Legal Guides

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Enforcing a Judgment Debt After Six Years

Can a judgment debt be enforced after 6 years? It appears so, in some cases….

The normal guidance is that money judgments need to be enforced within six years of being awarded. Does this mean that there is no further action that the judgment creditor can take to enforce it beyond that time period?

Not necessarily….

The Limitation Act 1980 states that:

An action shall not be brought upon any judgment after the expiration of six years from the date on which the judgment became enforceable;

No arrears of interest in respect of any judgment debt shall de recovered after the expiration of six years from the date on which the interest became due.

The case of Lowsley v Forbes was considered by the House of Lords where the claimant wished to enforce the judgment 11.5 years later, when the defendant returned to the country.

The Lords ruled that the legislation barred the bringing of a fresh action, but that execution of the existing judgment did not count as a fresh action. Therefore the claimant was able to take enforcement action.

However, the Lords did rule that the limit of six years’ interest did still apply.

The main impact of a long delay in enforcement will be whether the judgment debtor can be located, has sufficient assets and is solvent. In the case of a business, it may have been wound up or gone into insolvency. There will also be the fact that only six years’ interest can be recovered.

Permission will be required from the Court to obtain a writ of execution on a judgment more than six years old. The court is likely to ask why there has been such a delay and will take this into account when making its decision.

The judgment debtor may also challenge enforcement on the basis of delay. However, he will have to provide compelling evidence of the extent of prejudice to the debtor by reason of the delay.

There are cases where a judgment previously considered unenforceable becomes viable, and can still be enforced beyond the six year period. However, to increase the chances of success, we strongly advise that enforcement action is taken as soon as it becomes necessary.

Author: Almy & Thomas Solicitors Ltd

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to Almy & Thomas Solicitors Ltd directly.

Published on 24th April 2013
(Last updated 7th May 2021)