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Debt Recovery - Using the Small Claims Court in Scotland

Debt Recovery - Using the Small Claims Court in Scotland

Using the Small Claims Court in Scotland - this can be utilised by landlords looking to recover a debt owed by a tenant. Usually these debts relate to rent arrears or costs arising from repairs. If tenant fails to pay a debt owed to the landlord, and has also failed to respond to correspondence, then the landlord must decide:

- whether the debt is worth pursuing further

- which method to use in order to recover the debt in the most cost/time effective manner

A small claims action is a civil action which can be raised at the Sheriff Court without the need for a solicitor, where the debt being pursued is under £3000.

How would a landlord raise a small claims action?

The landlord (pursuer) must complete a form called a summons, which gives the details of the claim and send it to court to be processed. The court will return the summons to the landlord and fix a return date and a hearing date. The return date is the date by which the tenant must lodge a response to the summons. The landlord must then serve the summons on the tenant (defender) by recorded delivery or by Sheriff Officers if the recorded delivery fails. The summons must be served on the tenant 21 days before the return date.

At this stage the tenant can:

  • Do nothing. In this case, the landlord can ask the court to grant an order for payment of the debt plus expenses and no hearing will be required
  • Admit the claim and settle the case
  • Admit the claim and make a written application for payment which is acceptable to the landlord
  • Admit the claim and attend court to make an application for payment to the Sheriff in circumstances where the application is not accepted by the landlord
  • Dispute the claim. The tenant must state a defence on or before the return date and the matter will proceed to the hearing date

Where there is a dispute the Sheriff at the hearing will look into the legal basis of the claim and defences. The Sheriff should also seek to negotiate and secure a settlement. If a settlement isn't possible the Sheriff may fix a hearing on evidence ('proof') where both parties are given an opportunity to prove their case. A Sheriff will make a decision once evidence is heard from both parties. A Sheriff may decide to grant an order against the tenant for payment of arrears and expenses of raising the court action.

If you'd like further legal assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our LetLaw Team.

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Written by : TC Young