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How to find a debtor then raise a court action

How to find a debtor then raise a court action

We are frequently asked to raise court actions against debtors whose whereabouts are unknown; would you know how to find a debtor then raise a court action?

In any court action, a summons needs to be served on a debtor. The whereabouts of a debtor may be unknown because:

  • The debtor may have moved to another address without the creditor's knowledge since the original debt accrued
  • The debtor has not provided an address
  • Or, as is sometime the case, provided an inaccurate address

Many creditors still wish an opportunity to recover the outstanding debt that is owed. The good news is that pursuing the debtor is still an option even in situations where their whereabouts are unknown.

Prior to raising a court action certain enquiries should be undertaken in an attempt to ascertain your debtor's present whereabouts. Unfortunately, it may not be enough to make enquiries yourself with neighbours at a previous address! Increasingly courts look for reports from tracing agents detailing any enquiries made. You can instruct trace reports through sheriff officers and there is a cost for these.

Trace reports outline the steps undertaken by the agent/sheriff officer in attempting to source the present whereabouts of the debtor. These agents will usually search various databases and registers before attempting to personally source the debtor. Tracing can prove successful as the agent/sheriff officer can, on occasion, source additional information, such as the debtor's current employment details.

If a debtor is successfully traced, a court action can be raised and the relevant papers served upon them at their current address.

Unfortunately some debtors do manage to disappear successfully and not all traces will produce results. Nevertheless, you can still raise a court action in these circumstances in an attempt to recover the debt you are due.

How do you serve the summons?

Court rules allow newspaper advertisement or walls of court service to be carried out for individuals who cannot be traced but only where a Sheriff has authorised service by these means.

  • If service by newspaper advertisement is granted, you must place an advert in a newspaper circulating in the area of the debtor's last known address
  • Walls of court service is literally that. If this method of service is granted the court papers will be placed upon notice boards within the court for a period of time during which a debtor is entitled to check these notice boards in case an action has been raised against them

For more information or advice please contact our debt recovery team.

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Written by : Alastair McKendrick