Limitation Periods (20:App F)

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NOTE: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC government suspended all limitation dates for civil claims, including small claims, effective April 8th, 2020. For the latest information, consult:

This automatic suspension does not apply to the CRT, but the ministerial order does give the CRT the discretion to waive, suspend or extend mandatory time periods relating to its statutory power of decision, which includes both limitation dates and the 28-day deadline to file a notice of objection to a CRT decision. Once the state of emergency is removed, the CRT will lose this discretionary power so requests to the CRT relating to mandatory time periods should be filed as soon as possible. For time periods set by the Civil Resolution Tribunal Rules, such as the time period to file a Dispute Response, the Rules allow the CRT to amend a time period if certain criteria are met; this is unrelated to the existing state of emergency but if a party needs an extension due to circumstances related to COVID-19, they should request the extension as soon as possible (Civil Resolution Tribunal Rules, Rule 1.15). For the latest information, consult:

The remainder of this section is thus inapplicable at the time of writing until further notice.

1. Small Claims[edit]

The Limitation Act, SBC 2012, c 13 [Limitation Act] came into effect on June 1, 2013. A claim is governed by this Act if the claim was discovered after this date, unless the facts underlying the claim arose before the effective date and the limitation period under the old Limitation Act, RSBC 1996, c 266 has expired (See Limitation Act, s 30(3-4)).

Under the Limitation Act, the basic limitation period for most causes of action is 2 years from the date of discovery of the claim. Discovery is defined as the day on which the claimant knew or reasonably ought to have known all of the following:

  1. That injury, loss or damage had occurred;
  2. That the injury, loss or damage was caused by or contributed to by an act or omission;
  3. That the act or omission was that of the person against whom the claim is or may be made;
  4. That, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a court proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy the injury, loss or damage ('"Limitation Act, s 8).

Other limitations include:

  • Enforcement of civil judgements (s 7): 10 years from date of judgement;
  • Debts owed to government (s 38): 6 years;
  • Maximum limitation period (s 21(1)): 15 years after the original act or omission giving rise to the claim occurs. Applies to all claims falling under the (new) Limitation Act.

Under the Limitation Act, the running of both the basic and ultimate limitation periods may be delayed for minors (s 18), persons while under disability (ss 19, 25), and for fraud or wilful concealment of facts on the part of the defendant (ss 12, 21(3)). Both the basic 2 year limitation period and the 15 year ultimate limitation period are renewed if the defendant gives written and signed acknowledgement of liability (s 24). A counterclaim may be brought even though the limitation period has expired if the counterclaim relates to the claim to which it responds and that claim is within its applicable limitation periods (s 22). The Act generally does not apply to sexual assault claims, child or spousal support claims, or fines under the Offence Act (s 3). The Act also does not apply to limitation periods established under other legislation.

The Notice of Claim must be filed before the limitation period expires. If a notice of claim has not been served within 12 months after it was filed, it expires, but the claimant may apply to have it renewed (See Small Claims Rules, Rules 16(2)(a), 16(2)(a.1) and 16(3)).

2. Civil Resolution Tribunal[edit]

The Limitation Act applies to the CRT; however, for claims brought under the CRT, the limitation period does not run after a party asks the tribunal to resolve a claim. A party has 28 days following the tribunal’s decision, the date on the court order, or the date the tribunal certifies that the parties have completed the tribunal’s process to bring or continue a claim in court.

3. Other Legislation[edit]

Certain Acts will overrule the Limitation Act. The Vancouver Charter, SBC 1953, c 55; the Police Act, RSBC 1996, c 367; and the RCMP Act, RS 1985, c. R-10, all have their own limitation periods and notice provisions, and must therefore be consulted before bringing an action against a party covered by one of these statutes. For limitation dates pertaining to employment, human rights complaints or residential/tenancy disputes, see the corresponding chapters of this manual.

The Local Government Act, RSBC 1996, c 323, sets a limitation date for claims against a municipality in BC (s 285) of 6 months after the cause of action arose. Notice of damages must be delivered to the municipality within 2 months from the date on which the damage was sustained unless the damage resulted in death, the claimant has a reasonable excuse, or the municipality is not unfairly prejudiced by the lack of notice (s 286(1-3)).

Old Limitation Act: New Limitation Act:
Application: Applies if discovery occurred before June 1, 2013 Applies if discovery occurred after June 1, 2013
Basic Limitation Period: 6 years after events occurred* 2 years after discovery**
Damages to Personal Injury or Property: 2 years after events occurred 2 years after discovery
Debts owed to government: 6 years after events occurred 6 years, including ICBC claims for vehicle indebtedness, student loans and medical fees
Counterclaims: Not barred by expiry of limitation period if counterclaim connected to the claim to which it responds and the limitation period for that claim has not expired. Not barred by expiry of limitation period if counterclaim connected to the claim to which it responds and the limitation period for that claim has not expired.
Ultimate Limitation Period: 30 years after all damages occurred 6 years for negligence/malpractice actions against medical practitioners & hospitals 15 years after original events occurred
Enforcement of Judgements: 10 years after judgement 10 years after judgement

*See Limitation Act, RSBC 1996 c 266 for exceptions

**See Limitation Act, SBC 2012 c 13 for exceptions

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 16, 2020.

© Copyright 2021, The Greater Vancouver Law Students' Legal Advice Society.