The UK Court of Appeal was asked to interpret the phrase in a statute providing that no arrears of interest could be recovered after the expiration of six years from the date on which “the interest became due”. The question was whether the word “due” meant “owing” in the sense of a liability having arisen despite that it may be payable at a future time, or whether the natural meaning was “payable”.

The court said that as a matter of language, devoid of context, “due” may mean owing or payable. For instance, if a lease provides for a rent to accrue from day-to-day but to be payable monthly in arrears, one might equally say that the rent falls due daily or that it falls due at the end of the month. Either is the natural use of language. In a particular context of the statute the court found that “due” meant payable.

There is a lesson to be learnt. If a contract needs to draw a distinction between what is due and what is payable, it should make it clear what is meant by those two words.

[Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc [2024] EWCA Civ 245 (14 March 2024)]