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Statute of Limitations on Debt in Tennessee

Hannah Locklear | December 13, 2023

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.

Summary: The statute of limitations on debt is six years in Tennessee. This means that creditors and debt collectors only have six years to sue you for a credit card debt. If you’re being sued for debt, use SoloSuit to respond to your case and win.

If you have fallen behind on paying off a debt, you may begin to receive calls from your creditor. Whether the debt 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, the collector will aggressively reach out to get you to pay. They might resort to suing you for debt, and you will receive the court documents that initiate a debt collection lawsuit: the Summons and Complaint. Although it may be tempting to ignore the Summons and Complaint, you must respond.

In Tennessee, you have 21 days to respond to a debt lawsuit before you lose by default. Make sure to respond immediately with a written Answer. In your Answer document, use proper affirmative defenses to work the situation out to the best of your advantage.

One of the best affirmative defenses to use in a debt lawsuit is the statute of limitations. Keep reading to learn more about the Tennessee statute of limitations on credit card debt, and other types of debt.

Make the right affirmative defense the right way with SoloSuit.

Tennessee statute of limitations on 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 statute of limitations is the length of time that a creditor or debt collector has to sue someone for a debt. The clock starts to tick on the statute of limitations from the date that the last activity occurred on the account. This usually means the date that the last payment was made, but it can also include other types of actions like acknowledging the debt or agreeing to a payment plan.

Each state has a different statute of limitations on debt. According to TN Code, § 28-3-109(a) states:

“The following actions shall be commenced within six (6) years after the cause of action accrued:

  1. Actions for the use and occupation of land and for rent;
  2. Actions against the sureties of guardians, executors and administrators, sheriffs, clerks, and other public officers, for nonfeasance, misfeasance, and malfeasance in office; and
  3. Actions on contracts not otherwise expressly provided for.”

This means that the Tennessee statute of limitations on debt is six years, and more specifically, the statute of limitations on credit card debt is six years. Therefore, creditors and debt collectors only have six years to sue someone for an unpaid debt in Tennessee.

The table below further outlines the Tennessee statute of limitations on different types of debt:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Tennessee

Debt Type Deadline in Years
Credit Card 6
Mortgage 6
Medical 6
State tax 6
Auto loan 4
Installment 4
Judgment 10

Check the statute of limitations in TN before paying

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 you may not be relieved of the responsibility of your debt, 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.

Once again, 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

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

Debt collectors must follow Tennessee debt collection laws

In Tennessee, there are certain laws that debt collectors must follow. 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.

Tennessee debt collectors cannot misrepresent how much you owe, and no added fees or interest can be applied to the amount. The only time interest and fees can be applied to a debt is when they were listed in the original contract.

Debt collectors are required to tell consumers that they are legally allowed to dispute the debt and that, within 30 days, consumers 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.

You can request a debt validation by sending a Debt Validation Letter to Tennessee debt collectors. Check out this video to learn more about how a Debt Validation Letter can help you:

The FDCPA protects you from aggressive debt collectors

In addition to complying with the above rules, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) also protects you in Tennessee. This law prohibits certain behaviors that Tennessee debt collectors must adhere to. These include:

  • No calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • 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)

Don't let a debt collector push you around. Respond with SoloSuit.

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.

Respond to a debt lawsuit in Tennessee

If you’re being sued for a credit card debt in Tennessee, you only have 21 days to respond to the Summons and Complaint. If don’t respond before the deadline, you may lose when the collectors file a default judgment against you. With a default judgment, they can garnish your wages and even seize your property. Avoid losing your debt collection lawsuit by responding with a written Answer.

Follow these three steps to respond to a debt lawsuit in Tennessee:

  1. Respond to each claim listed in the Complaint document.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the opposing party.

Use SoloSuit to draft and file your Answer in just 15 minutes.

To learn more about these three steps, check out this video:

What is SoloSuit?

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You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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