HomeFITNESSWhen do you stop having to pay?

When do you stop having to pay?

THE prescription of debts happens when, after a certain period of time, the creditor is no longer entitled to payment. And the debtor to have the obligation to pay. However, this only happens if, during that period of time, the creditor does nothing to collect the debt.

The deadlines for a debt to expire vary from a few months to 20 years and, for a debtor to be able to refuse to pay, it is necessary first invoke the prescription?? Don’t just ignore and let time pass.

Contrary to what it may seem, waiting for debts to expire is not a good strategy to get rid of a charge. Also because it is unlikely that your creditor will not take any initiative to get you paid what is owed.


In order to invoke the prescription of debts, it is necessary to know the deadlines, because not all of them expire in the same period. The moment from which the period begins to count is the moment when the payment fails, but there are exceptions, as we will see.

O Ordinary statute of limitations is 20 years ??article 309 of the Civil Code?? This means that, if the debt is not included in any of the exceptions that we will see below, only after 20 years can the statute of limitations be invoked.

This, of course, if there has not been, on the part of the creditor, a judicial notification or, on the part of the debtor, a confession of debt and payment agreement. If one of these situations arises, the period starts counting again.

Six months

Debts relating to essential services such as water, electricity, gas and telecommunications prescribe in just six months (art.º 10.º Law n.º 23/96??

However, it is unlikely that if you fail to pay any of these bills, the creditor will not seek to receive or make a payment arrangement.

The six-month limitation period also applies to debts contracted in accommodation, food or drinks and relating to the provision of those services.

Two years

Two years is the limitation period for student debts to establishments that provide accommodation and/or foodas well as to teaching, education, assistance or treatment establishments?? As for tuition fees due for attending public university education, this period does not apply (see 8-year period).

They also prescribe at the end of two years the debts to merchants that result from sale of objects to individuals, such as those arising from the supply of products or the execution of work by someone who professionally exercises a industry??

The credits for services rendered in the exercise of liberal professions and for the reimbursement of the corresponding expenses also expire after two years. This category includes lawyers, private physicians, dentists, psychologists, veterinarians, nurses, accountants, solicitors, architects, engineers and other service providers.

Three years

If the health-related debts go to the National Health Servicethe limitation period is three years (art. Decree-Law No. 218/99??

If the user fees owed result from prolonged treatment, the term starts from the last day on which assistance was provided.

This is yet another case where it is increasingly difficult to invoke debt statute of limitations.

The Moderating Rates Information System (SITAM) is implemented practically throughout the country. Through SITAM, letters are sent with an ATM reference for payment. In this way, forgetfulness and non-compliance are avoided, which has already allowed the recovery of millions of euros in debt.

When dealing with debts to institutions and private medical services, the limitation period is two years.

Five years

Five years is the limitation period for debts resulting from “periodically renewable installments??article 310 of the Civil Code??

Included in this category:

  • Perpetual or life annuities;
  • Rents and leases or condominium fees;
  • Forums;
  • Conventional or legal interest, even if illiquid, and company dividends;
  • Capital amortization installments payable with interest;
  • Overdue alimony;
  • Any other periodically renewable installments.

This means that debts related to housing credit installments, for example, prescribe after five years, although it is not expected that the bank will not take any action during this period to collect them. That is, these debts are unlikely to be subject to prescription.

In the case of debts related to a credit card, the term is longer (see further ahead).

What does the law say
Do I have to pay off a personal credit debt that is more than 15 years old?

The law also says that five years is the limitation period for debts to Social Security?? The period begins to run from the moment the payment fails.

However, it is interrupted whenever any administrative step is taken so that the debt is paid and the debtor is informed. The deadline is also interrupted whenever a request for an extrajudicial conciliation procedure is presented.

Eight years

Eight years is the limitation period for debts related to public school feesthe prescription rules provided for in the General Tax Law are applicable.

The same law states that the tax authorities have a period of four years to notify the taxpayer that he must pay a certain tax (IRS, IRC, IMI, IUC, IVA) or fee. If you do not do so within this period, the right to settle the tax expires (Article 45 of the General Tax Law??

However, this time frame is not so linear. AT still has another four years to try, through tax foreclosure, to receive the amounts owed. Thus, it would be necessary eight years for debt statute of limitations the finances ??article 48??

In addition, the law also determines that the deadlines are interrupted whenever there is a notification, citation or equivalent act (article 49?? And, in this case, the new limitation period does not start “until the decision that puts an end to the process is final”.

In other words, the processes can take a long time and getting the statute of limitations on the debt is not easy.

Credit card debts

Debts related to credit cards?? overdrafts on current accounts or credit lines prescribe after 20 years, informs Deco.

The consumer protection association recalls that this was the understanding of a judgment of the Court of Appeal of Porto relating to a debt arising from the use of a credit card.

When does the prescription take effect?

couple debts

One of the assumptions for the prescription of debts is that the creditor has not taken any legal action to receive the missing amounts.

Thus, if the latter does not require, within the time limits provided for by law, that payment be made, the debtor may invoke the statute of limitations for the debt. From that moment on, the creditor can no longer go to court to have the debt paid. In other words, in practice, from a legal point of view, there is no way to claim what is owed to you.

However, and for the prescription of debts to be valid, it must be invoked by the debtor ??article 303 of the Civil Code?? That is, don’t just ignore and let time pass.

If you have prescribed debts, it is advisable to send a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt to the entity in question. In addition, it will be necessary for you to claim this condition if, for example, you receive a notification to pay and the deadline has already passed.

From that moment on, he no longer has the obligation to pay and the creditor can no longer use the judicial route to receive.

Article originally published in February 2021. Updated in November 2022.

  • Electronic Gazette: Civil Code – Decree-Law No. 47344
  • Electronic Republic Gazette: Law No. 23/96 of 26 July – Creates the legal system for some mechanisms aimed at protecting the user of essential public services
  • Electronic Republic Gazette: Decree-Law No. 218/99 of 15 June – Establishes the debt collection system for institutions and services integrated into the National Health Service

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