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National Debtline

Advice you can trust

Court action

When creditors take court action

If you fall behind with payments on your debts and are unable to make arrangements to repay them, creditors may take court action against you. Court action is often the first step for creditors to take further enforcement action to get their money back.

Court types

  • Different types of court action are used to recover different types of debt.
  • If court action is taken against you, it is very important to know which types of court you are dealing with.
  • This page gives a brief description of different types of court so you can find out more.
  • If you are still unsure which type of court you are dealing with, contact us for advice.


Sheriff court

  • Unsecured creditors such as banks and credit card companies can make a claim in the sheriff court to recover money you owe. The court order you get is called a decree.
  • Your local council could get a court order in the sheriff court for business rates or council tax arrears. HMRC can also do this for tax arrears. In both cases the court order is called a summary warrant.
  • The sheriff court can also be used by priority creditors to recover property.
  • For example, your council landlord or mortgage lender could make a sheriff court claim to end your household tenancy or repossess your business premises or your home.
  • A lender can make a sheriff court claim to recover goods on hire purchase if you fall behind with payments.

Court fines

  • You may get a fine from the sheriff or justice of the peace courts for criminal offences such as speeding or not having a TV licence.
  • The court has a range of actions it can take. Also, You could go to prison if you do not pay.