How do I decide if I should issue a petty debts claim?
The first thing you must do is to decide if issuing a petty debt claim is the best way for you to proceed. There are a number of points you should consider.
Have you tried to settle your claim with the respondent?
You may wish to try and settle your claim directly with the respondent by writing to them outlining your claim. If you do this you should keep a copy of your letter and allow them a week or so to reply.
If you do not receive a reply or if the reply you get is not satisfactory it would be reasonable for you to write again advising that you intend to start legal proceedings if your claim is not settled satisfactorily. If you still do not receive a satisfactory response you may wish to consider petty debt proceedings against the respondent.
If you are successful in your claim will you be able to recover the money?
This is perhaps the most important question you should ask yourself before deciding to proceed with a petty debt claim. Even if you succeed in your claim, if the respondent has no money to pay the amount of the claim you may not get your money or be able to recoup the costs of your legal action including any associated court fees. The Court does not pay the amount that is awarded, it only decides who is liable.
The Plaintiff must pay all costs up front including Court fees, then recover these costs from the debtor (See also annex A)
The Office of HM Sheriff is part of the Royal Court and Magistrate's Court and will help you to recover the amount claimed by enforcing any judgment of the Court that you are granted. HM Sheriff has a separate procedure to do this and you will need to contact him for further information about the fees involved. Obtaining judgment does not guarantee payment of the debt; the judgment only gives HM Sheriff the authority to arrest the assets of the Defendant if they have any or it is cost effective to do so.
You are able to check whether a respondent has any other court debts judgments against them to help you decide whether to proceed or not by checking for this in the Greffe strong room. There is no charge to do this.