Sometimes an old bill will come out from hiding and haunt you. Maybe you totally forgot about it after mail getting lost or simply lost track of the bill? Whatever it is, your old debt will come back and haunt you as creditors start calling and bugging you to collect on what you owe. Although you’ll want to make sure to pay off old debt, there are certain things you should know about it:
Collections have time limits
Each state has its only limits on how long creditors can try and collect on old debt. Some are for five years, while others are 15, depending on the type of debt you owe. Once that time ends, the creditor doesn’t have any legal recourse to make you pay, which means you can’t be sued, have your bank account seized or be subject to any wage garnishment. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay it. The only way to make it not reflect on your credit score is to get rid of it by filing for bankruptcy.
Old debt and your credit score
The longer you don’t pay a bill, the more it will impact your credit score negatively. And if you go 90 days or more without a single payment, the creditor can charge off your account, which will have a bigger hit to your credit score. Negative marks on your credit score will show up for seven years and can impact whether you get approved for a house or any new loans. Paying off old debt won’t necessarily get your credit score in positive territory and still takes time to clear before it gets any better.
Not paying old debt
If you decide not to pay an old debt in full, know that you will get harassed by creditors and they will call day and night to get their money. There are even some collectors that will bother you 10 to 20 years after because they specialize in buying old debts for cheap and then hound customers until they eventually pay. And if you acknowledge that you actually owe the money over the phone, the clock restarts and now those collectors have even more time to buy you. When you are dealing with collectors, say as little as you can, especially if that collection window is almost closed. Instead, ask for written validation of such debt and then keep a traditional paper trail of your communications so that you protect your rights.
How paying off debt can work to your advantage
Paying off old debt can sometimes work in your favor, especially if you are planning on refinancing your home, buy a new car or get a mortgage loan. Even though your credit score won’t be great, the lender will at least see that you are trying to get your finances in order and are serious about it.