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Statute of Limitations on Debt in Virginia

Hannah Locklear | January 10, 2024

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.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Fact-checked by Patrick Austin, J.D.

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.

Summary: The Virginia statute of limitations on debt is five years for written contracts and credit cards and three years for open accounts and oral contracts. When Virginia debt collectors contact you, check the statute of limitations before you pay anything off. Use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit in Virginia and increase your chances of winning by 7x.

If you reside in the Commonwealth of Virginia and are receiving frequent phone calls and letters from creditors seeking repayment for an alleged unpaid debt, it is important to determine the age of the debt that is the basis of collection efforts. Why? Because there are laws that provide a finite period of time in which a debt collection lawsuit can be filed in Virginia. The time period is known as the “statute of limitations.”

What is the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations is the time period in which a creditor, or debt collection agency, can file a lawsuit against you to try and recover an outstanding debt. If the statute of limitations in Virginia has expired on your debt, you have a viable defense if the debt collector decides to file a collection lawsuit.

The statute of limitations will vary both by the type of debt and the state in which you reside. For example, the statute of limitations on debt in Nebraska is different from the statute of limitations on debt in Virginia.

In certain circumstances, the time period for taking legal action will be dictated by the specific language in a contractual agreement. For example, many credit card agreements feature a “choice of law” provision that designates a particular state law that will apply if there is a dispute.

Make the right defense with SoloSuit and win in court.

Virginia statute of limitations on warrant in debt

According to Code of Virginia §8.01-246(2) states:

“Subject to the provisions of § 8.01-243 regarding injuries to person and property and of § 8.01-245 regarding the application of limitations to fiduciaries, and their bonds, actions founded upon a contract, other than actions on a judgment or decree, shall be brought within the following number of years next after the cause of action shall have accrued:

"2. In actions on any contract that is not otherwise specified and that is in writing and signed by the party to be charged thereby, or by his agent, within five years whether such writing be under seal or not."

In other words, the Virginia statute of limitations for debt collection is generally five years. This includes debts involving written contracts and credit cards. You read that right; the statute of limitations on credit card debt is five years in Virginia.

This means that creditors and debt collectors only have five years from the date of the last activity on an account with a written contract to sue for debt.

Likewise, Code of Virginia §8.01-246(4) states:

"4. In actions upon (i) any contract that is not otherwise specified and that is in writing and not signed by the party to be charged, or by his agent, or (ii) any unwritten contract, express or implied, within three years.”

So, the Virginia statute of limitations on debt based on open accounts, oral contracts, and implied contracts is only three years.

The table below further outlines the statute of limitations on different types of debts in Virginia:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Virginia

Debt Type Deadline
Open Contract 3 years
Oral Contract 3 years
Credit Card 5 years
Medical 5 years
Auto Loan 5 years
Student Loan 5 years
Mortgage 5 years
Personal Loan 5 years
Judgment 10 years
Va. Code § 8.01-246 and § 8.01-251

Here’s another way to look at it:

  • Three-year statute of limitations for oral debts and open debts(i.e. no written contracts)
  • Five-year statute of limitations on credit card debts, mortgage debts, medical debts, auto loan debts, and other written debts (i.e. written contracts involved)
  • Seven-year statute of limitations on State tax debts

Now, let’s consider an example.

Example: Liz is being sued by LVNV Funding for an old credit card debt in Virginia. LVNV claims she owes $2,000. After doing some research online, Liz finds out the statute of limitations on credit card debt is five years in Virginia. She checks the account and realizes she hasn’t been active on it for almost six years. This means that LVNV Funding has missed the statute of limitations to sue Liz for the debt. Liz uses SoloSuit to draft and file an Answer to the lawsuit. In her Answer document, Liz uses the statute of limitations as one of her affirmative defenses. The case gets dismissed.

Check the statute of limitations before making any payments

It is important to understand that a debt collector can still attempt to recover on an old debt, but when the statute of limitations expires, they are prohibited from securing a recovery through a court judgment.

When a creditor is attempting to collect on an old debt, they might try to convince you to make a small, “good faith” payment toward the debt. Do not fall for this trick. They want you to make a small payment because that will automatically reset the clock on the applicable statute of limitations. This means the debt collector will enjoy an even longer period of time to try and recover the debt.

Virginia debt collection laws can protect you.

Debt collection laws vary by state. In Virginia, debtors are shielded from malicious tactics by creditors who falsely acquire legal debt collection documents such as a lien under the Virginia Code.

Virginia collection laws include:

  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Virginia (FDCPA)
  • The Virginia Debt Collection Act
  • Code of Virginia §18.2-213

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these Virginia collection laws.

The FDCPA is a federal law that protects consumers against abusive and overly-aggressive debt collection practices. For example, under the FDCPA, debt collectors are limited on how and when they can contact consumers concerning a debt, and they are prohibited from using threatening or vulgar language while discussing a debt. Click here to learn more.

The Virginia Debt Collection Act guides the state on what is required regarding the collections of state debts such as fines and fees. However, this code allows the state of Virginia to use aggression if need be while collecting outstanding state debts.

The Code of Virginia §18.2-213 states:

“Any person who, for the purpose of collecting money, shall knowingly deliver, mail, send or otherwise use or cause to be used any paper or writing simulating or intended to simulate any warrant, process, writ, notice of execution lien or notice of motion for judgment shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”

In other words, Virginia law prohibits debt collection agencies from using misleading documentation to trick consumers into thinking they have taken legal action concerning a debt.

Any debt collector that tries to imitate a warrant or legal document would be considered guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor under this law.

Don't let aggressive debt collectors intimidate you. Respond with SoloSuit.

Respond to a debt collection letter in Virginia

The first thing to do when you receive a debt collection letter in Virginia is to ensure that the document is legal. As mentioned above, Virginia law does not allow debt collectors to duplicate legal documents for debt collection. They can only send you letters about the credit you owe them.

If the creditor fakes a legal document as a tactic to make you pay your dues, they could face legal action. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) can help you verify your debt and answer any other questions regarding this issue.

Send a Debt Validation Letter to Virginia debt collectors when they first contact you. This forces them to verify the debt, including the amount and your liability, before they can continue with collection efforts.

If a collector fails to validate a debt, they are in violation of the FDCPA, and you may take legal action by filing a complaint through the Federal Trade Commission and the CFPB.

Check out this video to learn more about how a Debt Validation Letter can protect you from unfair debt collectors:

Use these debt collector tricks and tactics

If you want to avoid the threat of being sued for a time-barred debt in Virginia, it is important to proactively ask the debt collector whether the debt Is time-barred based on the statute of limitations. This is important because debt collectors are legally obligated, pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), to respond honestly when asked whether the outstanding debt is time-barred.

If the debt collector confirms that the statute of limitations has expired on the debt, do not acknowledge the debt and do not agree to pay any of it. The FDCPA is a federal law enacted by Congress that was intended to protect individuals from being subjected to harassing debt collection attempts. In addition to the legal obligation to tell you whether the debt is time-barred due to the statute of limitations, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from contacting you before 8:00 am and after 9:00 pm, contacting your employer, using threatening language, etc.

If you are unsure whether a particular debt is time-barred based upon the statute of limitations, ask for confirmation on when the last payment was made. The debt collector should be able to tell you the date of the last payment. On the other hand, if the debt collector does not have this information, it may be an indication that the collection agency is trying to collect on a debt with flimsy or paltry evidence.

Use SoloSuit to defend yourself against debt collectors in 15 minutes.

You also have the right to request a debt validation letter from the creditor. You can send a written request for debt validation within 30 days of being contacted by a debt collector. A debt validation letter will serve to confirm the specific information about the debt collection agency (or creditor), the debt purportedly owed, and your rights under the FDCPA. The creditor or debt collection agency is legally obligated to stop all collection efforts until it responds to the debt validation letter.

In Virginia, a creditor or debt collection agency is afforded a finite period of time to take legal action to try and recover a debt. This finite period of time is known as the statute of limitations. In Virginia, the applicable statute of limitations for credit card debts, mortgage debts, and medical debts is five years. After the statute of limitations has expired, a creditor or debt collector can no longer file a collection lawsuit related to that debt.

Respond to a debt lawsuit in Virginia

If you’ve been sued for a debt in Virginia, you have 21 days to respond before you lose by default judgment.

With a default judgment, creditors and debt collectors can garnish your wages and seize your property to get their money back. Here’s how you can avoid a default judgment.

Respond to a debt lawsuit by following these steps:

  1. Answer each claim listed against you.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File your Answer document with the court, and send a copy to the opposing lawyer.

Draft and file an Answer to a Virginia debt lawsuit in minutes with SoloSuit.

Check out this video to learn more:

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