How Long Can Debt Collectors Try To Collect?

Understanding Debt Collection in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide

Dealing with debt can be a source of significant stress, particularly when collection agencies are involved. If you’re in Canada and grappling with this issue, you might be wondering, “How long can debt collectors try to collect in Canada?” We delve into this question and explore the broader landscape of debt collection in the country.

The Basics of Debt Collection

Once you default on a payment or series of payments, the wheels of the debt collection machinery start turning. Debt collectors and collection agencies specialize in recovering unpaid debts. They employ various strategies, including sending letters, making frequent phone calls, and even visiting your home. Understandably, these actions can create a climate of fear, making you dread any form of communication.

The Duration of Debt Collection in Canada

The reality is, there is no definitive timeline for how long debt collectors can attempt to collect in Canada. However, they do have a specific period within which they can threaten legal action to reclaim their money.

This period applies primarily to unsecured debts like credit card bills, not to secured debts (like car loans and mortgages), government debts (like student loans and tax debt), or non-dischargeable debts (like child support, spousal support, fines, and fraud-related fees).

In most provinces, including Ontario, this legal action period is two years, while in other parts of Canada, it stretches to six years in keeping with government legislation.

Beyond the Legal Limitation Period

Even after the legal limitation period has passed, debt collectors can continue to seek repayment indefinitely. However, they can no longer take legal action, so any threats to that effect will be empty.

If you feel harassed by debt collectors beyond this period, you can lodge a complaint with the consumer protection office. These agencies have rules that debt collectors must adhere to.

The Limitation Period for Unsecured Debts

The limitation period for unsecured debts commences on the day of your last payment. If you make any payment or even acknowledge that you owe the debt, the limitation period resets. Therefore, collection agencies often persuade debtors to make small payments or admit to their debt to extend the limitation period – a process known as ‘re-ageing a debt’.

Once a debt exceeds its limitation period, no legal action can be taken against you. Debt collectors may still try to contact you, but their threats of legal action will be hollow.

Impact of Collection on Your Credit Report

A debt being pursued by a collection agency can negatively impact your credit report. Whether paid or unpaid, a debt logged by a debt collector or collection agency will stay on your credit report for seven years.

This seven-year period commences from the date of your last payment or the date you missed a payment, depending on the credit bureau. This timeline resets if you make any payments towards your debt. Consequently, a debt under collection can lower your credit score, making it harder for you to borrow money.

How to Stop Debt Collectors and Collection Agencies

Ignoring your debts won’t make them disappear. As long as you have unpaid debt, you owe that money.

Here are some ways to halt debt collection activities:


  • Wait for the limitation period to pass. After this period, creditors can’t take legal action against you.
  • Tolerate the debt on your credit report and dodge creditors until the debt’s impact on your report diminishes.
  • Arrange a debt settlement with your creditors, often involving a lump-sum payment upfront. Ensure you get a formal receipt of payment.
  • File a consumer proposal or bankruptcy. These legal measures can stop debt collectors for good and provide debt relief.


Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcy

Consumer proposals and bankruptcy can reduce your debt and address your broader debt issues, including secured and government debts. To obtain a stay of proceedings – which legally prevents creditors from contacting you – you must file either a consumer proposal or bankruptcy.

If you’re considering these options, consult a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. These professionals are the only ones authorized to administer these legal forms of debt relief.

How a Licensed Insolvency Trustee Can Help

If you’re concerned about how long debt collectors can try to collect in Canada, or if you’re being harassed by debt collectors or collection agencies, professional help is available. Licensed Insolvency Trustees can advise you on various debt relief options, including consumer proposals and bankruptcy.

When you work with a firm like Bankruptcy Canada, you’ll be assigned your own bankruptcy trustee to review your financial circumstances and guide you through the process.


While dealing with debt collectors can be stressful, understanding your rights and options can ease some of the burden. Information is power, and being aware of how long debt collectors can try to collect in Canada is a critical aspect of managing your debts effectively.

If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Reach out to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to discuss your options and start your journey towards debt relief today.

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