Is your business owed money? Is the debtor ignoring all your phone calls and letters? Wondering what to do next in order to ensure you get paid for the work you have done?
Consider using the ‘Small Claims Court’.
This is part of the County Court and enables a lay-person (someone who is not legally qualified) to take another individual to court. The maximum amount of a claim that you can deal with yourself in the Small Claims Court is £10,000.
There is a fee to file the claim, starting at £25. (for the fee structure see: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/court-fees ). Additional fees are payable if it gets to hearing or eventually requires the services of a bailiff.
Start by writing the other party a 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 must be provided with the letter even though you know they have the facts already.
Writing a letter before taking any action is a very important part of the process and fulfills what is known as the ‘protocol’. Without having done so, you may jeopardise your case if it does end up in court.
An alternative to going to court is mediation. This provides individuals and businesses with a low-cost method of resolving a legal dispute without the need to go to court. There is usually a fixed hourly fee to pay by both parties.
If going to court is your intended action, then after you have sent the ‘protocol’ letter and the time limit for payment has passed, you will need to fill in a form either online or by downloading and printing it. The form is known as a Claim Form N1. You then send the completed form and fees to the County Court Money Claims Centre in Salford.
The Defendant has 14 days to respond, after which time, if there is no response, you may decide to issue a county court judgment (commonly known as a CCJ) against the Defendant. This, in itself, has quite serious consequences for the Defendant because a copy of all CCJs go to a public company and may affect any credit search made against the Defendant’s name – a good and useful tool to add into any pre-action protocol letter that you send.
Once you have the judgement the Defendant may still choose to ignore you and not pay – in which case you’ll need to consider enforcing the Judgement – for example, engaging the services of a bailiff to seize property to cover the amount you are owed.
You can action the entire process above without the help of a solicitor. However, if you feel you do need a bit of extra advice or support then consider using a Paralegal. Paralegals are less costly than a solicitor and can help you in exactly the same way as a solicitor would. Check that your chosen Paralegal is registered with a membership body like NALP, and holds the relevant Paralegal qualifications and insurance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its training arm, NALP Training, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.