What Is Limitation?

If you require any help pursuing unpaid debt, or you would like any legal assistance in respect of the above, please contact our team.

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By Joshua Keifer - 15th December 2021

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How Long Do I Have to Recover a Debt?

According to the terms of the Limitation Act 1980, you have six years to bring legal proceedings to recover an outstanding debt. The six year period starts on the date the debt becomes payable, which is usually the date of the invoice.

What is limitation?

Limitation is the amount of time you have to bring legal proceedings against another party. If you're owed money, then this is the amount of time you have to bring legal proceedings against the debtor.

There are different limitation periods for differing causes of action. In relation to debts, the relevant period is set out by s.5 Limitation Act 1980. Under this provision, legal proceedings cannot be started after the expiry of a period of six years, from the date of the cause of action. In other words, when a debt becomes payable or an invoice falls due, there is a six year period in which legal action can be brought.

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What happens after six years?

After six years, you cannot use the court to recover the debt. Technically, of course, the debt is still owing. But as the creditor, you are prevented from issuing a claim, getting judgment, and using enforcement methods such as:

  • Securing a charge over property
  • Instructing bailiffs to recover goods
  • Petitioning to wind up a company

So, if an invoice remains unpaid after six years, the debt becomes unenforceable and is statute barred.

Extending a limitation period

The limitation period starts when the debt becomes owed. However, through course of dealings, it is possible that this period can be extended where a triggering event takes place. This may be a subsequent part payment from the debtor or an acknowledgement of the debt.

Get early legal advice

Limitation can impact your ability to bring legal action in relation to debt. There is, however, a wide window in which to act, and this may be extended.

At Aticus Law, we can help you pursue unpaid debt through the relevant legal channels. When you instruct us, our first job is to investigate whether the limitation period has expired, or whether you can still bring a course of action.

If the six year limitation period has yet to expire, we can issue court proceedings and obtain judgment. Where necessary, we will take the appropriate enforcement action to recover the debt.

If you require any help pursuing unpaid debt, or you would like any legal assistance in respect of the above, please contact our team.

Get in touch with our experts today for free, no obligation legal advice


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