In Maryland, debts must be collected within a certain time. If you owe money to someone, the person is called a creditor, and what you owe them is called a debt. The creditor generally has 3 years (4 years if the debt is owed for the sale of goods) from the date the debt becomes due to ask the court to order you to pay. A court order to pay a debt is known as a judgment. If the creditor does not go to court within the time limit, then the court generally will not order you to pay the debt. Read the Law: Maryland Code, Commercial Law, Section 2-725
If the creditor does go to court within 3 years, and the court does order you to pay it, then that person has 12 years to collect it from you, unless the judgment is renewed.
What can happen if the creditor renews the debt
A creditor can “renew” a debt at any time within the 12 years following the entry of a judgment. This means that the person to whom you owe money can go to the court and file a “notice of renewal,” which will reset the 12 year limit on that debt, and cause the debt to remain enforceable for another 12 years or until another renewal. Read the Law: Maryland Rule 2-625
3-year limit on lawsuits for debts
To get a judgment, a creditor must bring the claim to court within 3 years after the debt comes due. If someone claims in court that you owe them money and you believe that the money became due more than 3 years ago, you may be able to raise the 3-year statute of limitation as a defense. Read the Law: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-101
A creditor may not start a debt collection case after the 3-year statute of limitations. For example, if you had a debt that became due on January 1, 2016, the creditor would have to file the debt collection case before January 1, 2019. Additionally, paying toward the debt or acknowledging the debt does not allow the creditor to file a lawsuit after the 3-year period. Read the Law: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 12-1202
Debt collection and credit rating agencies may still get involved
The 3-year limit on asking the court for a judgment on that debt does not prevent the person or organization you owe money to from reporting your debt to credit rating agencies or trying to contact you to ask you to pay that debt. However, they still must follow certain rules if they are attempting to collect a debt that you owe. For example, they are not permitted to call you or visit you at work, call you early in the morning or late at night, or threaten you.
12-year limit on collecting money on a judgment
If someone or some organization has gone to court and gotten a judgment against you, then they have 12 years to enforce that debt. The 12-year limit starts at the date of the judgment, which is often the date the creditor went to court. If a court ordered you to pay a creditor money more than 12 years ago, the creditor will not be able to enforce that debt against you. This means they will not be able to garnish your wages or attach your property. If you believe that a court ordered you to pay a debt more than 12 years ago and the creditor is asking the court to garnish your wages, you may be able to raise the 12-year limit as a defense to that garnishment. Read the Law: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-102
Installments and arrearages
If a court ordered you to pay the debt in installments, the 12-year limit may be counted separately for each payment at the time that payment became due. For example, even if a court ordered you to pay child support payments more than 12 years ago, you could still be forced to make each payment until 12 years has passed since each payment became due. Read the Law: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-102
Money owed to the government
If you owe the government money and the government has obtained a judgment against you, the 12-year limitation does not apply, and the government can enforce that judgment at any time. Read the Law: Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 5-102