Statute of limitations in The Netherlands


The Dutch Civil Code includes a statute of limitations, stating the time limit to bring a claim under Dutch law. In general, a claim expires after 20 years, unless the law prescribes otherwise (Article 3:306, DCC). However, the right to claim performance of a contractual obligation expires five years after the date the cause of action arises (Article 3:307 − 310, DCC). The limitation period begins a) the day proceeding that of which the damages occurred and b) when the claimant becomes aware of who the defendant is.


Limitation period of contractual claims under Dutch law

Under Dutch law a claimant can file a contractual claim, regardless of whether damage has occurred. The cause of action accrues on the date of the breach of contract and the five-year limitation period runs from this date.

When the contractual obligation concerns an obligation to perform something at an indefinite time, the general rule applies where the claimant can bring a claim within 20 years after the date that the cause of action arises.


Limitation period under Dutch law of a compensation claim

A claim for compensation or to pay a penalty must be made within five years of the day following the day the claimant becomes aware of:

  1. The damage (or of the fact that the claimant could demand a penalty); and
  2. The identity of the person responsible.

When the damage is due to air, soil or water pollution, the right of action to a damages claim becomes prescribed on the date 30 years after the day on which the even occurred that caused the damage.

When a claim for damages is made due to death or injury, the right of action becomes prescribed on the expiry of 5 years from the day following the day on which the injury or death happened.


Interruption of limitation period under Dutch law

Under Dutch law a limitation period can be interrupted by (article 3:316 of the Dutch Civil Code):

  1. Legal action (initiating legal proceedings)
  2. Any act of judicial recourse instituted in a legally required form or in the form agreed by the parties.
  3. Written warnings (in certain circumstances).

By interrupting a limitation period, a new limitation period will begin on the day following the interruption.

Limitation periods can also be extended in relation to certain parties. Conditions for extension of a period is outlined in articles 3:320 and 3:321 of the Dutch Civil Code.

It is not possible to eliminate or suspend a statute of limitations in the Netherlands until the limitation period has elapsed (article 3:322 (3) of the Dutch Civil Code).


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