How far back can a utility go to collect on a bill?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How far back can a utility go to collect on a bill?

The water reclamation district just sent my tenant a water shut-off notice for non-payment of bills going back 5 years. I called the district. They said they sent bills via email which I never received. If they got no response from email are they not in some way obligated to contact me in some other way so that a bill does not accumulate for 5 years. It is $718.60 they want or they will shut off the water. As I did not pay them because I didn’t even know they existed for so many years does that not void an agreement of contract. Don’t they have some legal obligation to find me before so much time has passed and so much money accumulated. What can I do?

Asked on May 20, 2017 under Bankruptcy Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If there was a written agreement for the water bills, they can wait up to 10 years to legally collect on a bill; if no written (only therefore oral) agreement, up to 5 years, which means they can attempt to collect on bills up to 5 years old. That is because the statute of limitations, or time  within which to take legal action to collect, in your state is 10 years for written agreements, 5 years for services or materials provided under an oral agreement. There is no obligation to try to collect earlier: they can wait for years, then legally try to collect, including by suing if you do not pay.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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