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How long can a debt be chased UK? 2022

how long chase debt

For free and impartial money advice and guidance, visit MoneyHelper, to help you make the most of your money.

A creditor has up to 6 years to chase you for a debt. This is in accordance with the Limitations Act 1980. However, in certain circumstances, the creditors can chase the debt for longer. It’s important to know if your debt is statute-barred and what that means.

In this article you can learn more about statute-barred debts and debts that are older than 6 years Additionally, I’ll show you how to work out if a debt is statute-barred and what that means to you.

Do I Have to Pay a Debt Older than 6 Years?

There’s a chance you won’t have to pay a debt if it is older than 6 years old. This does depend on a few factors. Debts older than 6 years can become statute-barred. The Limitation Act 1980, or the Statute of Limitations, decided on the length of time that creditors can chase a debt. Not all debts will fall under statute-barred territory.

The payment of debt older than 6 years is necessary if you’ve had a CCJ issued against you during the limitations period. The limitation period is how long the creditors must take court action against you. This will depend on the type of debt it is (unsecured/secured) and to who you owe the money.

When Does the Statute-Barred Limitation Period Start From?

The date the limitation period begins can be the most recent date from any of the following

  • When you or a third party acknowledged that you owe the debt. Make sure you state that you don’t own the debt during all communication, be it a letter, email, or phone. Keep a copy or record of all communication you make as you might need it to use as evidence to support your claim.
  • From the date of your last payment made towards the debt. The payment counts if it was made on your behalf by a third party, such as a debt management service.
  • A defaulting term date or time when the creditor could have started legal action against you but failed to do so. This information is found in the terms and conditions of the loan but not always. If the creditor began court action at the time the debt cannot become statute-barred.

Don’t worry, here’s what to do!

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Check if You Have to Pay a Debt

The first step is to decipher if you must pay the debt and if it’s now statute-barred. Begin by looking at the debt and calculate how long has passed since you last made a payment on it. You must also check to see if it has been six years since you last contacted the creditor.

You may not have to pay the debt you owe in other circumstances too, including:

  • If you felt pressured into signing the agreement by the creditor
  • If the creditor didn’t make the terms of the agreement, clear at the time of signing
  • The creditor failed to check that you could afford the repayments at the time of signing
  • The debt isn’t yours

Debts You Don’t Have to Pay After 6 Years

There are several types of unsecured debts that can’t be enforced after 6 years have passed. These unsecured debts include:

  • Credit cards
  • Catalogue repayments
  • Payday loans
  • Personal loans
  • Overdrafts

Remember, you must not have made a payment or acknowledged the debt for 6 years. These debts will also need to be paid if they have a CCJ issued against you within the limitations period.

Can A Debt Be Enforced after 6 Years Have Passed?

Secured loans such as mortgages have an extended time limit. These secured debts can be chased for up to 12 years. Additionally, there are different debts that can be chased indefinitely. These debts include money owed to HM Revenue and Customs, such as income tax, VAT, and capital gains tax. You also must pay money owed to the Department of Work and Pensions for benefit overpayments.

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Will My Old Debt Be Written Off?

Having a debt older than 6 years that is statute-barred doesn’t mean the debt is written off. The debt won’t simply disappear. It will still show up on your credit file, which can have some serious implications when seeking credit. Furthermore, the creditors can continue to ask you to repay the debt. What they can’t do is legally enforce the repayment of the debt.

How to Check if a Debt is Statute Barred

Check all correspondence relating to the debt. This will help you to establish if your debt is now statute-barred. It must fall into the following criteria

  • The creditor has not issued a CCJ against you for the debt in question
  • You have not acknowledged the debt in writing for at least 6 years
  • You haven’t made any payments towards the debt in 6 years

What to Do When Chased for a Statute Barred Debt


Many creditors will continue to chase a debt that is statute-barred. If you want to check debt to see if it is no longer enforceable there are steps you can take.

  1. Check your credit file
  2. Inform your creditor that the debt is statute-barred and enforcement is no longer an option

You can avoid getting a CCJ if your creditors take you to court and can prove the debt is statute-barred. It’s also possible to stop the debt collectors from harassing you. You can achieve this by reporting them to the Financial Conduct Authority or even taking them to court. Remember to keep proof of postage and a copy of any communication you make with the creditor and only write to them if you’re certain the debt is statute-barred.

Get Help with Your Debt

You don’t have to panic or deal with debts alone. There are debt advisors that will help you. If you’re dealing with debt collectors, want to establish if a debt is statute-barred, or simply wish to avoid debt building up, contact one of the debt advisors below.


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