Under Section 194 BGB, the right to request somebody to do or refrain from doing something is subject to statutory limitation. Upon expiry of the statutory limitation period, the debtor is entitled to refuse payment (section 214, subsection 1 BGB). This means that while statutory limitation does not eliminate the claim, it does prevent its enforcement against the debtor’s will if he pleads the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations was reformed as of 1 January 2002: the regular limitation was reduced from 30 to 3 years. At the same time, the commencement of the limitation period has been tied to the due date of the claim and to knowing or ‘having to know’ the circumstances justifying the claim. If these requirements are fulfilled, the limitation period commences at the end of the year. Under sections 203 – 213 BGB, statutory limitation can be suspended. This occurs, for example, by way of negotiations, commencement of an action, service of a payment order, application for conciliation or respite. The limitation period is lengthened by the period of its suspension.
Under section 212 BGB, moreover, the statutory limitation can start anew, for example as a result of debt acknowledgment, partial payment, or judicial or official execution measures.