The state of Washington restricts the time during which a creditor may file a claim against a debtor for repayment of a delinquent debt under the statute of limitations. The time during which a creditor can file a claim is known as the “prescriptive period,” the length of which differs for each type of consumer debt. Once the prescriptive period expires, creditors can no longer attempt to collect money from the debtor for the remainder of the debt and the creditor is barred from ever filing a lawsuit.
Debts arising out of an oral contract, whether express or implied, are limited to a prescriptive period of three years. This begins on the date the debtor first becomes delinquent. Partial repayment does not restart the prescriptive period for oral contracts.
Debts arising out of a written contract, whether express or implied, have a prescriptive period of six years beginning on the date the debt first becomes delinquent. A partial repayment made during these six years does not reset the prescriptive period.
Collection of overdue or back-owed rent is restricted to six years from the date on which the rent first becomes delinquent. The landlord does not need to retain ownership of the property to file a claim, nor does the tenant still need to occupy the dwelling. The prescriptive period does not reset if the tenant makes a partial payment toward the debt during this time.
Claims for delinquent open accounts, which include credit cards, personal loans and other revolving lines of credit, are subject to a six-year prescriptive period beginning on the day the debtor first becomes delinquent. If a debtor makes a payment toward an overdue open account, the prescriptive period resets again to six years. The prescriptive period continues to reset every time the creditor receives another payment.
Judgments and orders to enforce repayment of consumer debts are also subject to a statute of limitations. Creditors who secure a judgment are limited to a prescriptive period of 10 years, starting from the day the judgment is entered, to recover the amount of the judgment. The prescriptive period does not reset whenever the debtor makes a payment toward the amount of the judgment. Once the prescriptive period expires, the creditor can no longer attempt to collect the original debt or the amount of the judgment from the debtor.
Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.