• This topic has 36 replies, 21 voices, and was last updated 1 month ago by poly.
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  • Small Claims or County Court for £1000 debt?
  • Premier Icon BigJohn
    Full Member

    A customer owes me £1000. Without going into it too much I reckon I’m caught in the crossfire of a domestic dispute. My customer is a lovely woman who was praising my work to the skies right until the last day I was on site.
    But as I was leaving I heard an almighty row between her and her husband in the room where I was building the furniture.
    I arrived next day to finish the job – about 3 hours work, max – and was confronted by the husband on the drive who said he didn’t want me to complete the work, came up with a load of nonsensical reasons – all related to the bits that were to be finished that day.
    So I sent an invoice, having generously, I thought, deducted a bit for the things that hadn’t been finished. I then got nasty emails back, again from the husband, saying he wasn’t going to pay.
    3 weeks ago I sent a request for payment saying 21 days or I’ll take further action. The 21 days are up tonight, so I’m about to send a “letter before action” by registered post tomorrow.
    He’s a sociopathic bully, she’s lovely, but caught in the middle. I can afford to lose the £1000, and I’m pretty sure I won’t see it, but I’m going to get my money’s worth of hassle, anger, fury and high blood pressure out of him.
    So, those with experience on the forum; what course of action will cause him the most discomfort, inconvenience and disruption with minimal further (financial) cost to me? Small Claims or County Court. Or am I out of date and is it all covered by Money Claim now?

    Premier Icon Jakester
    Free Member

    Small claims is a part of the county court – the ‘tracks’ are divided by value, so (broadly speaking) everything except personal injury claims up to £10k runs on the small claims track.

    Premier Icon Painey
    Full Member

    If there wasn’t any agreement on payment terms before the work was started, you default to generic trading terms. Meaning they have 30 days to pay. After that 30 day period, you can start to apply extra costs if the delays continue. Search for late commercial payment to see the details of what extra costs apply.

    Once you’ve found out the extra costs that you’re legally entitled to add, send a letter detailing them and that if you don’t have settlement for the 1st invoice, you’ll be forced to add those extra charges on top (which you’d rather avoid doing). Add that failure to pay them will lead to legal proceedings.

    You can start the legal stuff online which gets a letter sent to them (if they still haven’t settled). That’s what I had to do to a reluctant customer, who I should add, was perfectly happy with the work I’d done!

    Of course it’s much better if they can pay before all that but go in armed with that information and they should hopefully see that they’re fighting a losing battle. Of course if they’re disputing the quality/standard of your work, then that’s another matter altogether.

    Premier Icon sharkbait
    Free Member

    Small claims.
    I used the online service for considerably more.

    Premier Icon BigJohn
    Full Member

    Righty ho! Off we go!
    Should I be formal in the letter before action or can I get provocative?

    Premier Icon sharkbait
    Free Member

    Search for late commercial payment to see the details of what extra costs apply.

    No need to, the small claims online application form gives you the option to add interest and calculates it for you.

    Premier Icon sharkbait
    Free Member

    Formal from now on.

    Premier Icon leegee
    Full Member

    About 20 years ago I won a CCJ against a garage, that was the easy bit and never got the money from them. I got the County Court bailiffs involved but they could not get anything from the debtor.

    a CCJ will be bad for their credit rating, but other than that they can just ignore it. Hopefully once they get the paperwork from the court they will cough up

    Premier Icon BigJohn
    Full Member

    The guy has had such an attitude that he can just swat me away like a fly that I’d get more satisfaction from the CCJ than getting my money. I’m in it for the sport now.

    Premier Icon sc-xc
    Full Member

    but I’m going to get my money’s worth of hassle, anger, fury and high blood pressure out of him

    Good lad. Like 😂

    Premier Icon poolman
    Free Member

    Dont let them off he ll just carry on doing it. I have used money claim online in tenant disputes. Just the letter of action got them to pay up, on 2 occasions.

    Really sad as I get good credit off trades I use, no one wants anything up front but then I only use the same people who know me.

    With social media you can find out a lot about people. Really annoys me you spend ages chasing debt from the odd idiot. As you allude to, there is usually something else going on and you get caught up in the middle.

    Premier Icon ThePilot
    Free Member

    Can only wish you good luck, OP. No idea what the best course of action is.
    Going through the small claims (simplified procedure as I’m in Scotland) myself with a cowboy builder.
    As others have said, they can and do just ignore it.
    Thinking about going to ordinary court. Seems an even bigger nightmare and costs are massive.
    Anyone who can offer any advice to me will have my undying gratitude 🙂
    Seriously, when something like what happened to the OP and to me happens, you realise that very few people actually follow the first rule and there really is very little you can do about it.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Full Member

    Should I be formal in the letter before action or can I get provocative?

    If you’re taking the legal route, do not give them any recourse to get back at you. Stick to the facts, keep emotion and sarcasm out of it.

    It will likely come as no surprise to regular readers that I am astonishingly bad at following this advice. I think it’s like a form of Tourette’s, I can’t help myself.

    Premier Icon kayak23
    Full Member

    Can you go round and remove what you’ve built?

    Premier Icon nickdavies
    Full Member

    Honestly take some legal advice. Everyone says you can do it yourself etc but you stick to building furniture and let somebody else do the bit you don’t know about.

    I’ve used a small firm a few of times for this kind of thing, £1 letter before action sorts most (the solicitors letterhead carries a lot more weight than yours) and only a couple went any further, 1 all the way. The only time it ever cost me more than a quid was when a customer settled early after incurring the legal fees and I swallowed the couple of hundred quid.

    You do it properly, you cause a lot more grief to the other party, and because the solicitors know what they are doing it costs them a lot more too, Interest, your costs, their costs etc etc. The one that went to court got a very big bill.

    Premier Icon revs1972
    Free Member

    Blimey, this thread has managed to get this far without anyone mentioning bombers, weeing in his shoes or banging frozen sausages in his lawn. Well done everyone…

    Is his wife fit ? 😉

    Premier Icon ThePilot
    Free Member

    @nickdavies, where do you find these £1 letter before action solicitors?
    My claim is for much more than the OP’s but solicitor’s fees make it questionable as to whether it’s worth it. they won’t even answer questions without me depositing a wad of cash. I’ve tried a number.
    To be honest, I’d happily lose money if anyone could get the slimeball had to pay up.

    Premier Icon FunkyDunc
    Free Member

    Can you go round and remove what you’ve built?

    But then you have something that has taken you time and cost to build and no use for it, and a customer who is goi g to pay you nothing

    Premier Icon poolman
    Free Member

    How do u know if a builder has a ccj? I am about to have a roof done, paying initial deposit by credit card so am hoping it gives me protection. Builder posts current jobs on fb and no -ve comments so assume he s good. We ve waited 6 months too…

    So op go for it, don’t let him off. Some brilliant advice above.

    Premier Icon rickmeister
    Full Member

    As above, a CCJ can go in your favour and the hard bit is following that to being paid.

    For max grief, you could then employ a collection company to make a visit which will be added to the cost that is recovered. Hilton Baird, for instance, recovered £7.5k for me which started at my fee of £ £5.5k plus court, visits from their collection team etc etc etc.

    The downside of a bully, in this case, is what would that look like for your lovely lady client… not that you shouldn’t get paid of course.

    Premier Icon martinhutch
    Full Member

    The downside of a bully, in this case, is what would that look like for your lovely lady client…

    Who knows? A demonstration of someone standing up to her bully husband may even be helpful to her in the long term.

    Good luck, OP.

    Premier Icon Houns
    Full Member

    Or he may take it out on her which is the usual M.O for sad, pathetic, bullying abusers

    Premier Icon convert
    Full Member

    Good luck.

    I have a friend who says he builds in a percentage into his quotes to cover the non payment for some jobs. He attempts to recover but the costs and time spent roughly even it out at cost neutral. So everyone else gets to pay for the non payers which is a bit sad but I guess inevitable.

    As aside – what were they arguing about – the fact you were doing the job, it was not as he wanted it or the standard of your work?

    Premier Icon poly
    Free Member

    If there wasn’t any agreement on payment terms before the work was started, you default to generic trading terms. Meaning they have 30 days to pay. After that 30 day period, you can start to apply extra costs if the delays continue. Search for late commercial payment to see the details of what extra costs apply.

    I don’t think that’s right at all. This is a Business to Consumer contract. The Late Payment Legislation is for B2B not B2C.

    Premier Icon poly
    Free Member

    I can afford to lose the £1000, and I’m pretty sure I won’t see it, but I’m going to get my money’s worth of hassle, anger, fury and high blood pressure out of him.

    The guy has had such an attitude that he can just swat me away like a fly that I’d get more satisfaction from the CCJ than getting my money. I’m in it for the sport now.

    Its entirely possible that he’s raging gammon and you are getting what you want. But its also entirely possible that he’s playing the same game with you, and more experienced at it. So don’t waste your emotional energy on it – but for the sake of some admin if you can show: there was a request for the work, there was an expectation for payment, you’ve done the work then proceed with the claim. Keep in mind that it sounds like your “contract” is with his wife, and you’d be issuing proceedings against her not him.

    Premier Icon Jakester
    Free Member

    ThePilot
    @nickdavies, where do you find these £1 letter before action solicitors?
    My claim is for much more than the OP’s but solicitor’s fees make it questionable as to whether it’s worth it. they won’t even answer questions without me depositing a wad of cash. I’ve tried a number.
    To be honest, I’d happily lose money if anyone could get the slimeball had to pay up.

    There’s a firm up in Cheshire/the Wirral I think that does LBAs for £25, but they are literally cut and paste jobs. I’m not linking to them because I think the service they provide is terrible – if there’s even a sniff that the claim isn’t going to pay up immediately (and IME that’s often the case because the LBAs are so poor) they drop the client like a hot potato. If they’ve issued proceedings they use a proforma document which is usually completed by the client and again, if there’s any hint of a defence, they say they can’t deal.

    I’m sure for the majority of client it can work, but when I’ve come up against them they end up costing their clients more than they save because more often than not the client has to go off and find another solicitor who has to then correct their errors.

    hey won’t even answer questions without me depositing a wad of cash.

    Solicitors aren’t like doctors, there is no national legal service. If you’re asking them questions, you’re asking them to perform a service for which they’re presumably entitled to charge. If you don’t like it, do the 6+ years of study and training yourself and set up in business.

    Premier Icon tjagain
    Full Member

    Letter before action is easy to write. I have used them a few times and just the letter has got results

    Premier Icon ThePilot
    Free Member

    @Jakester, no I understand that. They weren’t legal advice type questions though. Just questions to make sure it was worth it. Or to get a better idea as to whether it was worth it. I get time is money but seemed a bit tight to me.
    As for me training to be a solicitor, that’s just a bit silly to be honest. Not everyone can be a solicitor, me included, for various reasons.
    Anyhow, the daily nightmare continues. I tell myself it will all be over one day.
    The awful firm you reference is no good to me, I’m in Scotland.

    Premier Icon Painey
    Full Member

    I don’t think that’s right at all. This is a Business to Consumer contract. The Late Payment Legislation is for B2B not B2C.

    I just looked this up and you’re right. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Premier Icon nickdavies
    Full Member

    @thepilot

    I’ve had a look and the firm I used to use have ceased trading. (I’ve not used them for probably 6-7 years) You need a debt recovery specialist but I think it’s a bit of a minefield, they were a good firm but I would imagine that’s possibly a bit of a rarity… IIRC, they put the prices up a bit the last couple of times but I think it was only a few quid for a LBA, then a bit of a fee for instruction then more as you progress but you claim all that back if you win.

    Seems they’ve passed on to a firm called the Wilkes partnership – not a recommendation as I’ve never used them but you could give them a call.

    https://www.wilkes.co.uk/greenwood/

    Premier Icon Jakester
    Free Member

    They weren’t legal advice type questions though. Just questions to make sure it was worth it.

    But that’s the very essence of the advice – how can they tell you whether it’s worth it until they’re considered the factual and legal positions of both parties? If your questions were “will I recover £X” or “am I going to have to pay £Y to the other side”, that necessarily entails a consideration of the merits (or otherwise) of your position.

    Premier Icon footflaps
    Full Member

    Letter before action is easy to write. I have used them a few times and just the letter has got results

    +1

    You don’t need a solicitor, there are loads of examples online and they are very straight forward as most of the content is mandated, you just fill in a few specifics.

    Premier Icon ThePilot
    Free Member

    @nickdavies, thanks for that. I have a couple of calls today but not heard anything as yet. That firm would be no good to me as I’m in Scotland but obviously there are similar ones up here. Re the expenses, I’ve been told to work on getting 60% back. Who knows! What I really want is a time machine but I think they’re in short supply 😉

    @Jakester, they were more to do with is it worth it to me on a personal level, eg I asked whether once suitable surveyor’s reports and the work itself was done could I sell the house. Wasn’t asking for a cast iron guarantee, just an idea. When you’re asking people to part with thousands and your hourly rate is between £200 and £300 doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to answer a few questions beforehand. Perhaps I’m wrong.

    Premier Icon ThePilot
    Free Member

    OP, to be honest, I probably shouldn’t have jumped on your thread.
    My case is not about a debt. It is so complicated, I get confused sometimes!
    Just to say, I’ve found the small claims court about as useful as a chocolate t-pot but they might be ok for debt recovery.
    Good luck!

    Premier Icon BigJohn
    Full Member

    Thanks all. Letter before action it is. I’ll try not to refer them to the response in Arkell v Pressdram.
    I’m definitely caught in a domestic dispute. He wanted her to hold off doing the room up, she went ahead and despite her loving what I’d done, something happened as his son was refitting the carpet (he cut it a bit short). The husband went off like a bottle of pop and the end of the world ensued.
    If I can’t get my money back, his buttons seem quite easy to press.

    Premier Icon poly
    Free Member

    they were more to do with is it worth it to me on a personal level, eg I asked whether once suitable surveyor’s reports and the work itself was done could I sell the house. Wasn’t asking for a cast iron guarantee, just an idea. When you’re asking people to part with thousands and your hourly rate is between £200 and £300 doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to answer a few questions beforehand. Perhaps I’m wrong.

    I deal with legal firms all the time. I’ve worked with many, and some are obviously better than others. Some are also more willing to give “free” advice, but the reality is almost no legal case is quite as simple as it sounds so that advice will be invalid the moment something you didn’t tell them comes to light. If your case was sufficiently complex that the simplified procedure track (aka Small Claims) didn’t resolve it – why would a solicitor be able to give an informed and helpful answer quickly? I’ve not got much trust for free advice – because it can’t really be impartial – the business will only make money if it recommends to clients doing paid work.

    People who need to get advice like this a lot put solicitors on retainer. Insurance and trade body membership is an alternative way to at least not be paying our directly for the opening conversation.

    OP, to be honest, I probably shouldn’t have jumped on your thread.
    My case is not about a debt. It is so complicated, I get confused sometimes!
    Just to say, I’ve found the small claims court about as useful as a chocolate t-pot but they might be ok for debt recovery.
    Good luck!

    It’s worth emphasising the Scottish and English small claims approaches are different. The aim is to deal with cases that shouldn’t really need a lawyer. You need a lawyer to tell you if its even worth pursuing the case which suggests its not really appropriate for a couple of hours in front of a sheriff. You also mentioned selling a property – and its worth keeping in mind that litigation lawyers are very different beasts from property lawyers. To get a firm that is really skilled in both you may need a very big firm – and two lawyers in the room to discuss your case… guess what… that’s double fees, or for free advice – double losses!

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