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Use the Small Claims Court for Debt Recovery

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 25 Oct 2017 | 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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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
Boo - Your Question:
Hi I would like some advice please, I was a guarantor for someone re: tenancy. They fell into £4300 rent arrears. App a HB error ? The fist I knew about any debt was when I contacted the agency to enquire about the balance as I acquired a letter sent to my previous address from a solicitors demanding payment. I had given the agency my new address. Subsequently tenant left property and debt is £4300. The Ast ended a year ago but app I am still liable? Should I pay this debt and then make a small claim against the tenant and would I win in court ( representing Myself) even tho I signed a deed of guarantor? I understood this to be for a fixed period but says I liable for 6 years after she has left the property??

Our Response:
As you are legally bound as guarantor, if you do not pay back the loan then you in turn can be pursued through the courts, plus your own credit rating may be affected. However, if you do pay back the loan, while you can take the matter to court it cannot be guaranteed the court will be able to retrieve the money on your behalf as much depends upon whether your debtor can pay (the judgement against her would last at least six years). Some professional legal advice may help further.
CourtroomAdvice - 3-Apr-17 @ 1:46 PM
Hi i would like some advice please, I was a guarantor for someone re: tenancy. They fell into £4300 rent arrears . App a HB error ? The fist I knew about any debt was when I contacted the agency to enquire about the balance as I acquired a letter sent to my previous address from a solicitors demanding payment. I had given the agency my new address. Subsequently tenant left property and debt is £4300. The Ast ended a year ago but app I am still liable? Should I pay this debt and then make a small claim against the tenant and would I win in court ( representing Myself) even tho I signed a deed of guarantor? I understood this to be for a fixed period but says Iliable for 6 years after she has left the property??
Boo - 2-Apr-17 @ 4:39 PM
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.
pau - 1-Apr-17 @ 5:01 PM
Hi, It's regarding landlord issues.In my previous address i had £500 deposit with landlord,as per hisclaim i may have 500 more to pay to him based on his assessment of cleaning, carpet, and since I did not handover the duplicate key to him on time 3 additional weeks of rent and council tax he is charging. What if I deny to pay any extra money to him ,will he go to court ?
Niha - 28-Mar-17 @ 10:34 PM
Hess - Your Question:
Hi, me and my ex split back in October but I'd previously lent him £1100 on my credit card to pay for his hgv test. I spoke to him up until January and he promised he'd give it to me. Since then he started threatening me and I gave him 2 months to give me the money, after a reply saying he didn't have it I said I'd give him another 2 week and now he isn't replying to my texts and has deleted his fb account. I have loads of texts saying he's going to give it to me etc. I need the money as it's increasing my interest by the day and have already paid hundreds into the account. I don't want the interest back only the £1100 he ows me! Would texts be a reasonable source of evidence? Thank you

Our Response:
Yes, you can use texts as evidence in court that your ex has promised to reimburse you and yes, they would be considered a reasonable source of evidence.
CourtroomAdvice - 14-Mar-17 @ 2:01 PM
Hi, me and my ex split back in October but I'd previously lent him £1100 on my credit card to pay for his hgv test. I spoke to him up until January and he promised he'd give it to me. Since then he started threatening me and I gave him 2 months to give me the money, after a reply saying he didn't have it I said I'd give him another 2 week and now he isn't replying to my texts and has deleted his fb account. I have loads of texts saying he's going to give it to me etc. I need the money as it's increasing my interest by the day and have already paid hundreds into the account. I don't want the interest back only the £1100 he ows me! Would texts be a reasonable source of evidence? Thank you
Hess - 13-Mar-17 @ 10:56 PM
Emma - Your Question:
Hi,I'm not sure if this is something that I can take to small claims but I'm hoping I can at least get some advice. I seperated from my violent partner in December, there is now an injunction in place against him however he has stopped paying child support since I called the police. I have contacted CMS (child maintenance) and they are going to be dealing with all payments moving forward however he hasn't paid anything since December, our daughter is still here and so are her high nursery fees. He broke our family based arrangement for child support and it has also come to light that he hasn't been truthful about his income and has been underpaying since she was born. The underpayment plus missed payments is around £3,400 in total. can I claim this back in the small Claims court? Thanks in advance.

Our Response:
You would have to speak directly to the CMS regarding this matter.
CourtroomAdvice - 28-Feb-17 @ 11:48 AM
Hi, I'm not sure if this is something that I can take to small claims but I'm hoping I can at least get some advice. I seperated from my violent partner in December, there is now an injunction in place against him however he has stopped paying child support since I called the police. I have contacted CMS (child maintenance) and they are going to be dealing with all payments moving forward however he hasn't paid anything since December, our daughter is still here and so are her high nursery fees. He broke our family based arrangement for child support and it has also come to light that he hasn't been truthful about his income and has been underpaying since she was born. The underpayment plus missed payments is around £3,400 in total.. can I claim this backin the small Claims court? Thanks in advance.
Emma - 27-Feb-17 @ 4:36 PM
Laurz925 - Your Question:
Hi I was living with my ex in my house and he took out a virgin media account he agreed to pay for it and once we split he said hed continue to until the renewal contract came through then he'd cancel it however he hasnt paid this. The account is in his name but my address how do I go about getting this sorted as he has blocked all contact and im left with unwanted bills.

Our Response:
I would ring Virgin Media directly to tell them your ex no longer lives at your address. If the account is in your ex's name, but you are in receipt of the service still, you would have to negotiate directly with the provider. Only if you have been paying the bill can apply for recompense via the small claims court. To do this, you would have to know his address.
CourtroomAdvice - 14-Feb-17 @ 1:43 PM
My ex husband and i took out a joint loan secured on my property in 2005. Money was always tight and repayments were sometimes late. We often wrote to the company offering them a lower figure in the home that they would accept it, and therefore clear the debt, but they never agreed. My mother agreed in Feb 2014 to clear the loan, on the understabdinbg that we repaid her the capital of £43,000. I discovered that my ex was a gambler but had no idea to quite the extent until august 2014, just before I filed for divorce. I had in the mean time taken out a loan in my name to clear his debts.... Stupid I know, but I thought I was saving my marriage. This loan was for £6500. He agreed to repay all the money in writing and verbally, but has gone back on this and ius not repaying anything. I triued to claim through the mcol, but I had to withdraw that as I was told it was a divorce financial issue. My ex has remarried, which means he can't try to claim anything from me, but if I open a claim against him I believe I am likely to lose more than him because I have been a lot more careful financially and have more assets. I have attempted mediation but he will not attend. It have been to a solicitor, but i found i was just paying to get nowhere. WeWhat options are left opoen to me please? Thank you in advance
Hackedoff - 13-Feb-17 @ 10:29 PM
Hi i was living with my ex in my house and he took out a virgin media account he agreed to pay for it and once we split he said hed continue to until the renewal contract came through then he'd cancel it however he hasnt paid this. The account is in his name but my address how do i go about getting this sorted as he has blocked all contact and im left with unwanted bills.
Laurz925 - 13-Feb-17 @ 5:32 PM
Hello my ex-wife and I, have an unsecured loan in both our names from negative equity in a house. She has never contributed since our split and I now have a letter from the bank confirming amounts and that its in our names. Is this sufficient to initiate a claim and would small claims court consider a claim of this type?
Tracep - 9-Feb-17 @ 4:52 PM
Webby - Your Question:
I broke up with my ex few months ago we rent a house in both out names as she was the one who left can I recoup have the rent that I've been paying since she's gone it's about £3400

Our Response:
A joint tenancy is where at least two people are the tenants of the property and all of their names are on the tenancy agreement. If you have a joint tenancy with your partner, you each have the same rights. You are both jointly and individually responsible for the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement. This is called joint and several liability. In a relationship breakdown situation, you and your partner are jointly and individually liable for the full amount of the rent regardless of who is living in the property. Please see CAB link here which will explain fully.
CourtroomAdvice - 7-Feb-17 @ 2:14 PM
fichel2006 - Your Question:
In November 2015 I got a catalogue for my friend to order Xmas presents for her kids she agreed to pay back 10 a week. This never happened twice she has asked for my bank details to set up standing orders never happened I have txt asking for the money and again she asked my bank details but I won't give them as she never done it before I want the 100 pound she owes me I think I been more made to wait long enough she has been on holiday and paid the deposit on a new house some one please help

Our Response:
If you have proof that your friend agreed to pay you, and if she is refusing to pay, you will have a case to answer. MCOL is designed to be a relatively simple way to commence a county court claim for a fixed amount of money. You can see if it is applicable via the link here. Also, you can see more via the CAB link here.
CourtroomAdvice - 7-Feb-17 @ 12:44 PM
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