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What Happens If You Lose In Small Claims Court UK? 2022

HomeDebt InfoWhat Happens If You Lose In Small Claims Court UK? 2022
what happens lose small claims court

For free and impartial money advice and guidance, visit MoneyHelper, to help you make the most of your money.

What happens if you lose in small claims court in the UK? We take a look at what you might have to pay if you’re taken to court and lose. We also look at what the claimant can do if you lose but can’t or refuse to pay. Find out what the future may hold below. 

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What are small claims?

Small claims, also known as money claims, are when a claimant takes another party to court because they believe they owe them money. These cases are usually about:

  • Compensation
  • Refunds
  • Faulty products or poor services
  • Disputes and debt
  • Personal injury cases
  • Unpaid invoices

Small claims are usually for sums of money below £10,000. They are supposed to be for simple cases which don’t require you to have a solicitor. However, some parties may choose low-cost legal advice or counsel. 

You’re encouraged to explore other solutions before starting a small claim. Often, once one party begins legal action, the other party realises the seriousness of the situation and agrees to pay most or all of the money. 

What is small claims court?

Small claims may be decided by different courts depending on the location and jurisdiction. Sometimes it is the County Court which handles these cases, whereas at other times it could be the Magistrate’s Court. 

How much does it cost to go to small claims court (UK)?

If you want to take someone to court over a small claim, you’ll have to pay an issue fee and a final hearing fee. The amount of these fees increases based on how much money you’re claiming, including any interest. 

For example, someone claiming £3,000 will have to pay a more expensive issue and final hearing fee than someone claiming £300. 

The issue fee is the cost of starting the small claim. It may be all that is required to convince the other party to pay. An issue fee ranges from £35 to over £450. And the final hearing fee, which must be paid by a deadline, can cost from £27 to £346. These fees are subject to change. 

What happens if you ignore a small claims notice?

Ignoring a notice that you’re being taken to a small claims court won’t work. Doing nothing is likely to result in the courts automatically issuing a judgment that forces you to pay the money to the claimant. 

What if I lose at small claims court?

If you lose a small claims case, you’ll be ordered to pay the money to the claimant. But this won’t be all you might have to pay. You could also be ordered to pay some of the expenses the claimant has suffered from having to take legal action. 

Read on for the details! 

Does the losing party pay the claimant’s legal fees?

On top of having to pay the amount claimed, you could also be liable for paying the claimant’s legal costs, court fees, travel expenses and even their lost wages from having to attend court. 

This means losing in a small claims court can get much more expensive than the original amount you were being chased for. 

If you’re being threatened with small claims court, it might be wise to explore the different debt solutions swiftly. 

What happens if you win in small claims court and they don’t pay?

When a small claims court orders the defendant to pay, they have 14 days to do so. There are many cases where the defendant loses the case but doesn’t pay. This is likely because they don’t have enough money to pay the money and maintain a basic standard of living. 

Claimants can first tackle this problem by gathering financial information on the other party, to identify the reason why they are not paying. They can do this by getting a judge to order the defendant back to court to disclose their finances. With this information, the claimant can progress with one of many options. 

But what are these options? They could use:

  1. An Attachment of Earnings Order
  2. Enforcement Officers
  3. A Charging Order

Attachment of Earnings Order

If the claimant finds out that the defendant isn’t paying but is in employment and receiving a wage, they could ask for an Attachment of Earnings Order. This is a special type of court order where the court instructs the defendant’s employer to send some of their wages directly to the court, which then passes the money to the claimant. 

This is a way of guaranteeing the claimant will eventually be repaid, providing the defendant remains in employment. If they change jobs the Attachment of Earnings Order will still stand. It’s a criminal offence not to inform the court of any new employment while subject to an Attachment of Earnings Order. 

Enforcement Officers

Another option is for the claimant to employ enforcement officers to recover the money or seize assets equal to the value of the sum owed and sell them to pay the claimant. The court can allow this and the (expensive) fees charged by the bailiffs can be passed on to the debtor. 

There are strict rules on how enforcement officers must behave and what assets they can and can’t take to sell. They must also give you at least seven days’ notice before coming to your home.

Charging Order

If the claimant finds out that you own your own property, they could instead make sure the money is eventually repaid by asking for a Charging Order. This is when the money owed is attached to the property as a debt, meaning if the property is sold, some of the sale proceeds must be used to clear the debt. 

A Charging Order doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sell your home, but the claimant could ask for an Order of Sale, which could mean having to sell the property to clear the debt. 

What happens if you lose a small claims case? (Quick recap)

If you lose a small claims case, you will be ordered to pay the money claimed and you might have to pay the claimant’s legal and court costs. You could even be asked to pay their travel expenses and the money they have lost by taking time off work to attend the hearing.

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