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How long does an old invoice remain valid? What you need to know

So you’ve got some unpaid invoices lurking in your accounts, and you're not sure what to do with them.

Maybe you've just discovered an old invoice that slipped through the cracks, or maybe you've been chasing down a customer who seems to have completely disappeared. Either way, you're probably wondering, how long can I keep chasing after this money?

The short answer is for most debts, that limit is 6 years.

In England and Wales, we’re governed by The Limitation Act 1980 which details how long you can pursue someone for what they owe you.

The Act explains that you have 6 years to chase those elusive payments before they become statute barred, which means that you are unable to use legal action to provoke payment. The Act also states that the clock doesn’t just start once the debt has become due, it resets itself each time the debtor acknowledges the debt or makes a payment towards it.

What you can do to get paid sooner

Before you go diving headfirst into your archives, there are a few key points to keep in mind.

Firstly, you've got to stay in touch with your debtor, the more you’ve been in contact with them the more likely you are to receive your money. This means you need to be sending them reminders about their outstanding bills. If you've not been in recent contact with them or they haven’t acknowledged the debt, they might try to argue the case, which will only lengthen the process.

Secondly, you need to have proof that you held up your end of the deal, whether that was a service you provided or goods that you sold, noting any disputes over the invoices documented too. If the customer can provide evidence that they informed you of a dispute, then according to the Limitation Act, you may not have the right to pursue the matter if the invoices are older than 6 years.

And lastly, be patient. Successful debt collection doesn’t happen overnight. Give your customer some time to dig through their records and figure out what's what. After all, they might've had a change of heart or misplaced the invoice.

If time’s running out, consider partnering with the professionals

If all else fails, don't be afraid to call in a professional debt collector. Debt collection agencies are there to help. While there may be a fee associated with using their services, it’s often worth investing a portion of what you are owed in order to actually receive the full amount. Think of it as a wise investment in your financial future.

There’s the 6-year invoice rule, made simple. Just remember to stay vigilant, organised and above all, patient. Good things come to those who wait – even if it takes time to get there.

Are you ready to take the first step?

Contact our debt collection experts today to discuss your requirements on 020 8126 5299 or email enquiries@redwoodcollections.com.

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