Each state has a different statute of limitations that spells out how long creditors have to use the legal system to collect an unpaid debt. In Rhode Island, creditors have 10 years to sue you for an unpaid loan, promissory note or credit card. After the statute of limitations is up, a creditor can still call you and send bills. If the debt collector gets you to make a payment, agree to pay or even acknowledge you owe the debt, you may unintentionally extend the statute of limitations. If the creditor does sue within the statute of limitations and receives a judgment ordering you to pay, they'll have 20 years to enforce the judgment.
Oral and written contracts have a 10 year statute of limitations in Rhode Island. Oral contracts are verbal agreements between a debtor and a creditor, or a buyer and seller. For example, a loan between friends sealed with a handshake would qualify as an oral contract. Although oral contracts are harder to prove in court, they're still legally binding. A written contract is a signed agreement to repay a debt. Some examples include cell phone contracts, auto loans, personal loans, utility service agreements and medical bills. In Rhode Island, electronic signatures are also considered valid and binding. An electronic signature or e-signature may be as basic typing your name.
The statute of limitations for promissory notes is also 10 years in Rhode Island. A promissory note is a written contract with added provisions, including an amortization and repayment schedule. A promissory note is commonly used for unsecured loans, such as student loans. If a creditor tries threatens to sue you after the statute of limitations has expired, assert your rights and state it's a time-barred debt. If the threats continue, contact the Rhode Island Attorney General.
Open-ended accounts also are subject to a 10 year statute of limitations in Rhode Island. Credit cards and home equity lines of credit are considered open-ended accounts. An unpaid credit card bill can only remain on your credit report for up to 7 years. Even if a credit card debt is old enough that it aged off credit report, the creditor can still legally sue you in Rhode Island if it falls within that 10-year range.
Child support arrears in Rhode Island aren't subject to a statute of limitations. If you owe back child support, it can be enforced at any time regardless of the child's age. There is no statute of limitations for federal student loans either. If you owe federal student loans, they can't be discharged in bankruptcy. If you owe the Internal Revenue Service, it can collect for up to 10 years from the date the taxes were assessed.
- Wallet Hub: Statutes of Limitations for Unpaid Loans, Bills & Taxes
- Lawyers.com: Rhode Island Statutes of Limitations
- Nolo: Is There a Statute of Limitations for Private Student Loans?
- Nolo: Time Limits on IRS Collections
- Bankrate: State Statutes of Limitations for Old Debts
- State of Rhode Island General Assembly: Uniform Electronic Transactions Act
- Nolo: The Statute of Limitations Ran Out on My Credit Debt. Can the Collection Agency Still Contact Me?
- U.S. Department of Labor. "Garnishment." Accessed Oct. 19, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Time-Barred Debts." Accessed Oct. 19, 2020.
Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.