of limitations is also applicable to various other offenses committed in Georgia. These are:

● Felonies:For crimes earning death or life imprisonment, the Georgia statute of limitations is seven years; for crimes against victims under 14, it is 18 years; for forcible rape, it is 15 years; and for those under 16 years and victims of abuse, sodomy, incest and child molestation, the statute will run when the victim either turns 16 or the victim reports the violation, whichever is earlier.

● Misdemeanor: A charge cannot be filed for a misdemeanor once two years have passed.

● Assault and battery: The statute of limitations, in this case, is two years from the date of being hit by the defendant.

● Drug offenses: In this case, criminal charges cannot be filed once five years have passed.

Crimes not having any statute of limitations in Georgia

The statute of limitations doesn’t apply in case of murder or when the offender or crime is unknown or if the offender is a non-resident of Georgia. Other state laws don’t include certain other offenses under the ambit of the statute of limitations.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Q. How long does a creditor have to collect a debt?
A. This is governed by the statute of limitations that sets a time limit after which the creditor cannot sue you for debt. This period varies from state to state and may range from four years to longer periods.

Q. How long can a debt be collected in Georgia?
A. According to OGCA 9-3-24, written contracts in Georgia have a statute limitations period of six years. This period starts from the time when the debt becomes due and payable and the period runs from the date of last payment.

Q. What is the statute of limitations on credit card debt?
A. In Georgia, credit card debt has a statute of limitations period of six years. According to the Court of Appeals of Georgia, credit card agreements are contractual obligations and, hence, have a six-year statute of limitations.

Q. Can you go to jail for unpaid credit card debt?
A. You cannot go to jail for your failure to pay a credit card debt. This is in accordance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Does your creditors threaten you because of this? They are breaking the law and can get fined.

Q. What if the debtor makes a payment after defaulting on the debt?
A. Once you default on your debt payment, that is, you have missed or paid less than the full amount of your payment instalment for three to six months, your creditors will send you a default notice to warn you that you are behind with your payments. The letter gives a grace period of two weeks to catch up on the missed payments. If you can continue making payments, you have not defaulted, and you will be able to carry on as usual.

Conclusion

The Georgia statute of limitations is indeed a godsend for those who default on repaying a loan. Although there are differences in the time periods in various states, Georgia statute of limitations specifically safeguards the interests of the borrower by extending the time periods of limitations for debt default.

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David Galler is an experienced bankruptcy attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia. For the last 29 years he has filed over 10,000 bankruptcy cases. He has a FIVE STAR client rating on Avvo, Kudzu.com, RateABiz.com, and Google+, among other sites. Over 99% of all Chapter 7 cases he filed have been discharged.

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