Getting your money - Small Claims Court

Weighing up your options

One of the biggest problems with the Small Claims Court is that 20 per cent of ‘successful’ claimants never actually see their money.

If you win, but the defendant ignores the Court’s decision, you have several options. All involve paying a further Court fee, so ask yourself again how much money the defendant is likely to have.

In England and Wales, the most suitable way to enforce a ruling depends on the defendant’s assets. If you wish, you can apply for an ‘oral examination’ of the defendant to make them declare the nature of their possessions, income and so on to the Court. The Court fee for such an application is £50.

N.B. The procedures listed below are applicable in England and Wales (We’ve described the procedure in Scotland and Northern Ireland separately).

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The defendant’s possessions

If the defendant has goods that can be sold to pay the debt, you can ask the Court to issue a ‘warrant of execution’. The Court will send a bailiff to the debtor’s house to collect money or remove goods.

The Court fee for a warrant of execution is £110.

The defendant’s income

If the defendant has a job, you can apply for an ‘attachment of earnings order’ from the Court. This tells the employer to deduct money from the defendant’s earnings and pay it to you. The Court fee for such an application is £100.

The defendant’s savings

If the defendant has savings, you can apply to the Court for a ‘third party debt order’. This can be sent to anyone who owes the defendant money, but it is most useful if the defendant has a bank account. Once the bank or building society receives this order it will freeze the defendant’s account and give you your money.

The Court fee for such an application is £100 (payable in respect of each party against whom the order is requested).

The defendant’s property

If the defendant owns their property, you can obtain a ‘charging order’ which means that they must pay you when they sell it (obviously this could mean that you would have to wait a long period of time before you receive your money).

The Court fee for a charging order is £100 (payable for each charge order applied for). There will also be a fee payable to Her Majesty’s Land Registry (HMLR) to register the charge against the property.

You can also apply for an order to force the defendant to sell the property. However, this is unlikely to be granted if the property is the defendant’s family home and would only be worthwhile if there is equity in the property.

Please refer to Court website for details of Court fees.

Scotland & Northern Ireland
In Scotland you will need to contact a sheriff officer. You can find one by contacting The Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers, 11 Alva Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4PH. You can phone it 0131 225 9110. Their fees vary slightly between different types of debt collection. Please refer to www.scotcourts.gov.uk for more information.

In Northern Ireland, you have to apply to the Enforcement of Judgements Office. You can write to Bedford House, Bedford Street, Belfast, BD2 7DS or telephone 028 9024 5081. The cost will vary depending on the amount you were awarded. Please refer to www.courtsni.gov.uk for more information.

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