What does ‘time-barred’ mean?
If something is time-barred, it means that the time set for carrying out a particular action has elapsed. For example, many standard forms of building contract have a time bar clause which states that no extension of time will be given unless a notice of delay is submitted by the contractor within 28 days of the delaying event becoming known. Therefore, if no notice has been submitted by the Contractor within the 28 day period the Contractor’s claim for an extension of time is said to be time-barred. Of course, that is just an example and there may be other factors to be taken into account when considering the entitlement to an extension of time.
Usually, when reference is made to time-barred, the reference is to the effect of the Act 253, The Limitation Act 1953. The Act sets out the time limits for the bringing of various kinds of action. In brief, the most important periods in construction work are:
• For actions in simple contract: 6 years from the date of the breach of contract.
• For actions in tort such as negligence: 6 years from the date when the cause of action accrues (e.g. when physical damage occurs).
• For latent damage: either 6 years from the date on which the damage occurred or 3 years from which the party wishing to claim first knew about the important facts.
It is important to understand that expiry of the periods in the Limitation Act 1953 does not prevent a party suing. But once the relevant period has expired, it is for the party being sued to raise the expiry of the limitation period as a complete defence. Therefore, if a defendant for some reason omits to raise such a defence and pays up after the limitation period has expired, the payment is valid. It should be noted that, in cases of fraudulent concealment (i.e. deliberate concealment of defects), the limitation period does not begin to run until the fraud is discovered or could have been discovered with reasonable diligence.
For more details on the Limitation Act 1953
To read a copy of the Limitation Act