Recovering debt from a third party can be a tedious task causing many people to procrastinate in taking any legal action.

This is definitely not the best approach as many claims have a legally defined time period within which a claim can be enforced. If a claim is not enforced by the entitled party within the legal time frame it is said that the claim has prescribed.

Claims for monies loaned, services rendered or goods supplied or damage to property must be claimed within 3 years of the claim arising. This means that any legal action to be taken must be initiated with the service of a summons within the three year period.

In establishing if the three year prescription period has lapsed he following factors are reviewed:

1. Claim for monies loaned

Where a defined date on which the loan must be paid back is not stipulated, then the date on which the monies were advanced will be used to calculate the three-year prescription period.

If however, a payment was received from the third party in the interim of negotiations/demand, then the date of the last payment will be used as the date of default and from which the three year period will be calculated.

2. Services rendered or goods supplied

Unless otherwise agreed a claim for services rendered or goods supplied must be instituted by way of summons within three years of the act. This means that the date on which the services were rendered in its entirely or the date on which the goods were supplied will be the date from which the three year prescription period will have to be calculated.

The position will differ in the event that there was agreement on a specified date or extended period within which the debt could be paid. This would apply were it is agreed that the debt will only be payable after for example after 30 days of date of invoice.

3. Damage to property

Where a claim emanates from damage to property there is usually little uncertainty as to the date from which prescription is to be calculated.

Claims of this nature may be for damage to a motor vehicle, damage to one’s personal or commercial property. In order to establish if you still hold a valid claim the three year prescription period must be calculated from the date on which the loss was incurred. This would be the date on which property was in fact damaged.

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