The normal rule is that money judgments need to be enforced within six years of being awarded. The question of whether there is no further action that the judgment creditor can take to enforce it beyond that time period is one that is often raised.
The answer is not necessarily.
The law on this seems to suggest that it cannot be enforced. The relevant law is at:
Section 24 of the Limitation Act 1980 which says that:
An action shall not be brought upon any judgment after the expiration of six years from the date on which the judgment became enforceable
No arrears of interest in respect of any judgment debt shall de recovered after the expiration of six years from the date on which the interest became due.
However this matter was taken to the House of Lords by a creditor seeking to enforce a judgment after 11 and a half years!
In the case of Lowsley v Forbes the claimant wished to enforce the judgment 11.5 years later, when the defendant returned to the country having been absent for much of the preceding time.
The House of Lords decided that the legislation barred the bringing of a fresh action, but that execution of the existing judgment did not count as a fresh action. Therefore the claimant was able to take enforcement action.
However, the Lords confirmed that the limit of six years’ interest did still apply.
One thing that you do need to remember is that the main effect of a long delay in enforcement will be whether the judgment debtor can be found, has sufficient assets and is solvent. In the case of a business, it may have been wound up or gone into insolvency.
Also only six years’ interest can be recovered which at 8% per annum can be a lot of lost interest.
Where you want to instruct the sheriff to enforce the judgment, permission will be required from the Court to issue a writ of execution on a judgment more than six years old under RSC Order 46, rule 2(1)(a). The Court is likely to ask why there has been such a delay and will take this into account when making its decision such as the debtor could not be found or was abroad.
The judgment debtor may also challenge enforcement on the basis of delay. However, he will have to provide compelling evidence of the extent of prejudice to the debtor by reason of the delay.
To Summarise then there are cases where a judgment previously considered unenforceable becomes viable, and can still be enforced beyond the six year period. However, we strongly advise that you take enforcement action as soon as it becomes necessary to increase the chances of success.