Under the Limitations Act 1980, S24 provides a period of six years for the enforcement of a judgment from the time that it becomes enforceable.
So, is there any recourse for creditors once that time limit has passed? To a degree, the answer is “yes”, although permission from the court will be required.
Obtaining permission is by no means a mere formality; 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 the judgment creditor.
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 the judgment creditor was unaware of prior to applying for permission.
Before the six-year limit expires
If a judgment creditor has a judgment nearing the six-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.