Can creditors still sue you for old debts?

Do you have old debts in the past that you haven’t paid and are wondering if the creditors can still come back now and collect from you after so many years? This is a common question that I am often asked.

I actually see a lot of people in this situation.  At some time in their lives, they messed up and failed to live up to their financial responsibilities which resulted in delinquency and possibly legal actions being filed by creditors against them. A lot of them have gone through a difficult time in their lives such as a divorce, a failed business, sickness, disability or unemployment. 

Years later, things have changed to the point where they have finally started rebuilding their finances and their lives.  They may now have a good-paying job, have a bit of savings in the bank and perhaps have started seriously thinking about their financial future.

Then all of the sudden, the unthinkable happens. They get served a lawsuit out of the blue or they find out that their bank account has been frozen or their employer just got served a wage garnishment order. What happened? This is when they are surprised to discover that although many years have passed, old debts and other derogatory information continue appear on their credit report or even worse- a creditor who has obtained a judgment is now aggressively trying to pursue them.

This becomes more problematic especially when someone is finally able and is in the process of trying to buy a house or a car.  Sometimes, the income is good enough to qualify for the loan that they are applying for but the credit score is too low that no bank would touch the application after they see all the unpaid debts on the person’s credit report. So these people start thinking that if they had just taken care of these debts years ago when they had the chance, maybe life could be much better right now.

How about you?  Do you have debts from your past that are still haunting you to this very day?  Are these debts stopping you from improving your life, perhaps making your dream of home ownership impossible to achieve?  Don’t lose hope!  If you are determined to turn your situation around for the better, there are some things you can do right now to accomplish that.

Unfortunately, the experience I described above may be the very “jolt” that most people need to finally wake up and do something about their situation.  As I always tell people, debt problems only tend to get worse if they are ignored.  The best time to take care of them is now, not later.  If you ignore them, be ready to pay the consequences later.

Creditors, of course, have to file a lawsuit (and a lot of them do in order to preserve their collection rights) within what is called the Statute of Limitations period (This is generally 4 years in California from the time you stopped paying) in order for them to enforce the debt.  However, keep in mind that judgments in California are good for 10 years and can be renewed after that time period.  So, not because you have not heard from a creditor for years does it necessarily mean that the debt has gone away. 

One thing that may help you determine if you still have debts in active collection status is by looking at the most recent copy of your credit report and reviewing it for accuracy.  Be aware, however, that not all creditors report to the credit bureaus. Credit bureaus recently announced as a matter of fact that credit reports will no longer contain information regarding civil judgments and tax liens that have been filed against you.

What this means is that you cannot rely on your credit report to determine if you have been sued by creditors or if they have obtained a judgment against you in the past.  In short, your credit report may not tell the whole story if it’s missing some very important information that you need to know about in order to protect yourself.

Most of the time, I see people in my office who have old debts from the past that they could and SHOULD have taken care of years ago.  Had these people done something about their problem sooner, they would have been in a much, much better position today. 

Frankly, I am puzzled about this and often wonder why these people waited so long to find a solution.  If you are currently in debt and can’t pay, remember that sooner or later, you would have to face your creditors.  Don’t wait until they sue you, garnish your wages and/or take your property. For a free consultation, call Toll-Free 1-866-477-7772.  We have offices in Glendale, Cerritos and Valencia.

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None of the information herein is intended to give legal advice for any specific situation.  Atty. Ray Bulaon has successfully helped thousands of clients in getting out of debt. For a free attorney evaluation of your situation, please call  Ray Bulaon Law Offices at  TOLL FREE 1 (866) 477-7772.   

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