Statute of Limitations
1. Statute of limitations
Regular statute of limitations: 3 years (§195 BGB)
Property rights: 10 years
Statute-barred after 30 years:
- Legally valid claims (judgments, decisions covering costs fixation, enforcement orders)
- Claims arising from enforceable settlements or enforceable certificates
- Claims which have become enforceable on account of judgments resulting from insolvency procedures
- Claims involving handover of property
- Family and inheritance claims
In addition there are numerous exceptions and special regulations such as:
- Limitations of claims on account of defects under the Purchase Act (§ 438 BGB) are statute-barred after 30 years, rights registered by the Land Registry after 5 years for buildings and 2 years in other cases
- Limitations of claims on account of defects with regard to work orders (§ 634a. BGB) are statute-barred after 2 years for work of which the success depends on its manufacturing, maintenance or modification, after 5 years for buildings and after the regular limitation period (i.e. 3 years) in other cases
- Limitations of claims arising from travel arrangements (§ 651g.) are statue-barred after 2 years whereby the limitation period commences on the day mentioned in the arrangement as being the date on which the journey should have ended.
- A landlord’s compensation claims based on modifications or deterioration of the rented property are stature-barred after 6 months with effect from the time rented property is being handed over to the landlord (§ 548 BGB).
2. Start of statutes of limitations
Statutes of limitation start at the end of the year in which the claim occurred and the creditor learned about circumstances justifying the claim or the year in which, bar from gross neglect, it should have come to his notice.
Exception: In the case of legally established claims the statute of limitations starts when the judgment becomes legally effective.
3. Stay of limitations
A stay of limitations implies that a certain time period is not taken into consideration by the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is more or less considered to have been stopped. At the end of that period it commences again as per normal.
The statute of limitations is stayed, amongst other things, by
- lodging a complaint
- serving a judicial reminder notification
- registering a claim within the scope of an insolvency procedure
- filing an application for legal aid
- negotiations between the debtor and creditor
This last reason for a stay is of particular importance: if the debtor and creditor are still negotiating the claim's validity then the stay continues until one of the parties refuses to negotiate any further.
Important: the creditor must of course be able to substantiate these negotiations!
4. Restarting statute of limitations
The statute of limitations starts again when the claims is being acknowledged as a result of a
- deposit payment
- interest payment
- provided guarantee
- an explicit statement of acknowledgement
Attention: This contribution is aimed at providing a general overview of the law governing the statute of limitations which became effective on 01.01.2002. The individual aspects are so complicated that this contribution cannot and should not replace consultation of an expert.