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Use the Small Claims Court for Debt Recovery

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 2 Mar 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Small Claims Court Small Claims Claimant

If you are owed a sum of money that the person refuses to pay, you can take your claim to the small claims court. The County Court usually deals with this type of financial claim. The small claims court isn't a special court, but just one of the functions of the County Court and is often referred to as the Small Claims Track as this is the most common form of small claims that are bought against defendants.

In most cases you can use the online system to make and track your claim as it progresses through the court system. Note that you will be expected to show that you have attempted to settle your claim in other ways before coming to the courts for help.

One of the best ways of trying to settle your dispute is via the National Mediation Helpline. You can call them on: 0845 603 0809. They also have a website. It's also a good idea to read leaflet EX301: Making a claim? Some questions to ask yourself before you begin a formal small claims proceeding.

The type of small claims court you use will depend on the amount of money you are claiming. Your options are:

  • Small Claims Track for claims under £5,000
  • Fast Track for claims between £5,000 and £15,000
  • Multi Track for claims over £15,000

For general claims the Small Claims Track is used. Note that the amount of your claim should be no more than £2,000 in Northern Ireland and under £3,000 in Scotland.

How to Make a Claim

If after all your attempts to recover the money you are owed you still cannot get a satisfactory conclusion to your claim, you can start a small claims court proceeding.

You can obtain a claim form from most County Courts, or you can download the form from the HMRC website: www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk. Once you have completed the form take two copies (three in Northern Ireland) it to your nearest County Court. They will assess the claim and serve the defendant with the claim via post.

The defendant will be sent a response pack that contains information and the forms the defendant will need to respond to your claim. If the pack is returned, the court will issue form N216 (notice of returned document). You can then decide whether to continue your claim.

When the defendant receives your claim form they have a number of options:

  • They can ignore your claim. If this happens, leaflet EX304 will give you advice on what to do next.
  • They can admit to your claim. If this happens, leaflet EX309 will tell you how you can proceed to recover the money you are owed.
  • They can dispute or defend all or a part of your claim. If this happens, leaflet EX306 will tell you what can happen next with your claim.

Money Claim Online

If you are claiming a fixed amount of money instead of using the small claims court, you can usually get a faster result with Money Claim Online. The service is completely Internet based and involves you completing a claim form that is then processed and served to the defendant. You can read more on the government money claim website

Generally, you can use this service if:

  • You are making a claim against no more than two people.
  • The amount you are claiming is fixed, but less than £100,000.
  • You live within England and Wales.
  • The person you are suing lives within England and Wales.
  • You have a valid credit or debit card.
  • You are over 18 years of age.
  • You are not defined as a patient under the 1983 Mental Health Act.
  • You are a legally assisted person as defined within the 1988 Legal Aid Act.

If want to begin your claim you can choose whether to begin your claim as a claimant or defendant by visiting the HMCS website.

Fees and Costs

The fee that you will have to pay for your small claim to be processed by the courts (or the Money Claim Online service) will depend on how much the claim is for and if you are claiming any benefits. You will generally have to pay court fees unless you are claiming:

  • Income Support
  • State Pension Guaranteed Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit with no Child Tax Credit

Your gross annual income will also be taken into consideration. You can read more detailed information about small claims court fees in leaflet EX160A that you can download from the HMRC website.

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[Add a Comment]
My ex is harassing me. When we were together I was wrongly accused of stealing a ring my partner had lost and I was pestered into paying for a replacement. I got charged for brand new hinges for the car door which I slammed once in an argument. Had to send money for my ex floodinghotel bathroom because I'd supposedly caused it due to us arguing and then sent me a picture of the ill family dog so I would pay for vets bills. I've had enough. Now I'm being charged for a holiday my ex booked alone and didn't go to. Claiming it was cancelled because of me potentially ruining it. I've been asked for £200 but I am refusing to pay because I didn't say to cancel it or agree to pay. I'm being threatened with further action. Has my ex even got a case against me?
Fedup18 - 2-Mar-18 @ 8:31 PM
Child maintanene options are struggling to get any payment whatsoever with a £2000 debt rising weekly could I use a small claim court to enforce some kind of payment?
Smurf - 23-Feb-18 @ 6:14 PM
Nope - Your Question:
I have a court order which instructs my ex husband to pay half of the negative equity that was in our former house before it was, half of the conveyancing costs and half of the estate agents costs. He refused to pay a penny so I had to pay the lot. Can I use the Small Claims Court to recover what he owes me - around £6,000?

Our Response:
You should refer the original court order back to court to be enforced.
CourtroomAdvice - 19-Feb-18 @ 11:06 AM
I have a court order which instructs my ex husband to pay half of the negative equity that was in our former house before it was, half of the conveyancing costs and half of the estate agents costs. He refused to pay a penny so I had to pay the lot. Can I use the Small Claims Court to recover what he owes me - around £6,000?
Nope - 18-Feb-18 @ 4:00 PM
Quirky73 - Your Question:
HelloMy ex husband left the marital home in 2013. He hasn’t paid a mortgage payment for 51 months. Can I claim that back as there is a written contract with the mortgage company that he is on. There is no clean break order in place yet.

Our Response:
If you and your ex have children, and you are living in the house, then a court may be able to force your ex to pay. However, much depends upon his own personal financial circumstances. You would have to seek legal advice regarding this matter, to see whether you may have a case to answer.
CourtroomAdvice - 25-Jan-18 @ 11:19 AM
Hello My ex husband left the marital home in 2013. He hasn’t paid a mortgage payment for 51 months. Can I claim that back as there is a written contract with the mortgage company that he is on. There is no clean break order in place yet.
Quirky73 - 24-Jan-18 @ 4:00 PM
Lnb - Your Question:
I am trying to recover a debt of £2700 from someone I ran a business with. We were equal directors and I had to personally pay outstanding HMRC debts from when business was trading. This is half the amount paid.Any advice

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here , which should help you further.
CourtroomAdvice - 19-Dec-17 @ 10:42 AM
I am trying to recover a debt of £2700 from someone I used to own a business with. We we equal company directors and the business closed a year ago. We had outstanding HMRC debts from when trading and I've had to pay these personally. The amount is half what I've paid. Any advice? I tried contacting them including hand delivering a letter to address
Lnb - 18-Dec-17 @ 6:50 PM
I am trying to recover a debt of £2700 from someone I ran a business with. We were equal directors and I had to personally pay outstanding HMRC debts from when business was trading. This is half the amount paid. Any advice
Lnb - 18-Dec-17 @ 6:34 PM
Tipton90 - Your Question:
I took a loan out for my ex partner in September 2016,we had a written agreement between ourselves on the official loan papers. He only repaid two installments and requested two repayment holidays which incurred interest. We shortly after split and he failed to repay the agreed amount each month. He promised each month to pay but failed. I have emails,Facebook messages and texts where he admits to owing the money etc. It's now 14months on and still no avail, I began to struggle and I had to resort to 0% money transfer in order to clear the bank loan. Therefore the money is still outstanding but I means I can pay the minimum repayments in order to have some quality of life instead of all the financial worry. I've started a claim but iam unsure how to make the initial statement. I have all the evidence printed and also instagram posts to demonstrate that he can afford to pay me back as he can afford trips to valencia and treating himself to meals out etc. Please help

Our Response:
You can see more via the CAB link here, which should help you further.
CourtroomAdvice - 30-Nov-17 @ 10:50 AM
I took a loan out for my ex partner in September 2016,we had a written agreement between ourselves on the official loan papers. He only repaid two installments and requested two repayment holidays which incurred interest. We shortly after split and he failed to repay the agreed amount each month. He promised each month to pay but failed. I have emails,Facebook messages and texts where he admits to owing the money etc. It's now 14months on and still no avail, I began to struggle and I had to resort to 0% money transfer in order to clear the bank loan. Therefore the money is still outstanding but I means I can pay the minimum repayments in order to have some quality of life instead of all the financial worry. I've started a claim but iam unsure how to make the initial statement. I have all the evidence printed and also instagram posts to demonstrate that he can afford to pay me back as he can afford trips to valencia and treating himself to meals out etc. Please help
Tipton90 - 29-Nov-17 @ 9:52 AM
JoJo - Your Question:
I recently sold a car and after 3 months buyer emailed asking for a refund due to a fault with the car. It was an older car and had been extensively refurbished having always been kept in a garage. Any issues were highligted upon purchase and a contract signed to say he was happy with the condition. I also provided details of any repairs and a valid MOT. The issue that has surfaced was pointed out prior to sale and I am amazed the car was not covered and parked on the road overnight, I did advise against this. What are my rights please

Our Response:
The buyer responsible for ensuring the car is of satisfactory quality’’ and fit for purpose before they buy it. As long as you, the seller ensured the car matched your description in the advert, then there is little the buyer can do. You can see more via the CAB link here . Caveat emptor, 'let the buyer beware', in the law of commercial transactions, works on the principle that the buyer purchases at his/her own risk in the absence of an express warranty in the contract.
CourtroomAdvice - 28-Nov-17 @ 10:38 AM
I recently sold a car and after 3 months buyer emailed asking for a refund due to a fault with the car.It was an older car and had been extensively refurbished having always been kept in a garage. Any issues were highligted upon purchase and a contract signed to say he was happy with the condition. I also provided details of any repairs and a valid MOT.The issue that has surfaced was pointed out prior to sale and I am amazed the car was not covered and parked on the road overnight, I did advise against this.What are my rights please
JoJo - 27-Nov-17 @ 3:49 PM
I took a loan out for my ex partner in September 2016,we had a written agreement between ourselves on the official loan papers. He only repaid two installments and requested two repayment holidays which incurred interest. We shortly after split and he failed to repay the agreed amount each month. He promised each month to pay but failed. I have emails,Facebook messages and texts where he admits to owing the money etc. It's now 14months on and still no avail, I began to struggle and I had to resort to 0% money transfer in order to clear the bank loan. Therefore the money is still outstanding but I means I can pay the minimum repayments in order to have some quality of life instead of all the financial worry. I've started a claim but iam unsure how to make the initial statement. I have all the evidence printed and also instagram posts to demonstrate that he can afford to pay me back as he can afford trips to valencia and treating himself to meals out etc. Please help
Tipton90 - 24-Nov-17 @ 10:52 PM
For the past year I have been in a controlling relationship which has ended nasty due to domestic violence from my ex partner. He owned the house and after insisting I move in with him rather then waste money renting refused to take any money towards his mortgage or bills so I made a point of paying for all food shopping for us and our children. We now have a baby but due to a violent incident he isn't allowed contact. I left the home and ended the relationship in March and then returned in May and when I did paid to have the entire house to be decorated and furnished throughout, brought new carpets, beds, sofa washing machine etc aswell I lent my ex large sums of money (bank transferred) to help him pay his bills because he refused to go to work! I have been trying to retrieve my contents from the property for over 2 months now but he is constantly making excuses and refusing to let me take items I paid for new and offering silly money for the whole lot! To top it off he is now threatening to take me to court to claim £10k in rent arrears from me ! Can he do this? If I took him to court can I claim back the money I lent him and retrieve my contents?
Mrs B - 25-Oct-17 @ 8:46 PM
Kat - Your Question:
My ex quit his job to start a new career in the same line of business as myself, but refused to take advice and training from me, and therefore earned little to no money for almost a year. He and his ex insisted I had to pay his child maintenance to his ex, he refused to get a part time job to contribute. To keep them quiet (it was a controlling relationship where I ended up losing my own home and living with him and his parents with what at the time seemed like no hope of escaping due to me being forced to keep him on the little I earned) I paid. I am still struggling financially over a year after leaving him because of this, and I want the money back. The money was paid directly from my bank account to his ex (he wouldn't get his own account).Who should I take to court, him or his ex? He already has thousands of pounds of debt he is trying to avoid paying, so is unlikely to pay even with a court order.

Our Response:
You were under no obligation to pay this money, if the money was yours. Only your ex was responsible for paying child maintenance to his ex. It is highly unlikely you would be awarded this money back through the courts, as you willingly agreed to pay. Likewise, if you feel your ex does not have the money to pay, then it really would be pointless taking him to court.
CourtroomAdvice - 5-Oct-17 @ 4:04 PM
My ex quit his job to start a new career in the same line of business as myself, but refused to take advice and training from me, and therefore earned little to no money for almost a year. He and his ex insisted I had to pay his child maintenance to his ex, he refused to get a part time job to contribute. To keep them quiet (it was a controlling relationship where I ended up losing my own home and living with him and his parents with what at the time seemed like no hope of escaping due to me being forced to keep him on the little I earned) I paid. I am still struggling financially over a year after leaving him because of this, and I want the money back. The money was paid directly from my bank account to his ex (he wouldn't get his own account). Who should I take to court, him or his ex? He already has thousands of pounds of debt he is trying to avoid paying, so is unlikely to pay even with a court order.
Kat - 4-Oct-17 @ 8:50 PM
@Slim - If your debt is below £600, your most cost effective option would be to use a county court bailiff. Sam.
Sam*U - 28-Sep-17 @ 4:11 PM
Hello I have won a CCJ but the debtor still refuses to pay. Since the amount owed is less than £600 I cannot send a bailiff to recover the debt. What would be the best course of action to take in order to obtain payment?
Slim - 28-Sep-17 @ 2:57 PM
Audisline - Your Question:
Hi, My ex boyfriend physically abused me and mentally tortured me when we were together but claims he took out a loan for me for car repairs but he squandered the money on a games console and withdrew numerous amountsOf cash from my bank account after he'd transferred it. He's harassedMe and my boyfriend for months and police went to his house and issued him a PIN notice to not contact me, yet here he isn't asking for £1500 or he's taking me to small claims court. After everything I went through the fact he's now trying to get to me again is causing me stress. What should I do?

Our Response:
Unless your partner can prove you owe him the money, then he will not have a case.
CourtroomAdvice - 26-Sep-17 @ 11:05 AM
Hi, My ex boyfriend physically abused me and mentally tortured me when we were together but claims he took out a loan for me for car repairs but he squandered the money on a games console and withdrew numerous amounts Of cash from my bank account after he'd transferred it. He's harassed Me and my boyfriend for months and police went to his house and issued him a PIN notice to not contact me, yet here he isn't asking for £1500 or he's taking me to small claims court. After everything I went through the fact he's now trying to get to me again is causing me stress. What should I do?
Audisline - 25-Sep-17 @ 12:51 PM
@Nic - as you have evidence of her repaying back the money she borrowed and she has already paid some back, then you have a strong case. Your mother has no case if there was no written agreement and if her claim is based on contract she is speciying she had with you to pay her back. Then she would have to bring her action against you within six years of the alleged breach.
MacC - 14-Sep-17 @ 2:25 PM
Hello, In October 2016, I lent my mother £5,000 to expedite an extension to her house. We agreed in writing that she would pay me back in full by end of Feb 2017. She paid back £1,500 and then told me that she would not be paying the remainder as I had recently been on holiday and therefore she needed the money more than me. After a few weeks of corresponding with her to try and make her see that her position did not make any sense, I sent her a formal letter advising I would be taking legal action if necessary. A month later I started the process. She had admitted the amount owed in full but counterclaimed for costs of supporting in my first year of university in 2003/04. There was never any agreement that I would repay this, the amount of support is exaggerated, and 14 years have passed. Does she have any grounds for making this claim?
Nic - 13-Sep-17 @ 11:28 PM
I won a county court order against a mobile phone shop that stole my phone to pay me £400. He ignored the court order and won't pay. How can I get my money back? Warrant of control says that a bailiff won't go if the amount is less than £600 The text says: "If the amount you are owed is £600 or less, you cannot ask the Enforcement Officer to try and get back your money." So what are my avenues to get my money back
UK_122 - 11-Jun-17 @ 1:22 PM
WP - Your Question:
Last year in February I took on a joint mortgage with my then partner and bought a house. By June of last year I found out she was cheating on me and the relationship broke down and she moved out. Since then I have been trying to make ends meet and keep the house but I simply cannot afford it. My ex has not paid any money towards the bills of the house or mortgage since he left and now the house is up for sale because I cannot afford it on my own. My mother is helping me financially and I am now very stressed because my ex refuses to be involved or respond to any attempts of contact. Can I make a claim against her for her share of the mortgage I have been paying plus other costs incurred over the last year?

Our Response:
In this case you may wish to seek legal advice. A solicitor's letter reminding your ex of the mortgage agreement and that her credit reference may be affected if she defaults on the mortgage and the house is repossessed, may do the trick. A solicitor will also be able to advise whether you can claim her mortgage payments from the proceeds of the house once sold.
CourtroomAdvice - 12-May-17 @ 11:31 AM
Hi my partner has been kicked out of his house his name is on the mortgage after they remortgaged but not on the deeds but he wants to take her to court but don't know how much to expect he invested £20,000 into the property from a previous house sale how will we know how much court fees to pay
Shell - 12-May-17 @ 12:31 AM
Last year in February I took on a joint mortgage with my then partner and bought a house.By June of last year I found out she was cheating on me and the relationship broke down and she moved out.Since then I have been trying to make ends meet and keep the house but I simply cannot afford it.My ex has not paid any money towards the bills of the house or mortgage since he left and now the house is up for sale because I cannot afford it on my own.My mother is helping me financially and I am now very stressed because my ex refuses to be involved or respond to any attempts of contact.Can I make a claim against her for her share of the mortgage I have been paying plus other costs incurred over the last year?
WP - 11-May-17 @ 5:28 PM
Hi.... I moved into a property with my ex who agreed to pay the amount of rent.... our relationship broke down after 7 weeks, he agreed to carry on paying the rent until our tenancy ended..... now he's going back on his word saying I have to pay half even tho I don't live at the property anymore.... both our names are on the tenancy agreement but when I left the property the landlord had verbally agreed to take me off the agreement..... I have texts off my ex confirming he'll pay the rent...... can I take him to a smalls claim court to recover the rent that I will pay so I don't go into arrears
Lisa - 25-Apr-17 @ 3:43 PM
I used to date on guy. We went out for 3/4 times to dinner. On that time I was in a very difficult financial situation. He's offer me to lend my some money, and made clear I can paid him when my situation change. One month later I didn't want to date him anymore. On that time total sun is almost £3500. He starts to bully me on my work place and also send me terrible messagens. I start to paid him 200£ each month, but on beginning January I can afford to paid more then £100. 2 days ago he send me a message for another phone, bully me to start to paid again 200£, otherwise he goes to the court. What can I do? I not stopped to paid his money back, I only can't afford to paid more the 100. Regards
FL - 22-Apr-17 @ 10:07 PM
pau - Your Question:
I took a loan for a friend of mine which he said he will pay me after 3months. I took a loan in my bank for 3yrs agreement bcos I cannot take a loan for 3months so it has to be 3yrs. my friend promised that he will settle the loan after 3months and there was no written agreement between him and myself. I helped them in good faith. now my question is if I take them to court am I likely to win or not bcos there was no agreement between him and myself. the loan that I took is 8k and they r paying the monthly repayment although sometimes is not on time.i didnt want the loan to be in my name for 3yrs and I have told them many times to settle the loan and its been more than a year now.

Our Response:
If you can prove you transferred the money to the person you lent it to and prove they have made attempts to pay the money back, then you should have a case to take to the small claims court. The main objective is for you to prove the money was a loan and not a gift.
CourtroomAdvice - 4-Apr-17 @ 2:18 PM
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