A guide to the early stages of a debt recovery claim

Starting the claim

The Claim Form and Particulars of Claim

A claim is started by the Claimant (the party bringing the claim) sending or delivering to the Court a Claim Form and Particulars of Claim together with payment of the Court fee.

The Claim Form is a standard document which contains details of the parties and briefly describes the nature of the claim.

The Particulars of Claim set out in more detail what the claim is about. In straight forward cases there will be sufficient room on the reverse of the Claim Form to include the Particulars of Claim. In more complex cases a separate document may be required.

The Court will usually require 3 copies of the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim (1 for the Claimant, 1 for the Court and 1 for the Defendant). If there is more than 1 Claimant or Defendant (the party against whom the claim is made) an additional copy for each additional party is required.

The amount of the Court fee depends upon the value of the claim.

Claims worth less than £25,000 are normally dealt with by the County Court. Claims of £25,000 or above are normally dealt with by the High Court.

Issue and service of the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim

Once the Court has received the Claim Form, Particulars of Claim and payment of the Court fee it will “issue” (stamp) the documents.

The Court will normally serve the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim on the Defendant. The Claimant can serve the documents itself if it so wishes although in practice most Claimants let the Court serve the documents.

The Court will serve the documents on the Defendant by sending them by first class post. At the same time the Court will send the Defendant a Response Pack. The Response Pack explains to the Defendant what it needs to do next and contains various forms for it to fill in.

Notice of Issue

If the Court serves the documents on the Defendant it will send to the Claimant a Notice of Issue. This is a document which confirms that the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim have been issued and served on the Defendant. The Notice of Issue states the date upon which the documents were sent to the Defendant and the date upon which service is deemed to be affected. When service is by first class post the date of deemed service is the second business day after the documents were posted to the Defendant.

The Defendant’s response

The Defendant has 14 days from the date of deemed service to respond to the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim. The Defendant can respond in one of the following ways:

By filing an Admission

If the Defendant does not dispute the claim they should complete and send to the Court a form called an Admission. The form is contained in the Response Pack.

If an Admission is filed the Claimant can ask the Court to enter judgment.

When completing the Admission form the Defendant has the opportunity to request time to pay the sum claimed by the Claimant. If the Defendant requests time to pay it should set out details of its income and outgoings on the Admission form and indicate how much it would be able to pay and when.

The Court will then send a copy of the Admission to the Claimant and ask it to confirm whether the Defendant’s request for time to pay is acceptable. If is not acceptable the Claimant should write to the Court explaining why it is not acceptable. A judge will then decide how much and when the Defendant should pay. Sometimes the parties will be invited to attend a hearing at Court to make representations as to how much should be paid and when.

By filing a Defence

If the Defendant disputes the claim it should send to the Court and the Claimant a Defence. A Defence sets out in detail the reasons why the Defendant disputes the claim.

By filing an Acknowledgment of Service

An Acknowledgment of Service is a form in which the Defendant indicates its intention to defend the claim. When completing the Acknowledgment of Service the Defendant should indicate whether it intends to defend all or part of the claim and whether it intends to dispute the jurisdiction of the Court. A Defendant may dispute the jurisdiction of the Court if, for example, it believes that the claim should have been brought in another country.

If the Defendant files an Acknowledgment of Service it will have an additional 14 days in which to file a Defence.

If the Defendant requires additional time it should request an extension of time from the Claimant or the Claimant’s solicitor if it has one and explain why an extension of time is needed. If the Claimant or its solicitor refuses to grant an extension of time the Defendant can apply to the Court for an extension of time. A Claimant can be criticised by the Court for not granting an extension of time to a Defendant if the request was reasonable and if the Defendant has to seek an extension of time from the Court the Court may order the Claimant to pay the Defendant’s costs of the application.

Failure by the Defendant to respond

If the Defendant fails to respond to the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim the Claimant can file a Request for Judgment in Default with the Court. There is a standard form which the Claimant can use for this purpose. The Court will normally enter Judgment against the Defendant when a Request for Judgment in Default is received.