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Statute of Limitations on Debt in Iowa

Patrick Austin, J.D. | December 26, 2023

Patrick Austin
Attorney from George Mason
Patrick Austin, JD

Patrick Austin is a licensed attorney with a background in data privacy and information security law. Patrick received his law degree at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, where he served as the Editor-in-Chief for the National Security Law Journal.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Fact-checked by George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons
Co-Founder of SoloSuit
George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons is the co-founder and CEO of SoloSuit. He has helped Americans protect over $1 billion from predatory debt lawsuits. George graduated from BYU Law school in 2020 with a JD/MBA. In his spare time, George likes to cook, because he likes to eat.

Summary: The statute of limitations on most debts is five years in Iowa, but the statute varies by type of debt. You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit in Iowa and use the statute of limitations as a defense in your case.

Iowa has longer statutes of limitations on most types of debts than the average US state. For example, some debts in Iowa have a 5-year limit while others have a 10-year limit. Here's everything you need to know about the statute of limitation of different types of debts in the Hawkeye State.

Respond to your Iowa debt lawsuit.

What is the statute of limitations on debt?

The statute of limitations on debt refers to the period during which a creditor can legally sue a debtor to collect an unpaid debt. Once this period has expired, the debt is still valid but the creditor can no longer use the court system to enforce payment.

The statute of limitations on debt varies depending on the type of debt and the jurisdiction in which the debt was incurred. Let’s take a look at Iowa’s statute of limitations on different types of debt.

The statute of limitations on debt in Iowa varies by the type of debt

Debts in Iowa fall under two main categories namely: written and unwritten contracts. Some debts, however, arise from court judgments and also have their own statutes of limitations. Additionally, federal and county debts are governed differently in the state of Iowa.

The table below illustrates Iowa’s statute of limitations on different types of debts:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Iowa

Debt Type Deadline
Credit Card 5 years
Medical 5 years
Student Loan 5 years
Auto Loan 5 years
Mortgage 5 years
Personal Loan 5 years
Judgment 20 years
Iowa Code § 614.1

Keep reading to learn more about the categories of debts in Iowa and their connecting statutes of limitations.

Unwritten Contracts

Unwritten contracts are also called open accounts or open-ended debts. These are debts that aren't based on a written agreement but are legally binding. In Iowa, the statute of limitations for unwritten contracts is five years, as outlined in Iowa Code § 614.1(4), which states:

“Actions may be brought within the times limited as follows: Those founded on unwritten contracts, those brought for injuries to property, or for relief on the ground of fraud in cases heretofore solely cognizable in a court of chancery, and all other actions not otherwise provided for in this respect, within five years, except as provided by subsections 8 and 10.”

Written Contracts

Written contracts are based on a written agreement stating the payment terms, the payment period, and other details. Any debts arising from the written contracts in Iowa are subject to a statute of limitations of up to 10 years, according to Iowa Code § 614.1(5)(a):

“Actions may be brought within the times limited as follows: Those founded on written contracts, or on judgments of any courts except those provided for in subsection 6, and those brought for the recovery of real property, within ten years.”

A Judgment Lien

A judgment lien is part of a court's verdict to ensure that a debtor honors a court-approved settlement to a creditor. It enforces this settlement, especially for debtors who fail to comply with the court's ruling. The statute of limitation on judgment lien in Iowa is 20 years, which is declared in Iowa Code § 614.1(6):

“Actions may be brought within the times limited as follows: Those founded on a judgment of a court of record, whether of this or of any other of the United States, or of the federal courts of the United States, within twenty years.”

State Tax Debts

State tax debts are any unpaid taxes owed to the state. These debts have a renewable 10-year statute of limitation. However, county tax debts have no statute of limitation.

Use the statute of limitations as a defense in your debt lawsuit.

How Iowa Statute of Limitations Apply on Different Debts

It's not always easy to tell which category your type of debt belongs to because of the complicated nature of some governing regulations. For example, some debts aren't bound by these statutes, even if they fall under written or unwritten contracts.

Here are a few examples.

A credit card debt can either fall under the five or 10-year statute of limitations, depending on the circumstances of the debt. For example, if the creditor has a written agreement signed by the debtor, the debt will be classified as a written contract and subject to the 10-year limit.

Unlike other states, In Iowa, the standard credit card agreement doesn't count as a legally binding written agreement. Therefore, most credit card debts would be bound by the 5-year statute of limitation in the state.

Student Loans

Government-issued student loans have no statute of limitations because they belong to the federal government. However, privately acquired student loans are considered written contracts and are bound by the 10-year statute of limitation in Iowa.

Court Judgment Exemptions

Not all debts arising from a court order have the state's 20-year statute of limitation. Some debts such as child and spousal support have no limit, and the debtor is obliged to pay until the debt is cleared.

Debt Collection Process in Iowa Explained

Debtors in Iowa are protected by Iowa debt collection laws, namely the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Iowa Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These laws protect consumers from harassment and unfair debt collection practices such as using false claims, obscene language, or calling the borrower during inconvenient hours.

The FDCPA, in particular, prohibits a creditor or debt collection company from contacting you if you submit a request to stop the collection efforts. On the contrary, the Iowa Fair Debts Collection Act has no such provision. Either way, the collectors may stop their debt collection efforts and opt for a debt collection lawsuit.

How to Answer a Debt Collection Summons in Iowa

A debt collector files a lawsuit against a borrower for a delinquent debt after failed collection efforts. In most cases, the lawsuit is normally filed by a collection company and not the original lender.

If the debt is old, chances are that the account has changed hands several times or the debt is already time-barred. Some creditors would try to file a collection lawsuit on a time-barred debt even though it's against the federal law for a collector to threaten to take you to court for such a debt.

If you receive a debt collection lawsuit from a creditor, you should never ignore whether or not the debt is time-barred. Ignoring such a lawsuit can lead to wage garnishment or other debt collection efforts arising from a lawsuit.

Generally, you'll have 20 calendar days to respond to any debt collection lawsuit in Iowa, or 60 days if the summons was served to you by mail. This rule is outlined in Iowa. R. Civ. P. 1.303(1) and (5), which state:

“Unless otherwise provided, the defendant, respondent, or other party shall serve, and within a reasonable time thereafter file, a motion or answer within 20 days after the service of the original notice and petition upon such party.”


“A defendant, respondent, or other party served by mail under rule 1.306 shall serve, and within a reasonable time thereafter file, a motion or answer on or before the date fixed in the notice as mailed, which date shall be not less than 60 days following the date of mailing.”

Respond to an Iowa debt lawsuit

Here's what you need to do:

Use SoloSuit’s Debt Answer form to respond to your debt lawsuit. Our software helps you create a personalized response to your case and can help you increase your chances of winning significantly.

You can also complete the Appearance and Answer of Defendant(s) form online for small claims cases or create your own Answer document. The online form only requires you to correctly fill in the information needed and submit the document electronically. If the court requires that you use this electronic filing method but wish to submit your Answer in person, you must obtain an exemption from the court.

If you choose to create your own answer document, be sure to include all the necessary information about the case, such as your personal information and the case claim number. You'll then state your response to the claims on the document you created.

Basically, you may deny or admit the claims raised by the lawsuit. You may also admit to some of the claims and deny others whenever applicable. If you have any affirmative defenses, include them in your Answer document.

Next, file your Answer with the court where the lawsuit was filed, and then send a copy of the Answer to the plaintiff.

Use SoloSuit to answer a debt collections Summons in Iowa

Debt collection laws are broad and complicated. To make things worse, these documents have deadlines that must be strictly adhered to. Rather than risking a default judgment against you or submitting the wrong answers, SoloSuit makes the whole process much easier.

This web application can:

  • compile all relevant information needed for your answer document.
  • help you generate an attorney-approved answer.
  • help you apply for a fee waiver if you can't pay the court's filing fees.
  • identify the right affirmative defenses to use.
  • submit the Answer to the court and a copy to the plaintiff.

While humans would need hours or even days to complete this process, SoloSuit does everything within minutes, relieving you of the stress and pressure of handling complex legal paperwork.

If your debt is within iowa’s statutes of limitations, you can still settle your debt before your court date.

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