NH Law About... Zombie Debt

Introduction to... Zombie Debt

Updated January 16, 2017. 

What is Zombie Debt?

"Zombie debt" is debt so old that it's past the statute of limitations. These debts are also called "time-barred" debts or "out-of-statute" debts. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a web page on time-barred debt, statutes of limitations, and much more information about debt collection. 

Get Documentation of the Debt

Debts are sold and resold to debt collectors and as they age, documentation about the status of the debt, the amount of the debt, or the name and address of the debtor may disappear or no longer be accurate. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has guidance on what information you should ask for when you're contacted by a debt collector and the information that they are required by law to give you. 

Dispute the Debt

According to the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection, you have the right to dispute the existence or validity of a debt. Reasons for disputing the debt might be: you never owed the money in the first place or don't owe as much as the debt collector says, you already paid, you discharged the debt in bankruptcy, or it's hospital debt which may have been covered under a charitable care policy. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau explains how to dispute a debt and how long you have to act. There are sample letters you can use on their website. Also, the book Collection Actions: Defending Consumers and Their Assets (4th ed., 2017) has great information on possible defenses to a debt collection lawsuit.   

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Don't Ignore It!

Dealing with debt collectors can be unpleasant and lawsuits can be overwhelming, but the worst thing to do is to ignore the situation. New Hampshire Legal Aid explains how to respond to a lawsuit and the Circuit Court of New Hampshire has a website that explains the Small Claims process.   

Doing the Research

Researching this is not as simple as just looking up New Hampshire's statutes of limitations. The FTC's website on time-barred debts explains the problems involved: the statute of limitations varies from state to state and for different kinds of debts and, under certain circumstances, the clock can be reset and the time period can be started fresh. First step: get documentation so you can figure out where the debt came from and what law might apply.  

New Hampshire's law is RSA 358-C, Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Collection Practices and the Federal law is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. For information about another state's laws, start with that state's attorney general's website. Most will have consumer information on debt collection practices in their state. 

About This Guide  

The “Read About …” section of this guide links to resources about the law and will give you context and key terms. “Read the Law …” links to selected laws. Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only. NH Law About … is a place to start your legal research and is not a substitute for a lawyer's help.  

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Read about... Zombie Debt

WEBSITES

New Hampshire Legal Aid. Debt Collection - Over Your Head In Debt?

Link verified on: January 16, 2018

Never ignore a lawsuit. Do not ignore papers received from a court. By responding to a lawsuit (you do this by filing an appearance), you may challenge the amount of the debt the creditor claims you owe, or the amount of attorney’s fees requested by the creditor. If you ignore the lawsuit, you will lose any rights you may have to challenge the debt   GO>

New Hampshire. Dept. of Justice. Consumer Sourcebook. Credit: Debt Collection

Link verified on: January 16, 2018

Debt collection practices are governed by two laws: New Hampshire's Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Collection Practices Act (RSA 358-C) (State Act) and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 1692-1695) (FDCPA). In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has guidelines for the collection industry describing specific acts and practices the FTC considers to be in violation of the FDCPA.   GO>

Circuit Court. District Division. Small Claims (e-filing)

Link verified on: January 16, 2018

The small claims process is governed by RSA Chapter 503. In addition, a person who is filing or defending against a small claim will want to be familiar with the Rules of the Circuit Court District Division and the Small Claim Electronic Filing Pilot Rules.   GO>

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Debt Collection

Link verified on: January 16, 2018

A debt collector must tell you the name of the creditor, the amount owed, and that you can dispute the debt or seek verification of the debt.   GO>

Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Time-Barred Debts

Link verified on: January 16, 2018

If you have old debts, collectors may not be able to sue you to collect on them. That's because debt collectors have a limited number of years — known as the statute of limitations — to sue you to collect. After that, your unpaid debts are considered "time-barred." According to the law, a debt collector cannot sue you for not paying a debt that's time-barred. This gets tricky for consumers because the statute of limitations varies from state to state and for different kinds of debts. It is also tricky because, under certain circumstances, the clock can be reset, and the time period can be started fresh.   GO>


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Collection actions : defending consumers and their assets. 4th ed., 2017.  GO>

Link verified on: January 16, 2018

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Read the law about... Zombie Debt

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

RSA 358-C. Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Collection Practices  GO>

Link verified on: January 16, 2018

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated

Link verified on: June 29, 2018

Find the New Hampshire statutes in print at libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

FEDERAL STATUTES

15 U.S.C. §§1692-1692p. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act  GO>

Link verified on: January 16, 2018


FOR MORE HELP ...

LawLine

Link verified on: May 18, 2018

Volunteer attorneys are available to answer legal questions through LawLine, a free service of the NH Bar Association. LawLine is held on the SECOND Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. ~ 8:00 p.m. To reach LawLine, call (toll free) 800-868-1212.   GO>

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: June 29, 2018

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>

National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) . Who's My AG?  GO>

Link verified on: January 16, 2018


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