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Hospitals may seek payment according to the guidelines of your specific state laws. Generally, three to 10 years is the timeline in which most states allow hospitals to take legal action. Each state sets a statute of limitations (SOL) according to the type of outstanding debt:
- Oral agreements are undocumented agreements between two or more parties
- Open Accounts – are lines of credit that may be used repeatedly (includes credit cards, home equity lines of credit, department store revolving accounts and others).
- Promissory Note – is written unconditional promise to remit a sum of money
- Written Contracts – are deemed as written credit contracts (in example: car loans and mortgages)
For example, in Nebraska the statute of limitations (SOL) is four years for oral agreements, 5 years for written contracts, six years for promissory notes and four years for open accounts. To determine how long a hospital can collect a bill contact your state's Attorney General's office.
According to the guidelines outlined by the Federal Trade Commission, unfair debt practices include the following:
- Applying a payment to a debt that you are unaware of or do not believe you owe.
- The act of depositing post dated checks prior to the due date
- The collection of a debt greater than the debt owed; unless your state authorizes such charges.
- Make false threats regarding the confiscation of property
For more information on fair debt collection practices, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website at www.ftc.gov.
Unfortunately, if the accounts were held only in your fiancé's name, he is responsible for paying the entire sum of each bill or debt. He may consider contacting the financing agencies where he has outstanding debt(s) and negotiate a payment plan.
Debt consolidation is another alternative. As with any other professional service, shop around and compare service prices and terms. Remember if your fiancé neglects his outstanding debt now, it may affect your credit, home buying power and property choices in the future.