I owe the money but can’t afford to pay. What should I do?
If Court proceedings have been commenced against you but you cannot afford to pay generally the worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand and hope that the problem goes away. It is unlikely that the problem will go away and if you fail to respond to the Court proceedings the size of the debt is likely to increase. You could also, at a future point, face a Bailiff turning up at your property to seize your goods or the Claimant (the person to whom you owe the money) obtaining an order for sale of your house.
How do I respond to the Court proceedings?
If you admit that the debt is due you should send to the Court an Admission. You should have received a Response Pack when you were served with the proceedings. The Response Pack should contain an Admission form. If you did not receive an Admission form a copy can be obtained from the Court or found on the Court Service’s website.
When should the Admission be sent to the Court?
The Admission form has to be sent to the Court within 14 days of you being served with the proceedings. The date upon which you were considered to have been served with the proceedings may be different from the date upon which you actually received the proceedings. If in doubt you should telephone the Court in which the proceedings were commenced, quoting the Claim Number printed on the Claim Form, to find out how long you have to send the admission.
What if my Admission is sent late?
If you do not send the Admission form to the Court on time judgment is likely to be entered against you. This process is known as judgment in default. If judgment in default is entered against you then the amount of the debt is likely to increase.
If you have already missed the deadline for sending an Admission to the Court it is a good idea to complete and send, or preferably hand deliver, to the Court an Admission form straight away as the Claimant may not have already put in their request for judgment in default.
How do I complete the Admission?
When you complete the Admission form you will be required to provide details of your income and outgoings and you will have the opportunity to say when you will be able to pay. It may be that you will be able to make payment in full on a certain date, for example the date upon which you are paid by your employer. If you cannot pay before that date you should briefly explain why. Alternatively, it may be that you can only offer to pay by instalments. In which case you will have the opportunity to say how much you can afford to pay each month. If your income is low and you can only offer to pay by small instalments generally the more information you provide about your income and outgoings the greater the chance of your offer being accepted.
I want to pay by instalments. How much should I offer to pay?
Any offer to pay by instalments should be realistic. If you offer to pay more than you can afford and miss an instalment you could find yourself having to pay the amount in full in one go, less any amounts you have already paid.
What if I don’t make an offer to pay?
If you send an Admission form to the Court but do not make an offer to pay, the Claimant will be able to decide how much you pay and when.
Where should I send the Admission?
The Admission form should be sent to the Court where the proceedings were commenced. The name of the Court will be stated on the Claim Form. The address of the Court should also be stated on the Claim Form.
A copy of the Admission form should also be sent to the Claimant or its solicitor, if it has one. Their address can be found on the front of the Claim Form in the section which says where documents should be sent.
What if I can’t afford to pay anything?
If your financial position is such that you cannot afford to make an offer to pay by even very small instalments you should seek further advice without delay.
Can I make an offer to settle the claim for a lesser amount than the sum claimed?
Quite often Claimants prefer to receive a lump sum, even if it is less than the amount of the debt, rather than repayment of the debt by instalments over a long period of time. If you are in the position to offer payment of a lump sum it is certainly worth making such an offer to the Claimant by either speaking or writing to them or their solicitor if they have one. If the sum offered is being borrowed by you from a friend or relative you should explain to the Claimant or their solicitor that this is the case so that they understand that the money in question is only available if your offer is accepted.
It is generally a good idea to make any offer as soon as you can.