What if the County Court Judgment is not mine?

If you believe that you do not owe the money for any reason, you can apply to the Court to set aside the Judgment. However, you must have specific legal grounds to set Judgment aside. It is not a guaranteed process and each case is decided at a Judge’s discretion. If you require further advice with regards to setting a Judgment aside, we would recommend that you seek independent legal advice and/or contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. So that we can ensure that no further action is taken whilst this investigation / application is made, please ensure you contact the office to confirm your intentions. If there is the potential that you believe the debt is fraudulent, you should contact Action Fraud to lodge your suspicions. They can then provide you with a crime reference number if required.

What is Mediation?

The Small Claims Mediation Service is a free service provided by the Civil Courts for people involved in a small claims dispute.

If a mediation is to take place, the court office will be in touch to arrange an appointment. If you don’t hear from the court within a fortnight of filing your directions questionnaire, give the Court a call to remind them you want to use the small claims mediation service.

The current contact details for the service are:

Telephone: 0300 123 4593

Email: scmreferrals@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk

Small Claims Mediation, HMCTS, PO Box 8793, Leicester, LE1 8BN

The mediation takes place over the telephone. The session is likely to be limited to 1 hour and because the mediation takes place over the telephone, it is a convenient and cost-effective method of trying to resolve a dispute.

The mediator is a Court employee who is trained in mediation skills, not a Judge. The mediator may not be familiar with or even have access to the papers already filed with the Court. It is not his role or necessary for him to know all the detail and facts and they will not give any legal advice or provide any indication as to the strength of each case. The mediator’s role is to act as a middleman to see if terms of the settlement can be reached.

The mediator will focus on striking a deal, rather than getting into the detail or trying to decide who is right or wrong.

The mediator will know that feelings as well as facts may affect the parties’ decision making. He will try to control emotions and keep the negotiations on track.

I have filed a defence to the claim – what happens next?

If you have responded to the claims pack by filing a defence to the claim the next step will be for the Court to provide instructions as to how the claim will continue. This usually begins by the Court asking both parties to complete a ‘Directions Questionnaire’, so that they can gather more information about the claim. The Court will provide a deadline for this to be completed and this will be detailed by way of a Notice of Proposed Allocation that is posted to both parties by the Court. Failure to comply with any Court Order(s) could result in the strike out of your defence and/or counter claim and allow the Claimant to request a County Court Judgment against you.

I have received a claims pack from the Court. What do I do?

When County Court proceedings are issued against you, the Court will issue you with a claims pack to the postal address that we hold for you. This pack will include a copy of the claim form which provides details of the debt, known as the ‘particulars of claim’. The pack will also include various forms that you can fill out in order for you to respond to the claim.

You are given 19 days to reply to the claims pack from the date the claim was issued (the date of issue can be found on the court paperwork). It is important that you respond before this deadline as you might be subject to additional costs and/or receive a County Court Judgment if you do not respond in time. If you require additional time to consider your claims pack, there is an option to complete the acknowledgement of service form contained within the claims pack and this will provide you with a further 14 days to provide a substantive response to the claim.

What is a County Court Judgment?

A County Court Judgment (CCJ) is a type of court order that might be registered against you if you fail to repay money you owe.

County Court Judgments for debt arise when someone takes Court action against you (stating you owe them money). If the Court formally decide that you owe the money, they will issue you with a County Court Judgment. The Judgment will be issued to you via post and will explain how much you owe, how to pay (either in full or in instalments), the deadline for paying and who to pay.

Once registered, the Judgment will be entered on your credit record with the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines and this information will be made available to Credit Reference Agencies. This will remain on your credit record for six years from the date it was entered. This record can make obtaining credit in the future more expensive and can seriously affect your ability to obtain a mortgage, credit card, bank account and even a mobile phone contract in the future.

Once registered you will have a 30-day period in which you will be able to completely remove the County Court Judgment from your credit record. In order to do this, you must pay the full balance of the County Court Judgment within 30 days of the Judgment being issued. The date of issue will be stated on the Judgment which will be sent to you by the Court once Judgment has been issued.

If a County Court Judgment has been issued against you, we would urge you to contact us to discuss affordable repayment options.

What is a Letter of Claim? (LOC)

A Letter of Claim (sometimes known as a ‘Letter Before Claim’ or ‘Letter Before Action’) is a letter putting a person on notice that Court proceedings may be brought against them, this is legally required under pre action protocol.

A Claimant should send a Letter of Claim to the Debtor before County Court proceedings are issued. The Letter of Claim provides the Debtor with one last chance to come to an agreement with the Claimant before County Court proceedings are issued. If the Debtor does not reply to the Letter of Claim within 30 days of the date of the letter, the Claimant may start County Court proceedings. The Letter of Claim should include information about the debt, and it should have with it an information sheet, a reply form and a financial statement form for the Debtor to complete and return to the Claimant. The full requirements for the Letter of Claim are set out in section 3 of the Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims – https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/pdf/protocols/debt-pap.pdf