How long can you chase a debt? How long does a judgment last? What is the time bar statute? Our expert advisers give you the run down on timescales you need to know when chasing debts.

Question we often receive from enquirers at AYOM revolve around time. “How long can you chase a debt for?”, “are there any time limitations?” If you have written off invoices within the last 6 years, consider reviving them. Historic debt is a regular part of debt collection, and you may have more options than you think.

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Exactly how long can you chase a debt?

A hard rule is 6 years. If you have a debt less than 6 years old, it can still be acknowledged. If more than 6 years has passed since debt began without correspondence or acknowledgement from the debtor, it isn’t enforceable by law. However, even if your debt is 1 day from lapsing, and the debtor acknowledges, your 6 year time resets.

So what should you do? Here are our steps to evaluating historic debts?

  1. Check how long the debt has been due: If it is less than 6 years, you are still able to chase.
  2. Has the debt been admitted as yet? If it has, the 6 year lifespan can restart from when it was admitted. If it hasn’t, it is still ok so long as it is within the 6 year period.
  3. Assess the debtor’s ability to pay: If some time has passed, they could be in a better position. Changes of lifestyle, jobs and personal matters could work in your favour.
  4. Unsure of your next move?: Seek advice

AYOM are able to consult people and businesses on their debt matters. If you are unsure of whether your debt can be collected, ask. It is better to know for certain, so ask the experts.

Financial changes

An important point above is to check the debtor’s ability to pay. Often debt is written off as a debtor has no way to pay due to circumstance. Times change and so do debtors. You may not be able to find these changes yourself. Many debt recovery companies (ourselves included) can perform traces. Traces allow us to see credit checks and locate debtors including financial details. From here you can be assured of your debtor’s current position. Should they now be able to pay, a repayment plan is possible.


Do you have an outstanding judgment against a debtor? They also have a primary lifespan of 6 years. However, there are options for enforcement after that has run out. Often, payment may be delayed due to circumstances (as shown above) but the debtor still was unable to pay. Changes to circumstances mean the judgment could still be valid even after the first 6 years.

Still unsure? Do not worry

AYOM has handled thousands of cases in the past. Each case has a unique story. Despite there being rules to govern chasing debt, it isn’t always clear. We offer free consultation to find out if your case is collectable. Because it is not our intention to chase unassailable debt, you will be told if your case is not recoverable. However, with high recovery rates for good debts, AYOM is a great choice to get your money back. If you would like more information, please call 0800 130 3357 or email If you are unsure on any aspect of debt collection, never be afraid to ask. You may be surprised at the options available to you.

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