Thanks for your question.
You've got to write to them outlining the debt, when it was incurred, that it was unpaid and asking them to pay the money to you within a stated time (eg. 7 or 14 days) otherwise you will issue a claim for the money at Court. Draw their attention to s.5 Limitation Act 1980 or if the contract was signed as a deed s.8 for which the time limit is 12 years and therefore your claim is not time barred by statute. Entitled the letter "Letter before intended legal proceeds" and embolden it.
If you cannot find evidence of payment or they cannot produce evidence then you have an actionable claim, make this point to them and it will get them to engage in the issue. This will get the attention of those that cannot be bothered with it, similarly with those that refuse to do anything.
Quite simply, if it is a debt of the business the business has a right to pursue it. If they state that they do not owe the debt then they should produce evidence to show that it has been repaid. If it ends up with the debtors saying they've paid and the business saying it hasn't then you are just going to have to issue and litigate.
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You will not be able to pursue that debt if your stated chronology is correct. No claim, regardless of correspondence/conversations, can be pursued if six years has expired from the date the cause of action accrued - this would be the date at which the contract was breached, so if payment terms on the invoice is 30 days from the date of the invoice then the cause of action would accrue the day after that.
I think it's unfortunate phrasing from the debtor's solicitor really.
Sorry it could not be better news.
Yes, you have to issue the claim before the time limit expires. As long as you have it on the Court books before the time limit then it does not matter if the 6 years expires during litigation.
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