Whether you work for yourself or run a small business, collecting money that is owed that can be a stressful activity - especially if the person who owes you is ignoring all your phone calls and letters.
Here are the steps you need to take if you're considering legal action to reclaim a debt.
The initial letter
The first thing you need to do is to write the other party a formal letter, clarifying why they owe you money and that you are thinking of taking court action if the amount owed is not paid by a certain date (state the date clearly). All the necessary evidence concerning the debt must be provided with the letter.
Writing a letter before taking any action is a very important part of the process, and fulfils what is known as the 'protocol'. Without having done so, you may jeopardise your case if it does end up in court.
Remember that there are costs associated with taking legal action. But there is an alternative - mediation. This provides individuals and businesses with a low-cost method of resolving legal disputes, without the need to go to court. There is usually a fixed hourly fee to pay by both parties.
Filing a claim
Unfortunately, if the above actions don't yield results, you may be forced to take legal action to recover your debt. The Small Claims Court, which is part of the County Court, enables a lay-person (someone who is not legally qualified) to take another individual to court. The maximum value for a claim that you can deal with yourself in the Small Claims Court is £10,000.
After you have sent the 'protocol' letter and the time limit for payment has passed, if you intend to take court action you will need to either fill in Claim Form N1 and send the completed form to the County Court Money Claims Centre in Salford, or use Money Claim Online.
There is a small fee to file the claim, starting from £25, which depends on the amount you want to recover and the method you use to file the claim. You can see the full fee structure on the GOV.UK website.
Requesting a judgment
The defendant has 14 days to respond, after which time, if there is no response, you may decide to request a county court judgment (CCJ) against them. This in itself has quite serious consequences for the defendant, because CCJs may appear in future credit searches made against their name - a good and useful detail to mention in your pre-action protocol letter.
Even when you have the judgement, the defendant may still choose to ignore you. In this case you'll need to consider enforcing it - for example, engaging the services of a bailiff to seize property to cover the amount you are owed.
Getting legal help
You can action the entire process above without the help of a solicitor. If you feel you do need extra advice or support, consider using a paralegal. Paralegals are less costly, and can help you in exactly the same way as a solicitor would. Check that your chosen paralegal is registered with a membership body, and holds the relevant paralegal qualifications and insurance.
Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 Amanda Hamilton, Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals.