How Long Can A Debt Be Chased In The UK?

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Dealing with debt can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. It’s important to be aware of your rights and the legal limitations that govern the process of debt collection in the United Kingdom. Among the questions that commonly arise in this context, one stands out: “How long can a debt be chased in the UK?”

In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of debt collection time limits in the UK. By the end of this article, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the rules creditors must adhere to when pursuing unpaid debts.

How Long Can a Debt Be Chased in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, debt collection is regulated by specific time limits known as “limitation periods.” These periods dictate the duration during which a creditor has the legal right to pursue a debt. 

It’s crucial to note that these limitations can vary depending on the type of debt and the circumstances surrounding it. 

Here’s an in-depth look at these limitation periods:

Limitation Periods

  • Simple Contracts: For most types of debts, including credit card debts, personal loans, and utility bills, the standard limitation period is six years. This means that a creditor has up to six years from the date of the last payment or acknowledgment of the debt to take legal action.
  • Mortgages: Mortgages, classified as secured debts, follow a different rule. In cases of mortgage arrears, the limitation period extends to twelve years. However, if the mortgage lender has obtained a court order for possession of the property, there is no time limit for enforcing that order.
  • Council Tax: Council tax arrears adhere to unique rules. The limitation period for council tax debt is also six years, but there’s a crucial distinction – this period resets each time a liability order is issued. This means that if a liability order is obtained, the council can continue pursuing the debt.
  • Debts Outside England and Wales: If the debt is related to property located outside England and Wales, the limitation period might differ. It’s advisable to consult with legal experts when dealing with such cases to ensure you understand the relevant time limits.

Acknowledgment and Part-Payments

It’s important to understand the implications of acknowledging a debt or making a part-payment. If you acknowledge the debt in writing or make a part-payment during the limitation period, the clock resets.

In other words, the limitation period starts anew, and the creditor gains an additional six years (or the appropriate time frame) within which to chase the debt. This is a critical consideration, as it could extend the time within which the creditor can take legal action against you.

Statute Barred Debt

A debt becomes “statute barred” when the limitation period expires. When a debt is statute-barred, it means that the creditor can no longer take legal action to recover the debt. However, it’s essential to note that while the creditor cannot pursue legal action, they can still contact you to request repayment. 

You are not legally obligated to pay a statute-barred debt, but it’s advisable to seek professional advice if you encounter such a situation.


Some debts fall into exceptional categories and do not have a limitation period. These debts can be pursued indefinitely. Examples include:

  • Court Fines: Debts related to court fines, such as parking fines or criminal fines, do not have a limitation period.
  • Student Loans: Student loan debts do not fall under the standard limitation periods. They are governed by their unique rules and can be collected even if they are older than six years.
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC): Debts owed to HMRC, such as unpaid taxes, also have special rules. HMRC can pursue these debts even if they exceed the standard limitation period.


Understanding the limitation periods for debt collection in the UK is essential for both debtors and creditors. While creditors have a finite time frame within which to pursue unpaid debts, debtors must be aware of their rights and responsibilities.

If you find yourself uncertain about the status of a debt or if you believe you are being pursued for a statute-barred debt, it’s advisable to seek legal advice. Additionally, maintaining accurate records of any acknowledgments or part-payments made is crucial, as these actions can significantly impact the limitation period.

In summary, the answer to the question, “How long can a debt be chased in the UK?” depends on various factors, including the type of debt and specific circumstances. 

Being well-informed about your rights and responsibilities will empower you to navigate the complexities of debt collection and make informed decisions regarding your financial situation. Always remember that debt collection practices must comply with the law, and debtors have rights that should be respected.

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