Statute of Limitations on Debt in Tennessee

Chloe Meltzer

May 07, 2021

When creditors come for old debts ^

Summary: Are you stressed out over an old debt? It might be too late for the creditor to do anything about it. Learn about the statute of limitations and how to beat debt collectors with the right defense.

If you have fallen behind in making payments on a debt, you may begin to receive calls from your creditor. Whether this is from a credit card company or a loan, eventually someone will give you a call to collect payment. If these payments are for a medical bill, consumer debt, or you simply haven't responded in a while, creditors might sell the debt off to a collection agency.

Once your debt has been sent to collections or a debt collector has attempted to sue you for debt, you will receive a notice of action called a “Summons”. Although it may be tempting to avoid interacting with the summons, you must respond. Then, you can take adequate steps to respond to the debt, and use an affirmative defense to work the situation out to the best of your advantage.

One of the best affirmative defenses to a debt lawsuit is the Statute of Limitations.

Use the right defense with SoloSuit and win in court.

How the Statute of Limitations Works on Debt in Tennessee

Tennessee Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years





Credit Card


Auto Loan




State Tax


Source: Findlaw

If you do not make payments on a debt then you ultimately will be taken to court in a lawsuit for your debt. Despite collectors and creditors being able to sue you, they cannot simply take you to court whenever they please. Instead, there is a time limit called the statute of limitations. The length of time of the statute of limitations varies based on state law.

The statute of limitations can be used as an affirmative defense on a debt collection case. Although the statute of limitations may have already expired, debt collectors may still attempt to sue you. Typically a judge will not check if the statute has expired, instead, you will need to bring it up in court.

It is good to note that you will still technically owe on debts that are outside their statute of limitations. The original creditor or debt collector can continue to pursue you for payment outside of that time period. The main difference is that they cannot sue you anymore. This means that although it does not mean that you are relieved of the responsibility of your debt, it does mean that you can avoid wage garnishment by a court judgment.

If you have a debt collector calling you about an old debt, they may be trying to revive what is called a “zombie debt.” These are old debts that have been discharged, paid, removed from your credit report, or are simply past the statute of limitations. If you pay on this debt you will restart the statute of limitations time period. This is why you need to be extremely careful with these debts. If you make a payment (even as small as $5), the debt collector will be given the right to sue you again, leading to possible wage garnishment.

In Tennessee the statute of limitations on debt is as follows:

  • Mortgage debt: 6 years
  • Medical debt: 6 years
  • Credit card debt: 6 years
  • Auto loan debt: 4 years
  • Installment debt: 4 years
  • State tax debt: 6 years

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Rules a Debt Collector Must Follow in Tennessee

In Tennessee, there are certain laws that a third-party debt collection company must follow a set of rules. Although collectors can make initial contact by phone, in this call they must state the name of the company they work for, and who owes the debt. Additionally, within five days of making this call, the debt collection company is required to send you a letter identifying who they are, how much you owe, and who the debt is being collected by.

Debt collectors are required to tell consumers that they are legally allowed to dispute the debt and that within 30 days they can demand that the debt be validated. If you request proof in writing, the debt collector may not continue to collect on the debt until they have provided this proof. Having said this, debt collectors are not permitted to lie or give false information, they also may not refuse to give information regarding the collection agency's name, contact information, or the original creditor.

Collectors may also not misrepresent how much you owe, and no added fees or interest can be applied to the amount. The only time this may be done is if you have already those fees in the original contract.

The FDCPA Protects You From Aggressive Debt Collectors

In addition to complying with the above rules, there is also the Federal Debt Consumer Protection Act (FDCPA). This law prohibits certain behaviors that Tennessee debt collectors must adhere to. These include:

  • No calling before 8 am or after 9 pm.
  • No calling any time you have said is inconvenient
  • No calls to your workplace if this is not allowed
  • No threatening to have you arrested
  • Debt collectors may not say profanities or use abusive language
  • The number of calls each day must be reasonable, this means they may not call more than three times per day
  • Your dent cannot be discussed with anyone other than yourself or your spouse
  • Wage garnishment cannot be threatened unless it is legally permitted by law for the collector to garnish wages( and they intend to do so)

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Tennessee is a one-party consent state. This means that as a consumer you are permitted to record your calls with collection agencies. You do not need to disclose this fact. This can help you stay protected and obtain proof of what the collector says to you should they break one of the rules in the FDCPA.

Being sued for debt is never a fun process, but if you can respond in time, and are able to find an affirmative defense to back up your case, you may be able to avoid wage garnishment. Using the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense is one of the best options available. As long as it is plausible for your situation, seriously consider bringing up an expired statute of limitations and protecting yourself from wage garnishment and liens on personal property.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

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"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

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