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TL/DR: I stayed in a hotel and haven't been billed yet. At what point am I no longer legally responsible for the debt?

I used a well known website (expedia) to book a hotel room for a week in a small bed and breakfast in a small seasonal town in the US (Massachusetts). I made the booking approximately 6 months prior to my stay during the middle of the off season. The terms were that my credit card on file would be billed directly by the hotel for a 1 night deposit immediately and the rest after I completed my stay. I was immediately billed my deposit as expected, but I was also billed the remaining balance in a second charge. I was also issued a credit within 24 hours for the remaining balance. Someone caught this before I did and it all magically appeared on my statement.

4 months later, at the beginning of the busy season, I received a welcome email explaining how the B&B works and where I would find the keys and how to check-in and check-out. That day my credit card was again billed the remaining balance and a credit was again issued within 24 hours. During my stay I never saw anyone from the B&B. The keys were where they were supposed to be and I left them where I was instructed. Upon checking out, my credit card was again billed the remaining balance, as I would expect. Unexpectedly, within 24 hours, I was issued another credit.

I have never been contacted by my credit card company fraud department. I believe the hotel is just inept. If they manage to bill my credit card correctly, I will pay the bill and not dispute the charge as it is what I agreed to. That said, while normally I would be upfront with the hotel and try and pay my bill proactively, in this case I don't want to since I wasn't particularly happy with the hotel. Further, they seem to be so inept that I worry that saying something will cause them to bill me multiple times again.

At what point am I no longer legally responsible for the charges? Can they go through their books in 10 years and realize I never paid and charge me?

EDIT In response to a now-deleted suggestion that it's unreasonable not to be more proactive, the hotel was not a traditional B&B, but it only had 6 rooms and was a small family run operation. My unmet expectations were related to the quality of the amenities. There was supposed to be a private beach for the hotel, but the beach was only accessible during the lowest of low tides and even then you had to sit under the pylons holding up the hotel. More problematic was the hotel advertised that the room came with two kayaks, which it did, but it didn't come with paddles or life jackets. Similarly, the room was advertised to have bikes, but they had flat tires. We eventually got in touch with the staff via email and they responded that they knew about the problems, but couldn't fix them during our stay. None of these issues was enough for me to withhold payment or ask for a refund, but it does make me less inclined to point out their errors.

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    What state? The statute of limitations on debt varies by state, often 4 years. But it sounds like this one slipped through the cracks. – Rocky Aug 12 at 18:58
  • @Rocky see edit. The hotel was in Massachusetts. The website was Expedia. I don't know what state/country they are based in or if it matters. – StrongBad Aug 12 at 19:01
  • The safe bet would be to squirrel away the money and then leave a poor review detailing all the problems (but don't make it a wall of text). – RonJohn Aug 12 at 19:12
  • I disagree with @RonJohn about leaving the negative review, but I agree with keeping the money in reserve. Preferably in a high-interest savings account or 4-week treasury bills set to reinvest. – Kevin Aug 12 at 19:45
  • Was the accommodation aware of your dissatisfaction? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 13 at 17:29
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In the United States, the statute of limitations for debt varies by state.

Any question of ethics or credit reporting aside, the legal reason to pay a debt in the United States is that, if you don't, the debt owner can successfully sue you in court for payment. The question of how long someone has to sue for collection of a debt is something that is covered by state law, and so varies by state (and, in some states, by type: a credit card balance may have a different statute of limitations than a written contract).

For Massachusetts, the statute of limitations on all debt is six years.

Note that some actions on your part can reset the statute of limitations, such as making a partial payment on the debt, or agreeing to do so.

Sources: Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection by State
Debt Statutes of Limitations for All 50 States

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TLDR: Follow up with the venue, air your legitimate complaints, then ask to settle the bill finally.

The practical limit of them charging you will be the expiry of your credit card data. They could dun you or your estate anytime, but past 6 years you could reject the bill on the basis of being time-barred (past the statute of limitations in MA).

They might claim you agreed to a different jurisdiction by using Expedia, but few states have longer than 6 years so that'd be a longshot.

You have every right to have this matter settled now so you can move on

It can be frustrating to have this charge lingering where it might pop up later. You have a right to clear it up, and you have a reasonable expectation that they should help you clear it up.

So yes, the most reliable way to handle that is to outreach to them.

Don't intermix complaint with payment

Handle the complaint first, and the reason relates to the sad state of the complaint economy.

  • There are people out there who engage in social media extortion: they open with a demand for refund, give a list of obviously contrived complaints, and threaten review-bombing if you don't comply.

  • Others cite valid, believable complaints, and rarely ask for refund. The difference is obvious. To them I offer refunds and are turned down half the time, and the complaint list goes to the Board to fix.

The billing snafu should be part of the complaint, but it should be the last part of the complaint.

The point of staging it that way (the nice way) is that the hotelier is likely to see the last part as an "easy out". All he needs to do is agree to assure you aren't ever rebilled, instant customer sat. But if he doesn't, you and he can then come to a number you do find mutually acceptable under the circumstances, that will settle the bill finally.

Then, you'd have his word that you wouldn't be charged further. I'd ask for that in writing. In fact, email wouldn't be a bad way to do this, but try to be concise and avoid a "wall of text" effect - well you write enough SE posts to know the drill.

It's entirely possible that the venue was well aware of your complaints, and decided to refund your stay prophylactically, i.e. The above has already happened. But they should also tell you so you can "close your books" on the matter. Many people do not realize this because they think in "cash" not "accrual".

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