The clock is ticking on older debt

February 6, 2024
Conveyancing and Litigation
Analogue clock

As a general rule, you have 3 years from the date that a debt arose in which you can either claim payment of the debt OR if you are a debtor, in which a claim to pay must be brought against you.

If summons is not served by the sheriff of the court within the 3 year period, the claim is likely lost and cannot be revived unless very particular circumstances apply.

Let’s take a car accident as an example:

If someone damaged your vehicle in an accident on 1 January 2020, you would have until 31 December 2022 to recover the money from the person responsible for the accident. To claim from them, you would have to serve summons on that person within those 3 years or your claim for the damages would be lost forever. Similarly, if you are the person responsible for the car accident and a summons is not served on you within 3 years, the person who suffered the loss would lose their right to claim against you.

It’s important to know that this 3 year period is not interrupted by the national lockdown and the State of Disaster that exists due to COVID-19.

Should you have a claim that is reaching the end of its 3 year lifespan, you MUST issue summons and have it served by the sheriff on an urgent basis so that you do not lose your right to claim. This is despite the courts currently being closed, as an exception has been made for prescription.

Consult an expert today and find out how, as a creditor, you can avoid your claim being subject to prescription OR as a debtor whether or not a claim against you has expired.

Our litigation specialist Callyn Datnow can be contacted on or +27 82 356 0064