Are you owed money by a UK individual or business? If so, the following options (among others) may be available to you.
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1. Make a court claim for money
You can apply to a county court to claim money you are owed by an individual or business. This is often referred to as taking someone to a ‘small claims court’.
Making a claim
There are different ways to proceed with a claim, namely:
- if you are claiming for a fixed amount of money, you can make your claim online (see below for details) or by using the paper claim form N1 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-n1-claim-form-cpr-part-7); or
- if you are claiming for an unspecified amount of money, you must make your claim by using the paper claim form N1.
You need to include in the form details of yourself, the defendant and your claim.
Once completed and signed, you must send the paper form to the County Court Money Claims Centre (see: https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/courts/county-court-money-claims-centre-ccmcc) and pay the applicable court fee (see below for details).
How to make a claim online
Online claims are made through Money Claim Online (MCOL) (see: https://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk/web/mcol/welcome) which is the HM Courts & Tribunals Service Internet based service for claimants and defendants.
Similar to the paper claim process, you need to include in the online form details of yourself, the defendant and your claim. You also need to pay the applicable fee before the claim can be processed (see below for details).
In order to make a claim online, the claim must be:
- for a fixed amount of money less than £100,000;
- for no more than one claimant and against no more than two defendants (individuals or businesses);
- served to a defendant with an address in England or Wales.
The court fee for making a claim online is lower than using a paper form. The court fee depends on the amount claimed plus interest.
The fee ranges from:
- £25 (or £35 for paper forms) for claims having a value of up to £300; to
- 4.5% (or 5% for paper forms) of the claim for claims having a value of between £10,000 and £100,000.
Please see this link for further details: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/court-fees.
Before initiating a claim, the court expects you and the defendant to take a number of steps or ‘pre-action protocols’ to try to settle the dispute. For example, you will usually need to send the defendant a letter before making the claim, and allow them a chance to respond.
After filing the claim either online or using a paper form, the defendant will be given a specific period of time to respond to the claim. If they admit to owing the money or do not respond to the claim, you can request the court to order them to pay without a hearing.
However, you may have to go to a court hearing if the defendant denies owing the money and you disagree with this. The hearing may take place by phone or video.
If the claim is under £10,000, you have the option of using the court’s small claims mediation service to reach an agreement.
A decision will usually be issued on the day of the hearing. If you are successful, the court will order the defendant to pay the amount owed to you. If you are not successful, you will usually have the opportunity to appeal the decision within 21 days.
Enforcing a judgment
If after the court hearing the defendant still does not pay, you can issue enforcement proceedings.
Actions the court can take to enforce the judgment include freezing assets or money in an account or adding a charge to the defendant’s land or property.
2. Make and serve a statutory demand
What is a statutory demand?
A statutory demand is a formal written demand for payment of a debt within 21 days.
Any creditor who is owed money can make a statutory demand against an individual or a company.
How to serve a statutory demand
You must serve the statutory demand form (https://www.gov.uk/statutory-demands/forms-to-issue-a-statutory-demand) by:
- giving it to the individual who owes you money (you should try all their known addresses);
- leaving it at the registered office of the company that owes money (or the main place of business if they do not have a registered office);
- giving it to the company’s director, company secretary, manager or principal officer; or
- get a ‘process server’ to serve it for you (a solicitor can arrange this).
You can only send it by registered post or put it through a letterbox if it cannot be delivered in person.
Records you must keep
You must keep a copy of the statutory demand and anything that confirms:
- the time and date you served the statutory demand, for example a postage receipt or confirmation from your process server; and
- that the debtor has received the statutory demand.
What happens next
When an individual or a company receives a statutory demand, they have 21 days to either:
- pay the debt; or
- reach an agreement to pay.
If your debtor does not pay the debt or agree to your statutory demand within 21 days, you can proceed with one of the following petitions as appropriate:
- start bankruptcy proceedings against any individual who owes you £5,000 or more; or
- wind up a company that owes you £750 or more.
You have 4 months to apply to bankrupt or wind up your debtor. If you are late, you can provide an explanation to the court.
A statutory demand can be used to support your petition because non-payment of a statutory demand within 21 days may be deemed as evidence of the debtor’s inability to pay its debts.
3. Calculating interest and debt recovery costs on late payments
Late payment interest
If a business owes you money, you can use the interest rate stipulated in your contract. If there is no specific interest rate in your contract, you can use the interest on late commercial payments (also known as the ‘statutory interest’).
The statutory interest is:
- 8% plus the Bank of England base rate for business to business transactions; and
- usually 8% for other types of debt, such as money owed to you by an individual.
Debt recovery costs
You can also charge a business a fixed sum for the cost of recovering a late commercial payment in addition to claiming interest from it.
The amount (which ranges from £40 to £100) depends on the value of the debt and can only be charged once for each payment.
Please see this link for further details: https://www.gov.uk/late-commercial-payments-interest-debt-recovery/claim-debt-recovery-costs.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute the provision of legal, investment or regulatory advice. FS REG is not responsible for any action taken or omitted to be taken based on the information contained in this article. © 2020 FS REG Limited (www.fsreg.com). All rights reserved.
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