How long does a creditor have to collect on a judgment against me?
Usually, judgments are valid for several years before they expire or “lapse.”
In some states, a judgment is effective between five to seven years. In other states, like New York, it can be twenty years or longer. Exactly how long a judgment lasts depends on the laws of your state, and the method that the creditor uses to try and collect on that judgment.
The time period is usually starts running from:
Potentially, a judgment can effectively become permanent; many states allow creditors to renew their judgments. So, if a creditor gets a court order or files an affidavit or other document, it can renew the judgment for another cycle. In some states, creditors are allowed to renew a judgment once or twice. In others, there's no limit.
If a judgment creditor doesn't renew a judgment on time, then that judgment lapses. A judgment may also lapse if the creditor doesn't do anything to execute on that judgment for a certain period of time.
When a judgment lapses (or becomes “dormant”), the creditor can no longer legally enforce it. So, a creditor can't:
If a judgment against you has lapsed, it probably hasn't gone away forever. Many states allow creditors to “revive” dormant judgments, perhaps subject to a time limit. State laws vary on how the time period is calculated. The clock may begin to run from the time the creditor last tried to collect on the judgment, or it might run from the time the judgment later went dormant.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a bill collector may still contact you on a lapsed judgment and ask you to pay. However, a debt collector can't threaten to garnish your wages or take other legal action to pressure you into settling that old judgment. If a debt collector lies to you about the age of the judgment and whether it lapsed under your state's laws, that also might be a violation of the FDCPA.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a judgment can show up on your credit report for at least seven years. It can show up even longer, depending on how much time your state's laws give effect to that judgment.