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Claiming unpaid monies

Anyone who is owed money is entitled to take court action to recover that money if the third party refuses settle the debt.

Where this sum is less than £100,000 the claim must be made through the County Court, often known as the Small Claims Court.

Claimants generally have up to 6 years in which to take legal action.

What sort of money claims can be made?

The type of claims generally handled by the Court include:

•    Non-payment for goods supplied, such as materials to complete construction work
•    Failure to pay for services provided, such as building work, garden landscaping, plumbing and fitting.
•    Pre-paid purchases for goods that were not delivered
•    Unpaid invoices for freelance work completed
•    Money owed by an employer or former employer; unpaid wages, unpaid expenses, notice or holiday pay

Making a claim for unpaid monies

Before proceedings may commence the Court will want to see that there has already been an attempt to recover the monies owed. The Claimant should send a Letter of Claim to the person or company owing the money asking for payment and detailing the reasons why the money is owed. This is known as a pre-court letter before action.

The letter of claim should include:

•    The Claimant’s full name and address
•    The sum being claimed and the calculations
•    The basis of the claim and summary of the claim’s facts 
•    A list of any documents associated with the claim
•    A request for copies of any documents held by the Defendant 
•    A stated date by which the Defendant must respond in full, usually 14 days

Interest may be added to a money claim; the County Courts Act 1984 set the rate at 8%, to be calculated on a daily basis from the date the money owed became overdue.

The Claimant should also provide details of how the money can be paid, and possibly offer to discuss repayment terms.

Under Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) the Defendant has to identify any issues or reasons he has for non-payment.

Completing this pre-action protocol should demonstrate to the Court that alternative means of resolving the dispute have already been explored. It will also show that the claim may be supported and identify the Defendant and his ability to pay.

Once it is a clear that a claim will need to be made through the Court the Claimant may either start the process himself as a Litigant in Person or appoint a solicitor to act in his behalf.

Depending on the value of the claim the Court will allocate the claim to one of three tracks:

  • The Small Claims Track is for claims not exceeding £10,000 and covers issues including unpaid debts, rent arrears, goods not supplied
  • The Fast Track is generally for claims between £10,000 and £25,000 or up to £50,000 where the claim is straightforward
  • The Multitrack is for more complex cases up to £100,000 in value.

Are there costs involved?

A Claimant must pay a court fee at the time of making the claim. This fee is dependent on the sum being claimed and may be repayable if the case is won, or if the matter is settled out of court. 

If paying a fee is likely to cause financial hardship it is possible to apply for a fee exemption using an EX160 form.

Other costs may not be recoverable

If a Claimant loses the claim he will have to pay his costs but not those of the Defendant except if the claim was processed through Fast Track.

How long do claims take?

If the claim is small and not defended the process may take only 6 weeks. Where claims are disputed and court hearings are required a claim may take up to 6 months to resolve.

Using a solicitor

Although it is possible to pursue a claim for unpaid money as a Litigant in Person the legal procedures may be difficult to understand and this may prolong the process; delaying the repayment of the debt.

Sending the Defendant a Letter of Claim through a solicitor may also bring matters to a swift conclusion.


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