We get asked a lot of questions on our blog and our Debt Questions forum about whether people are still liable for their debts. For this week’s blog post we are going to look at some of the most common scenarios people ask about and answer your queries.

I left the UK and moved abroad 10 years ago, leaving behind me several thousand pounds worth of debt. I have now moved back to the UK and have received a letter from a debt collector asking me to call them and arrange payment.

A debt becomes statute barred in England and Wales if you have ignored it and not made any payment attempt in the last six years. During those six years however a creditor could have taken court action using your last known address. They may not have been able to enforce it since you have been out of the country, but if they did take legal action previously the court may allow them to enforce the debt now they have obtained your new address.

If your debt is statute barred the creditor cannot enforce the debt through the courts but they could try and still chase you for the monies owed. If they did request payment from you and you are sure the debt is statute barred you will need to write a letter to the creditor explaining that the limitation period has expired. You must be quite certain that the alleged debt is statute barred however because if it isn’t you start a new six year period for the debt from the date of acknowledgement.

If they try to argue your debt isn’t statute barred and try to get a county court judgement they would have to prove you have acknowledged the debt or made a payment within the last six years.  If they can’t prove this then they have no right to chase you for the monies owed. If you did wish to pay back some of your debt however you could make a full and final settlement offer for a proportion of the debt.

I’m being chased for a store card debt for the first time in 12 years. Why now and do I have to pay it?

Your creditors may have made attempts to chase you in the past but may not have been able to find the right contact details for you. The debt may also have been sold on to another debt collection company and they may take new measures to try and pursue you for the debt.

If your creditor hasn’t got a county court judgement in the last six years and you haven’t acknowledged the debt or paid anything towards it during this period, the debt will have become statute barred. This means that even though a new debt collection company owns the debt they can’t legally force you to pay it. They can however continue to chase for payment because they now own the debt. Once you have told them the debt is stature barred however they should not chase you any longer (unless they can prove otherwise).

My ex-partner racked up a great deal of debt while living at my address. We are now separated and I have no idea where he lives but I have debt collectors ringing me for payment. I’ve told them he doesn’t live here anymore but I’m worried they’ll turn up and try take my belongings.

First of all debt collectors cannot take seize your belongings, only bailiffs can and they wouldn’t be able to take any of your property providing you are the owner of your goods and not your ex-partner. Remember these are not your debts so you are not liable for them. If debt collectors continue to call or even visit, simply explain your ex-partner doesn’t live there anymore and the debts are nothing to do with you. If the debt is joint however then they are within their rights to contact either of you as you would be jointly and severally liable for the debt.

I’ve ignored a credit card debt for 5 years now and I thought it had been forgotten about because the company hadn’t chased me. I have now received a letter however asking me to make a payment. Do I need to pay it or has it become statute barred?

The debt has not become statute barred. If you live in England or Wales and have not acknowledged a debt or paid anything towards it in the last six years, and your creditors have not legally enforced the debt, then it will become statute barred. If you live in Scotland “short prescription” which is their equivalent of statute barring takes place after five years. The other difference in Scotland is that the debt is then extinguished.

If you live in England and Wales your debt has not met the time period for statute barred. You will also need to check whether the credit card company has taken legal action to enforce the debt – e,g Have they applied for a CCJ during the last six years? You mention they have not chased you for this debt but if you have changed address or contact details in the last six years they might have chased you at a previous address. They may be contacting you now because they have found up to date details for you –if you have registered to vote for example, creditors can find your details on the electoral register. As the debt is still valid they are within their right to chase you for the debt and you should contact them to arrange payment. Failure to do so may lead to them taking further action.

Can I be chased for rent arrears from 7 years ago? I moved out of a previous rented property in 2009 and didn’t realise the landlords had applied for a CCJ against me (this was in 2010). I think because they didn’t have my new address, they couldn’t enforce it. I’ve just had a letter from the landlords to my new address asking me to repay the rent arrears but surely they can’t chase me for this debt after all this time? The CCJ isn’t even on my credit record anymore.

Creditors can chase a debt after six years has passed if they took court action to enforce the debt within the six year period, which they did.  They will need to reapply to the court and the court will question why it wasn’t enforced previously but they can explain they didn’t have an address for you then. With this in mind, the landlords can still chase you for this debt.  

If you had been made bankrupt however since the CCJ was issued they won’t be able to pursue this as all debts would have been written off as part of the bankruptcy order. We recommend you contact your landlords and look to arrange payment.