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What is a legal claim?
Under the Civil Code, parties may have claims against each other. These claims are called claims.  The person who has something to claim from the other person has a legal claim in respect of that claim. The 'right' section expresses that the beneficiary has the right to bring proceedings before a court   (i.e. before the civil court) in respect of his claim – such as payment of a sum of money, or transfer of property. The filing of an action therefore refers to the bringing of an action before the court.

Legal action is independent of performance
An action is therefore the right to claim before the competent court that the debtor of the service in question be ordered to perform it. To that extent, an action is independent of the performance itself: that obligation – the obligation to perform the performance – is independent of the right to enforce that performance in court. An unenforceable obligation is also referred to as a natural obligation (Article 6:3 of the Dutch Civil Code). Thus, as long as a creditor has the right to seek legal performance of his obligation, this also means that the debtor of that obligation must take into account that such a claim is brought against him. This debtor must of course be able to defend himself. The passage of time makes it difficult to conduct such a defence. For example, if a debtor wishes to defend himself against a claim under a (written) loan agreement with the statement that although the debt once existed, the creditor has paid him, or that he has already paid, the burden of proof of that defence will rest on the debtor. This means that the debtor must be able to provide evidence.

Written evidence needed in defence of legal action
If the evidence is to be provided by means of written evidence, this means that, as long as the creditor can bring the claim in question, the debtor must have the evidence at his disposal in order to be able to provide it later. If he no longer has the evidence, it is in principle at his risk. Many pieces of evidence – such as administration, e-mails, letters – are archived over time, or fall into oblivion. The same also applies to witness evidence in respect of agreements made orally. If a witness does not remember certain events due to the passage of time, or if the witness has died, for example, this is in principle at the risk of the debtor who must provide the dischartory evidence. The longer a creditor therefore has the opportunity to bring a claim, the less legal certainty is involved. For this reason, limitation periods apply in respect of legal claims.

Consequence of limitation: claim no longer legally enforceable
After the expiry of a limitation period, the claim can no longer be enforced in court; a natural obligation remains. In principle, a natural commitment can be settled.

Main limitation periods
There is a general limitation period of 20 years, insofar as the law does not stipulate another limitation period. In most cases, however, a legal claim expires after 5 years, or even less. When this period starts to run depends on the nature of the legal claim. The main limitation periods are dealt with below.

Limitation period of 5 years in legal actions for the performance of an obligation A legal claim for the performance of an obligation under contract (such as, for example, a loan agreement) expires 5 years after the claim has become due and payable. The claim for delivery of an already paid item, which has not yet been delivered, also expires after 5 years (Article 3:307 paragraph 1 of the Dutch Civil Code). Legal actions for the payment of interest on sums of money, annuities, dividends, rents, and everything that must be paid within a year or in a shorter period, become time-barred 5 years after the date of due and payable (Article 3:308 of the Dutch Civil Code).

Legal action for damages or payment of a fine
A legal claim for damages or for payment of an agreed fine is time-barred by the expiry of 5 years after the day on which the injured party became aware of the damage or the claimability of the fine and of the person liable for it, and in any case by the expiry of 20 years (Article 3:310 paragraph 1 of the Dutch Civil Code). Because this moment can therefore take a long time, the law stipulates that the claim is in any case time-barred after 20 years after the claim has become due and payable (with some exceptional cases, such as environmental pollution, sexual offences and damage injuries or death).

Deviating limitation periods: for example, dismissal law, tax law and consumer purchase Various special limitation periods apply, such as in dismissal law, tax law and consumer purchase. For example, a claim for payment of the purchase price in the case of consumer purchase expires after 2 years (Article 7:28 of the Dutch Civil Code).

Limitation jurisdiction of execution of judgments
The power to execute a judgment is time-barred 20 years after the date of the judgment. However, the limitation period is 5 years with regard to what the judgment states must be paid in a year or in a shorter period; in practice, this amounts to interest. Interest that is due annually or less by virtue of a judgment therefore becomes time-barred by the expiry of 5 years, unless timely interruption.

Limitation period of claim recorded in notarial deed
The claim recorded in a notarial deed can - provided that the claim is sufficiently clearly recorded - be enforced by force of the instrument issued in enforceable form (de grosse) without judicial determination.  However, this claim can simply become time-barred; in principle, the claim expires 5 years after the date on which the claim became due and payable. The power to enforce a notarial deed in which the claim is recorded is therefore not time-barred after 20 years, but after 5 years.


Limitation periods can (in most cases) be disturbed. The termination of a running limitation period is called interruption. Interruption occurs by an act of legal proceedings (the filing of a claim by means of a summons or a petition), by a written reminder or communication, or by recognition by the debtor. The method of interruption required may vary according to the nature of the claim to be ed. In the case of claims that do not concern the performance of an agreement or damages, an interruption by a reminder or written notification must be followed by the initiation of proceedings within 6 months. Otherwise, the legal claim is still time-barred. In principle, a new limitation period starts (but with a maximum of 20 years).

The role of AGA Lawyers
A lawyer of AGA Lawyers offers assistance in most cases within contract law. In the event of a conflict concerning contract law, an expert lawyer is at your side. Together with you, the lawyer determines the right approach and ensures the best possible solution and result. Advising, mediating, litigating, negotiating or drafting legal documents, AGA lawyers arrange it for you.

Contact AGA Lawyers
The contract lawyers of AGA lawyers can do a lot for you, such as guiding you throughout the entire process. Feel free to contact one of our expert contract law lawyers for a 1st free intake interview.

TELEPHONE: 040-8444523  (1st intake interview free of charge and without obligation) (Available Mon to Fri between 09.00h and 21.00h). We can also be reached by e-mail:
 info@agajuristen.nl or contact form on the right side of our website.

More information
At the top of the search bar of this website, you will find more information about the specific jurisdictions and issues. To do this, click on the search bar at the top of the website! More information can also be found via the links (blue colored text sections) on this page above.