Can you enforce a judgment beyond six years?

Under the Limitations Act 1980, Section 24 provides a period of six years for the enforcement of a judgment from the time that it becomes enforceable.

The Act reads:-

24.-(1) An action shall not be brought upon any judgment after the expiration of six years from the date on which the, judgment became enforceable.
(2) No arrears of interest in respect of any judgment debt shall be recovered after the expiration of six years from the date on which the interest became due.

So does that mean that there is no further recourse available once 6 years have passed?  Generally the answer is “yes”, although you can seek permission from the court to go beyond 6 years.

Court leave

Obtaining permission is by no means a mere formality; you, the creditor will have to provide the court with a valid reason why enforcement was not undertaken within the six-year period.

The responsibility for demonstrating good reason and evidence to support their case sits firmly with you, the judgment creditor.

Valid reasons

So what reasons could you use? Reasons may include delays in the administration of justice outside the control of the parties. In the case of National Westminster Bank v Powney, it took almost three years to determine an application to set aside. The court ruled that it would grant permission for a fresh writ to be issued outside the six-year period. Permission may also be granted where the circumstances of the case have changed to such an extent that they are now out of the ordinary. That is likely to include a significant change in the debtor’s financial circumstances, which you, the judgment creditor were unaware of prior to applying for permission.

Before the six-year limit expires

If a judgment creditor has a judgment nearing the 6 year limit, one course of action might be to apply for the High Court writ of control (or a warrant of control), allowing themselves plenty of time for this to be completed, as the writ or warrant will be valid for 12 months once issued.

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