Time Limits For Court Proceedings 07 Dec 2011

New Zealand law imposes time limits on suing other people.  These time limits often trip people up, and prevent them bringing what would otherwise have been strong claim. Parry Field Lawyers provide legal advice on a range of commercial matters include disputes and court proceedings.

Leaky Homes

One common area where legal time limits become relevant is with leaky home claims.  Imagine you discover that the eleven year old house which you bought four years ago is not weathertight and needs major repairs that will cost over $200,000.

If you ask a lawyer to help recover compensation, one of the issues they will raise with you is limitation periods, which are time limits within which your claim must be brought.

For example, if you believe that the real estate agent who sold you the house misled you and you would like to bring a claim under the Fair Trading Act 1986. However, your claim under that Act might be barred because applications under the Fair Trading Act must be made within three years after the date on which the loss or damage, or the likelihood of loss or damage, was discovered or ought reasonably to have been discovered.

You might consider bringing a claim through the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service against the architect, the developer, the builder, the roofing company and the council that issued the code compliance certificate. Unfortunately, the house is 11 years old and section 393 of the Building Act 2004 prevents claims for faulty work or inspections being brought 10 years or more after the date the work or inspection was carried out.

Other types of claims

Limitation periods apply to many types of claims.  For most claims, the time limit is six years from the date your claim arose.  Sometimes, though, the limitation period is shorter.

If you want to challenge a will, the general rule for bringing such claims is that they must be filed within 12 months of the date that administration or probate is granted. However, in certain circumstances you need to be even quicker, because the estate may be distributed after six months.

In the employment context, if you wish to bring a personal grievance pursuant to the Employment Relations Act 2000 against your employer for unfair job dismissal, it must be submitted to the employer within 90 days from the date you were dismissed.

Even under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993, if you want to return faulty goods you must do so "within a reasonable time" and what is reasonable will depend upon the type of goods and how they were used. You might not be entitled to compensation if it turns out that the minor problems you have been putting up with for 18 months with a TV could have been fixed if you had returned the TV earlier and would have prevented the TV from stopping altogether.

These are only a handful of examples of the limitation periods that apply to a vast array of legal situations. While some of the limitation periods can be extended by a court, the examples highlight that it may be crucial to seek legal advice as soon as possible.  Most claims must be brought within a certain time, or the opportunity to obtain a remedy will be lost.

Should you need any assistance with this, or with any other disputes, please contact Paul Cowey (348-8480) at Parry Field.