On July 9, 2018, Polish Civil Code was amended, introducing a modification of the rules regarding time limitation of civil claims. The general ten-year limitation period was changed to 6 years.
The second most important limitation period – three years – does not change. It will still apply, unless the law provides otherwise, to business-related claims and to periodic claims (e.g. lease rent).
Also the claims (finally) reviewed by a court or a similar authority will now expire after 6 years from final court/ authority award, except for periodic claims that will be time-barred after 3 years from final court/ authority award.
The amendment also introduces new rules for calculating the limitation period – now the end of the limitation period falls on the last day of the calendar year (similar rules are adopted by Polish tax law). In practice, therefore, the limitation periods will be somewhat longer because, for example, the business activity claim, which will become due on September 30, 2018, expires on December 31, 2021, i.e. after 3 years and 3 months. At the same time, the new legislation provides that the “last day of the calendar year” rule does not apply to claims whose limitation period is shorter than 2 years (for example, the owner’s claim against the holder of the owner’s asset for remuneration concerning the use of such asset – for which the limitation period is 1 year).
However, the most spectacular change is a new rule providing for strengthened consumer protection: a regulation prohibiting satisfaction of the claim after the expiry of the limitation period for the claim against the consumer. This amendment goes in the right direction; it significantly reduces the cases of “debt hunters” who bought and then claimed against natural persons the expired claims, expecting that the objection on the basis of limitation will not be effectively raised.
The consumer will still be entitled to pay the debt being subject to the time limitation if he/ she wishes to do so; but now the court will be obliged to check (and, if applicable, apply) the limitation objection if the claim is filed against the consumer. On the other hand, the court has the possibility of not taking into account the expiry of the limitation period of the claim against the consumer if the rules of equity so require.
The new rules of limitation apply from now on also to claims which arose prior the date of entry into force of the amendments – if they are not already time-limited. This general rule is subject to certain exceptions concerning i) shortening the limitation period in certain cases, ii) extension of the limitation period for consumers as creditors, and iii) protection of consumers (debtors), the claims against whom have become time-barred and no objection of limitation has been raised.
To summarise, the above-described amendments should be regarded as a step in the right direction. However, due to the lack of precision, some of the new provisions may be open for different interpretations, thus resulting in the situation where many entities may have doubts on how to calculate correctly the limitation period of their claims.