How long can you be chased for a debt? If you have older debts you may be asking this question to see if you can avoid paying. Well, you will be pleased to know that sometimes debts have somewhat of an expiry date and you won’t be forced to pay after it. 

Answering the question “how long can you be chased for a debt?” is not so straightforward. We’ve made it easy to understand in this guide.

How Long Can You Be Chased for Debt?

Most unsecured debt in the UK, which includes payday loan debts, utility bill debts and credit cards, can only be collected within six years. This is known as Statute Barred which prevents any creditor or collection agency from trying to collect these types of debts that are at least six years old.

Statute Barred in Detail

The Statute Barred loophole comes from The Limitations Act 1980 which is legislation that blocks any creditor from asking the courts to make a debtor pay the debt when the debt is at least six years old. The reason that Statute Barred exists is that the courts’ staff and resources were becoming stretched because so many creditors were trying to claw back old debts.

To protect the courts and their resources, they decided that debts that are at least six years old cannot be discussed in court.

Why is this important?

Without getting a judge to issue a CCJ forcing the debtor to pay, the debt can never be legally enforced. The debt still exists but there is no obligation for you to pay the debt.

You Can Only Be Chased for Six Years, Correct?

Not exactly!

This loophole that can help you avoid paying your debts comes with other criteria. The debt must be six years old, but you as the debtor must also not have paid back any of the debt in the last six years, nor should you have acknowledged the debt in the last six years in writing. 

If you do either of the above, you must wait a further six years for your debt to become legally unenforceable. And in that time the creditor could take you to court anyway.

For example, if you have a debt from six years ago but made a one-off payment on the debt four years ago, you will need to wait two more years before the debt becomes Statute Barred. 

How Long Can You Be Chased for Debt after a CCJ?

There is one thing that voids any use of the Statute Barred loophole, and that is if your debt has ever received a CCJ. 

If the debt in question has already been discussed in court and a judge told you to pay with a CCJ, your debt can never qualify for Statute Barred. 

It is unlikely that six years will have passed since the CCJ was issued because the creditor can use bailiffs to recover the debt if you continue to not pay. But whatever the situation, no debt qualifies for Statute Barred after receiving a CCJ.

So, if you were to ask ow Long Can You Be Chased for Debt that has received a CCJ in the past? The answer is indefinitely.

I Think My Debt Is Statute Barred, What Next?

If you believe your debt is Statute Barred, you should try to get confirmation of this. Don’t try and confirm this with your creditor, but instead, contact a UK debt charity and ask for free debt advice. Their professionals will be able to assess the situation and tell you if your debt really is legally unenforceable.

If they say your debt is Statute Barred, you can send your creditors or collection agencies a letter to tell them it is. This is known as a Statute Barred reply letter.

Sending a Statute Barred Letter

If you receive requests for payment and possible legal threats from creditors and your debt is Statute Barred, it is time to make your creditors aware. To do this, download the Statute Barred letter templates from debt charity websites and edit it with your own details. 

Send the letter to all applicable creditors and keep a record of the letter sent, possibly even record the delivery. The letter will tell creditors that the debt cannot be enforced and they should stop contacting you immediately.

What If They Continue to Request Payment?

If they continue to request payment, you can either:

  1. Inform your creditor that they are committing harassment and their criminal offence will be reported to the Financial Ombudsman if they continue
  2. Or skip this step and directly report them to the Financial Ombudsman

What Will the Financial Ombudsman Decide?

The Ombudsman can look into the matter and if you provide evidence that you sent a Statute Barred reply letter, they could take action against the people chasing you for money.

This includes potential fines or even compensation.

Are There Any Differences in Scotland?

As some debtors will be aware, debt laws and debt solutions differ north of Hadrian’s Wall. In Scotland, the period of time to collect the debt before it becomes legally unenforceable is shorter by one year. These debts cannot be discussed in court after five years.

How Long Does Statute Barred Debt Stay on Your Credit File?

Statute Barred debts will remain on your credit file for the next six years. This means you could struggle to get further credit, mobile contracts, tenancy agreements and mortgages for this period and beyond.

If you want to avoid this, you should look to pay off your debts using debt solutions. Money Nerd discusses all the different debt options you have to clear your debt in an affordable way. 

About the author

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is a financial services expert, with over 10 years’ experience in the industry, including 6 years in FCA regulated companies. Read more
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