If an individual or a business believe you owe them money then they can apply to the county court and obtain a court order forcing you to pay up.
So what should you do if you receive a county court claim?
Don't ignore the paperwork on a county court claim
You must reply to a court claim within 7 days. If you miss this deadline then the court will proceed without your response and you may end up with a county court order. This means that you be legally bound to pay the amount claimed plus court costs.
How should I respond to a county court claim?
When you receive the court claim there will be a pack included with all the forms needed to reply, and notes on how to complete them.
When responding you have one of the following options -
Pay the amount requested in full
Admit that you owe all or some of the money and request time to pay
Defend the claim
Make a counter claim against the other person if you feel you have a case e.g. damaged goods or you are out of pocket in some way
Once you have fully completed all the forms make sure you photocopy and return them to the court by recorded delivery.
Can I extend the 7 day response period for a county court claim?
There may be a good reason why you cannot respond within 7 days and you can apply to the court to get this period extended for an extra 14 days.
Talk directly with whoever has instigated the county court claim
Even though the legal process has begun it is always a good idea to talk to the claimant to try and resolve the issue without going to court. You could offer full payment or offer a payment plan over a period of time.
I agree that I owe the money stated on the county court claim but need time to pay
You should fill in the 'admission form'
State how much you want to pay and over what period
Send the form directly to the claimant who will make a decision on whether to accept your offer
Photocopy the form containing details of your offer
Make sure the claimant receives the form within 14 days (send by recorded delivery).
If the claimant agrees to your offer make sure you keep up the payments to prevent further court action
I don't agree that I owe the money stated on the county court claim
This is where things can get complicated as often disputes end up as one person's view against another. Many such court orders concern work or services provided which one party feels where not up to the standard they expected.
In such cases you should always try and reach agreement with the other party without going to court, also you may suggest mediation. Mediation is when someone impartial helps parties settle disputes and may be cheaper than going to court. Mediation service providers can be searched for on the internet.
What happens if I get a county court order against me?
If the court decides that you owe the money stated then they will issue an order for you to pay. You have 30 days to pay the full amount to the creditor to prevent the CCJ being recorded on your credit record. If this county court order is for non-payment of a credit agreement then this may already be registered on your credit record.
How long will a county court order be shown on my credit record?
A CCJ will remain on you credit record for 6 years, but if you pay the debt sooner you can apply to the court for a 'certificate of satisfaction'. This may help if you apply for a mortgage or loan before your credit record is clean.
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