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Limitation period under Dutch law

Limitation period under Dutch law

Under Dutch legislation, a claimant is entitled to lodge a contractual claim, irrespective of any damage sustained. The right to take action arises on the date the contract is breached, and a five-year limitation period commences from that date. The limitation period under Dutch law could however also be shorter or longer, depending on the specific matter.

Understanding the limitation periods under Dutch law is essential for anyone who wishes to seek legal recourse or defend against a claim in the Netherlands. Our civil litigation team at MAAK Advocaten dives deep into this subject to provide you with an in-depth look at various facets of limitation periods under Dutch legislation. If you as an entrepreneur are confronted with an old claim in the Netherlands, it is advisable to find out exactly what the applicable limitation periods are in the Netherlands. Like most legal systems, Dutch law provides for a set of rules that set time limits for bringing a civil action. This is generally referred to as the statute of limitations. This means that if you wait too long and let the limitation period under Dutch law expire, you will not be able to make a claim in the Netherlands either. Conversely, this also applies to a claim against your own company. Once the period has expired, the claim expires by operation of law.

1. Introduction to Limitation Periods in Dutch Legal Framework

The concept of a limitation period is crucial in Dutch law. It denotes the maximum duration within which a claimant can initiate legal proceedings. Once this period lapses, the claim can no longer be pursued. It is good to know that limitation periods can expire, but can also start at different times. It is therefore very important that you always seek the advice of a lawyer who specializes in limitation periods and Dutch procedural law. When a claim is time-barred, it means that you can no longer successfully pursue a claim in court. Unlike in other countries, you can suspend a claim in the Netherlands. You do this by sending a letter in which you clearly reserve the right to pursue the claim in court. This restarts the limitation period.

Most pleas in law in the Netherlands are subject to limitation periods of five (5) years, although some types of claims also have particularly short (1-2 years) or extra long (20-30 years) limitation periods. MAAK Advocaten can examine the claims and all time limits on your behalf and, under certain circumstances, reject or sue on your behalf.

2. The Dutch Civil Code and Its Stance on Limitation Periods

The Dutch Civil Code (DCC) is instrumental in defining the statutory timeframes for different kinds of claims:

2.1 General Limitation Period

Under Article 3:306 of the DCC, the general rule is that a claim will expire after 20 years, unless specified otherwise in the law:

“Rights of action become prescribed on the expiry of twenty years, unless the law provides otherwise”.

2.2 Contractual Obligations

When it comes to contractual obligations, the right to claim performance of such obligations generally expires five years post the occurrence of the cause of action (as stipulated by Articles 3:307 DCC – 310, DCC). The clock on this limitation starts ticking from the day before the damages were incurred and from the moment the claimant identifies the defendant.

2.3 Claims Relating to Breach of Contract

Dutch law is distinct in allowing a claimant to file a contractual claim even if no damage has resulted. The limitation period for these claims starts from the breach date and spans five years. For obligations with unspecified performance times, claimants have an extended 20-year window from the action’s cause date.

2.4 Compensation and Penalty Claims

The DCC mandates a five-year limitation period starting the day after the claimant becomes aware of the damages and the liable party’s identity. This rule varies slightly in specific cases:

  • Environmental damages due to pollution in air, soil, or water have a prolonged limitation period of 30 years from the event causing the harm.
  • Claims arising from injuries or death have a 5-year limitation beginning the day after the incident.

3. Disrupting the Limitation Period Flow

Certain actions or interventions can interrupt an ongoing limitation period:

3.1 Acknowledgement by the Debtor

Any formal acknowledgment by the debtor can reset the limitation clock.

3.2 Initiation of Legal Proceedings

Starting a legal action also serves as an interruption.

3.3 Other Judicial Measures

This includes any legally mandated or mutually agreed judicial acts.

3.4 Written Warnings

In some scenarios, a written warning can serve as an effective interruption, especially when the law demands it.

Upon interruption, a fresh limitation period starts the following day. Also, under specific conditions (as seen in articles 3:320 and 3:321 of the DCC), these periods can be extended concerning particular parties.

4. Expert Insights on Limitation periods under Dutch law

Having seasoned professionals by your side can make all the difference in navigating the intricacies of Dutch limitation periods. At MAAK Advocaten, our dedicated team ensures you are well-equipped to make informed decisions.

In conclusion, the Dutch limitation period framework is comprehensive and caters to various legal scenarios. Timely action, awareness of relevant periods, and legal counsel can significantly impact the success of any claim or defense.

When is a claim time-barred under Dutch law?

The standard limitation period of 5 years applies to

  • General contractual claims for specific services
  • General damage claims or claims for contractual penalties

Shorter periods of limitation apply to:

  • Claims arising from transport contracts (1 year)
  • Claims for payment of the purchase price in consumer sales contracts (2 years)

Longer periods of limitation apply to:

  • Enforcement of a binding judgment or arbitration award (20 years)
  • Receivables secured by a mortgage (20 years)
  • damage caused by air, soil or water pollution (30 years)

Limitation periods in the Netherlands

In order to determine which limitation period under Dutch law applies in your particular case, it is important that you know what plea you wish to rely on (i.e. what is the legal “classification” of the claim you wish to make). It is also important to find out when the limitation period starts. This can be very technical, and it is therefore advisable to seek advice from a lawyer in the Netherlands on these questions. Our experienced attorneys in the Netherlands can advise you and your company and help you to keep an eye on important limitation periods in the Netherlands so that you can make claims in the Netherlands in good time.

Article 3:317 DCC:

– 1. The prescription period for a right of action to claim the performance of an obligation is interrupted by a letter of formal notice in which performance is demanded or by a written announcement in which the creditor unambiguous reserves his right to claim performance.
– 2. The prescription period of other rights of action is interrupted by a letter of formal notice, provided that it is followed within six months by a legal action as defined in the previous Article.

The suspension of limitation periods under Dutch law

In the Netherlands, a limitation period under Dutch law may be suspended either by initiating legal proceedings, by means of a written reminder, a notification or an acknowledgement by the debtor, or in any other form agreed by the parties. This interruption of an ongoing limitation period is also called ‘stuiting‘ in Dutch law. An action that suspends the limitation period can only lead to the desired result if the other party is notified immediately.

Dutch specialist lawyer for limitation periods

For any legal inquiries or support in the Netherlands, please feel free to contact our adept team at MAAK Advocaten. Committed to excellence, our Dutch lawyers provide superior legal services tailored to your distinct needs. You can reach our law firm in the Netherlands through our website, by email, or phone.

Our approachable and skilled staff at MAAK Attorneys will be delighted to assist you, arranging a meeting with one of our specialized attorneys in the Netherlands. Whether you need a Dutch litigation attorney or a Dutch contract lawyer in Amsterdam, we are eager to guide you through the legal intricacies and secure the most favorable results for your situation.

Contact details

Remko Roosjen | attorney-at-law (‘advocaat’)
+31 (0)20 – 210 31 38

Remko Roosjen is a Dutch contract attorney in the Netherlands and creates close working relationships with clients, providing pragmatic solutions across on all legal matters in the Netherlands. Remko is a partner of our Commercial law firm in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His specialist areas include Dutch Contract Law, including Dutch Commercial Contracting and Legal Disputes, including civil litigation, arbitration and mediation. Remko is a sharp, creative Dutch attorney with extensive cross-border experience representing both foreign plaintiffs and defendants. Visit Remko’s profile via the website or via his LinkedIn Profile.

The information on this legal blog serves purely for educational purposes and should not be taken as specific legal guidance. While we endeavor to maintain accurate and current information, we do not assert its absolute completeness or relevance to your particular situation. For advice tailored to your legal concerns, we urge you to engage with a licensed attorney. Please note that the blog’s content may change without notice, and we are not liable for any inaccuracies or missing information.