Limitation periods in Poland

Updated: 23.08.2023

Limitation periods in Poland

The statute of limitations is an institution that makes it impossible for a creditor to effectively pursue a claim against a creditor after the expiration of the time specified in the law. In other words, the claim has not yet expired, but by raising a plea of the statute of limitations it is possible to evade payment of the claim. This means that it is sufficient that before the court the debtor, indicates that the claim is time-barred according to Laws of Poland. If the debtor has correctly calculated the statute of limitations, the court, in principle, has no choice but to dismiss the claim and discontinue the case.

General limitation period

In Poland the most general statute of limitations period is 6 years. 

However, there are two more general limitation periods for:

  • claims for periodic benefits3 years; and
  • claims related to the running of a business 3 years.

Claims for periodic benefits are claims that the debtor is obliged to fulfill at predetermined intervals. A typical example of a periodic benefit might be rent.

On the other hand, claims related to the running of a business should belong to an entity that is professionally engaged in business and be related to it. However, it is not important against whom these claims are directed. This is because they can be directed against another person engaged in business, as well as against a consumer.

From the general limitation periods indicated above, other provisions of Polish Law provide for exceptions. In other words, general time limits apply only if a special provision does not provide for a different limitation period for a claim.

Special limitation periods

Special statutes of limitations shorten as well as lengthen the statute of limitations in relation to the general terms, for example, claims arising from a labor contract or commission contract become time-barred after 2 years.

A characteristic feature of the special provisions is that they do not know the distinction between business and non-business claims, but introduce a uniform statute of limitations for claims arising from both types of relationships.

Limitation period in international sale of goods

A special limitation period worth noting is introduced by the New York Convention, which regulates the limitation of claims in sales contracts with a foreign trader. This convention provides for as much as 4-year limitation period for claims from international sales of goods. This is much more than the basic statute of limitations in many European countries (in Poland, for example, claims from a sales contract become time-barred after just 2 years). For a contract to be considered international, it must be concluded by parties who, at the time of its conclusion, had their commercial headquarters in countries that are parties to the Convention, e.g. Poland and the United States. The Convention also introduced autonomous provisions for calculating the period of limitation and interrupting its course. Therefore, before concluding a sales contract with a foreign trader, it is worth checking whether the provisions of the Convention will apply to it, and whether they are more favorable to the contracting party than domestic regulations.

Limitation Periods in Poland – Examples

Claim type Limitation period
Domestic carriage contract 1 year
Service contract 2 years, from the moment the work is handed over
Sales contract 2 years
Unpaid invoice (sales) 2 years, from the date of payment on the invoice
Business operations and periodic benefits 3 years
Labor contract 3 years from the date the employee should be paid
Loans and credits – provided by banks 3 years
Rent 3 years
Construction works 3 years, from the completion of construction work
Insurance contract 3 years
Contractual penalty between contractors 3 years
Loans between private individuals 6 years
Inheritance debt 6 years
Other claims 6 years

FAQ – Statute of Limitation in Poland

When does the statute of limitations begin to run?

According to Polish law, the statute of limitations begins to run from the moment the claim became or could have become performable.

Thus, it is worth explaining that performability is the state in which the creditor can effectively demand that the debtor fulfill the claim. In the case of time-bound obligations, this is most often the day following the date on which payment was due. In the case of unlimited obligations, on the other hand, the running of the statute of limitations will begin on the day it would have become performable if the entitled party had taken appropriate action at the earliest possible date.

As a rule, the date of performance should be specified in the contract. If the time limit is not specified in the contract or the obligation to fulfill the performance arises from another legal event, the performance should be fulfilled immediately after the call for performance.

Importantly, the end of the limitation period is the last day of the calendar year, unless the limitation period is less than two years.

Can parties modify period of limitations?

It should also be borne in mind that the statute of limitations set by the Polish Civil Code cannot be shortened or extended by contractual stipulations.

Suspension and interruption of the running of the limitation period

During the course of the running of the statute of limitations, special circumstances may arise that make it difficult or impossible for an entitled person to pursue a claim. The possibility of suspending and interrupting the course of the statute of limitations is also important from the point of view of calculating the limitation period.

Suspension of limitation period

Suspension of the running of the statute of limitations is based on the fact that certain periods during which these special circumstances occurred are not taken into account in determining the running of the limitation period for a claim. When some special circumstances arise at the time when the statute of limitations should have already begun, then the beginning of the statute of limitations is postponed until the mentioned circumstances end. Thus, after their cessation, the statute of limitations does not run from the beginning, but continues.

The Polish legislator has specified the claims in respect of which the course of the statute of limitations is suspended, while the term that has not yet begun its course does not begin, they are:

  • as to claims that children have against their parents – for the period of parental authority;
  • as to claims that are owed by persons who do not have full legal capacity against persons who have custody or guardianship – for the period during which such persons have custody or guardianship;
  • as to claims that are owed by one spouse against the other – for the period of the marriage;
  • as to any claims when, due to force majeure, the entitled person cannot pursue them before a court or other body appointed to hear cases of a given type – for the period of the obstacle.

Interruption of limitation period

The legislator has also provided for situations in which the course of the limitation period is interrupted, which is that the course of the limitation period is broken:

  •  by any action before a court or other body appointed to hear cases or enforce claims of a given type or before an arbitration court, taken directly to assert or establish or satisfy or secure a claim. Actions taken directly to assert a claim are considered to be, inter alia: filing a lawsuit, filing a plea of set-off of a counterclaim by a defendant creditor in a lawsuit, filing a request for a summons to try to settle the matter before a court, filing a request for the appointment of an attorney ex officio to prepare and file a lawsuit, filing a request for an enforcement order, filing a request to a bailiff to initiate enforcement;
  • by recognition of the claim by the person against whom the claim is made;
  • by initiating mediation.

The occurrence of an event that causes the interruption of the statute of limitations causes the limitation period of the claim to start running anew after the occurrence of the event.

Plea of limitation of the claim

After the expiration of the time limit specified in the law, the one against whom the claim is directed, the so-called debtor, may evade satisfaction. In order to evade payment, it is necessary to inform the creditor of the expiration of the statute of limitations on the claim and the refusal to satisfy the claim – this is done by raising a plea of the statute of limitations. The plea of limitation of the claim can be raised both at the pre-trial stage and at the stage of court proceedings. If the case will be litigated as a result of the creditor’s filing of a lawsuit, it is necessary to raise the plea of the statute of limitations each time at this stage of the proceedings, regardless of the fact that the plea of the statute of limitations was already raised before the lawsuit was filed.

It should be noted that, as a rule, the courts of Poland does not take into account the statute of limitations automatically. If the debtor does not know that the claim asserted against him is already time-barred and, consequently, does not raise a plea of limitation during the trial, the court unfortunately will not have the power to take the statute of limitations into account on its own. The situation is different in the case of disputes with consumers. In exceptional cases, the court, after considering the interests of the parties to the proceedings involving the consumer, will be able to disregard the expiration of the statute of limitations, if equity so requires.

Consequences of the statute of limitations

As a result of the expiration of the statute of limitations, the claim does not disappear, the claim continues to exist and can be voluntarily satisfied by the debtor, however, it cannot be satisfied through enforcement. If the statute of limitations is successfully raised at the stage of litigation, the claim should be dismissed. If the debtor voluntarily satisfies the time-barred claim, he may not demand the return of the fulfilled benefit.

Expert team leader DKP Legal anna szymielewicz
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