Step 4 Dealing with your non-priority debts

What if my creditors take court action?

 

Many people are frightened of courts, especially when they feel guilty because they owe money. In connection with debt matters, the County Court and the High Court are not criminal courts.  They are not there to judge anyone as guilty or innocent. They are there to settle disputes about money owed and how to repay it. The courts are not there to protect the interests of creditors alone. If the creditor is a business you will both need to follow court rules called the pre-action protocol for debt claims. The court is keen to see you come to an arrangement with your creditors without court action. If court action is taken, you may not have to go to a court hearing. Much of the procedure is done through the post.

Information:

sole traders, partnerships and limited companies

  • If you are a sole trader, you can use the information on this website as a general guide if you don’t dispute the debt.
  • If you are in a partnership, the creditor should serve a copy of the claim form on each of the partners. You should discuss the case with your partners before deciding what to do and agree a common approach. A majority of partners needs to agree to offer payment or defend the action. If you can’t reach an agreement with the other partners, you need to get legal advice from a solicitor. If the partnership has been dissolved (ended), creditors can take court action against each partner individually. If the partnership has been dissolved, you can use the information in this pack as a general guide if you don’t dispute the debt.
  • If you are a director of a limited company, court action should not be taken against you as an individual unless you signed a personal guarantee or have been made personally liable by the court following a formal liquidation of the company. If action is taken against the company, the directors need to agree how to reply. If you have been taken to court as an individual, even though the business is a limited company and you have not signed a personal guarantee, you should get advice from a solicitor immediately. If you are are being taken to court as an individual and there is no dispute, use the information in this pack as a general guide.
  • The creditor should send you a letter before they start court action called a letter of claim. The letter of claim should give you details of how much you owe and how the amount has been worked out. The letter should also tell you how to pay and how to contact the creditor to discuss your repayment options. It should also include a list of free, independent advice agencies you can contact.
  • You need to reply to the letter of claim within 30 days. You can agree that you owe all of the money, some of the money or none of the money. You can also ask for more information if you aren’t sure.
  • The rules allow you to ask the creditor for time to get debt advice if you need to, before they take court action.
  • If the creditor goes on to take court action, you will receive a ‘claim form’ from the court. The claim form will include details of the debt, known as the ‘particulars of claim’.
  • If you do have to go to a court hearing, your name will not appear in the local paper, so don’t worry about other people finding out.
  • The court staff and the District Judge or Master who decide the cases are used to dealing with people who do not have a solicitor.
  • Your creditor may start action in the High Court or transfer court action to the High Court from the County Court.  If your creditor transfers court action, you may be contacted by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO).

If you receive a claim form or letter from the court, or if you are contacted by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO), contact us for advice.

See our fact sheet:

Debts in the High Court

Important:

defences

If you don’t agree with the amount the creditor says you owe, you will need to put in a defence. Putting in a defence or counterclaim is complicated. Contact us for advice.