My neighbour owes me, for the past five years, a large sum of money but due to family and health issues I have never claimed for it: Can I still do it after such a long time?
Thank you for your Email. We are taking advantage of our answer to provide some basic tips to be kept in mind when claiming for debts in Spain
In principle, you can claim against your neighbour for the above indicated debt provided it is due and payable, in addition you must be able to prove its existence and accuracy by any means permitted by Law, which typically are: contract signed between the parties, acknowledgement of debt signed by the debtor, invoice, receipt, money transfer, etc.
To facilitate the claim you should obtain as many as possible personal identification details for the debtor: name and surname, NIE NIF, passport number, address etc.
It is evident that in this respect, in order to have a greater guarantee for success we must firstly take the precautions to be able to unfailingly prove the base for the obligation of the debt, by means of a public (signed in front of a public Notary) or private document which describes the obligation for payment, amount of the debt, type of instalments, time allowed to demand the debt and a finally as many details as possible for the debtor. We advise to visit your lawyer in advance to make sure that a document that complies with the necessary requirements for a possible claim is drafted.
As for the elapsed period of 5 years we can inform you that the Spanish Civil Code determines that the right to claim is not timeless, it is not for ever and establishes different time limits to start the legal actions. It states in article 1961 that the actions prescribes by the mere lapse of time set by the Law, this means that once the debt exceeds the legal time limit allowed to claim for it, even if the debt still exists, if you have not claimed for it, you will not be able to do it as it is understood that you have occurred in the loss or extinction of a legal right by failure to exercise it during a period of time fixed by Law (prescripción extintiva).
It is therefore necessary to determine the legal time limit to claim your debt since only then will we know if the debtor could allege the above mentioned (prescripción extintiva).
In your case, it is not possible for us to determine the deadline period to claim, as this really depends of the type of action you intend to initiate and the type of obligation that originated the debt, this unfortunately is not indicated in your query.
Either way we can broadly confirm that the Spanish Civil Code establishes the following:
1.- A general time prescription for personal legal actions of 15 years, as far as a specific time limit it is not established. (Article 1964)
2.- The Spanish Civil Code sets out a series of Special Periods depending on the type of action , highlighting among others:
2.1.- Claims for children’s maintenance, price of rent and any other payment to be done yearly or in shorter intervals, prescribe in 5 years (Article 1966).
2.2.- Legal action claiming for obligations to pay Lawyers, Registrars, Notary, Surveyors, etc, expire after 3 years (Article 1967).
2.3.- Legal actions claiming for obligations arising from the fault or negligence of the matters included in Article 1902 of the Spanish Civil Code known as tort liability, expire after 1 year.
So we need to check in your individual case, what type of period limitations is to apply and whether the debtor may invoke the aforementioned prescription or not.
Should any reader find himself or herself in this situation or similar please do not hesitate to contact us and the appropriate advice will be provided.
The information provided in this article is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues.
White & Baos
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