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Interested to hear some experiences of anyone that has gone through the small claims process. This could be going after a tenant, cowboy builder, etc.
Were you successful? How long does it take?
I am considering using it for the first time and just wanted to know how likely it is to get some money back (under £500) or if it's not worth the energy.
Interested to hear your stories.
Save your money. It is a complete waste of time. I have either been invloved with or known of around 20 cases and only once has anyone got any money back, although all have won the case. Even when you pay extra to get a bailiff they are as much use as a chocloate teapot. Dont be fooled by what you see on tv shows. Ours visit twice. If no one opens the door they just go away. They go in working hours so no one ever in. They will only go to registered offices, even when being told no one is there and being supplied with the correct address. The whole system is a total waste of time. Just write it off. You could threaten it, we have had a few people pay at the threat of legal action, but as for doing it you will just be throwing good money after bad. Its easy to do online but in my opinion a waste of key strokes.
Done it numerous times, mostly for Rent Arrears & Damage but also for Car Accident & a bounced cheque many moons ago with a Travel Business. Fairly straight forward process, just sit around a table with defendant & usually a Deputy District Judge. Usually easy to get a judgement if you are in the right & have your paperwork in order. Getting paid is another matter, as above Bailiff's are generally useless EVEN HCE! Best result is if they are working & you can do an AOE. Some people will pay up in order to avoid the CCJ on their credit record, others don't give a toss!
All circumstances are different, so have to way up whether its worth your time - generally half a day needed for court case. In the case of rent arrears IMHO should always give Tenant a CCJ as it acts as a Warning to fellow LL's.
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I recommend it as....
a) fairly cheap and largely online now..
b) some people cough up simply when court papers arrive...
c) I've had judgement several times: That's the easy bit but...
d) That should ensure the little scr*at gets a CCJ if they don't pay &...
e) "Attachment of earnings" against PAYE employed people works OK if slowly & in small contributions... (**)
f) Even if you only ever get £5 out of them should you later see them a cheery wave and (loudly) "thanks for the money" with a broad smile will ruin their day, probably their week.
g) If you let crooks and cheats get away scot-free it simply encourages them to cheat again: It's your duty to pursue them!
** I eventually found one ex-tenant's employer after his HMRC tax-code notice "fell open" when delivered to his old address: Small chain of hotels, 7 off. After 2nd 'phone call I'd found him. Had papers served prior to (this was Scotland) arrestment of earnings. The Sheriff's officer who served papers said he went white when he opened them: That made my day.
I've only ever been involved once; on the receiving end. A neighbour claimed I had damaged his fence with my car and it had cost him £800 to fix it. I refused to pay because I had evidence he had simply done his own 'botched' repair (he was a carpenter!) and challenged him to take me to court, which he did. The judge was furious, especially when I told him the neighbour's wife was a JP! He found me guilty and ordered me to pay just £30, and I laughed all the way home!
However, I will consider taking our builder to the SMC. He refuses to come back and remediate work which was not done properly, and if the Consumer Rights Act threat doesn't work, I will do it out of principle. He won't be able to close his business because he has too many ongoing jobs.
Good luck if you go for it.
Thanks all for your replies. Very helpful.
Please do come back and share your experience. I'm keen to learn how much it costs and how long it takes.
I know often people don't get their money back but out of principle I would want to get CCJ against a tenant who's not acted property (obviously I won't bother if the SMC process costs above £1k+) But if its lower then I would keep it in mind.
You see in the Nightmare Tenant show on Channel 5 where some Estate Agents actually pay tenants to move out.. I think that sets a really bad precedence for other LLs. Next thing you know, three years from now everyone is now expecting a payment for being evicted because its become the norm. I know in the short term landlords just want to get the bad tenant out of the property so they can start earning again but I personally feel it sets a bad example as a whole. I'd rather go all the way to CCJ if I've already started court proceedings for arrears and loss of rent.
Disclaimer: I have no legal expertise nor am I a qualified advisor on any subject. A humble landlord using an open forum to exchange ideas and experiences.
I will do if I proceed. It's with a builder though not a tenant, but will try and work with the builder first.
I agree with your comments though.
I've been looking into it and it doesn't cost much to start the proceedings which, from what I've read, is usually sufficient to get the tenant/builders to pay up. It seems when you get bailiffs involved that's when it starts getting more costly, but like you say, it's worth it for teach them a lesson. Why should you be the only one that looses out!