Once the claim form has been 'served', you have to wait to see what the defendant decides to do. What happens next depends entirely on them.
The defendant may:
This is the desired result and no further action is required.
There are however a couple of points to watch.
The defendant's cheque may not clear. In which case you go on and ask for judgment as if you hadn't been paid. But notify the defendant that the payment was dishonoured and keep a record. This will be useful when or if they try and contest it in court. It will be very hard for them to dispute the amount outstanding if they have already offered payment.
The defendant pays the original amount owing but doesn't pay the court fee or any interest you may have added. This will happen quite often. The defendant will claim that the cheque and the summons 'must have crossed in the post'.
If the defendant paid before the date of service then there is nothing you can do anyway. If however, the payment was made after this date then you can continue the action for the outstanding amount of the claim. As you have already paid the fee you have nothing to lose financially but you may decide that the amount of effort involved does not justify continuing the action.
The defendant has 14 days from the date of service in which to reply to the summons.
The date of service is set by the court and appears on notice the court sends you. If the defendant has not replied after 14 days, you can apply for 'judgment by default'. Fill in N225/N227 Request for Judgment.
In section C, you can tick the box requesting immediate payment. You then need to fill in the amount of the claim, including any fees or allowed costs.
If you want to enforce the judgment by sending the court bailiff to claim possessions, you can apply for a Warrant of Execution at the same time as you apply for judgment. [Well you could under the old system and it probably hasn't changed.]
The court will process this form and issue judgment in your favour.
See also: Court leaflet: EX304 - I've started a claim in court, what happens next?
The defendant will usually do this if they accept the claim but cannot afford to pay it. They may either ask for time to pay or make an offer to pay by installments.
If the defendant makes no offer of payment then you can ask for judgment in the same way as outlined in the previous section.
If the defendant has made an offer to pay this will be on the N9A. The defendant will provide details of how much they can afford to pay in installments or when they can pay off the entire amount.
They will also provide details of their monthly income and expenditure.
You can either accept or reject the defendant's offer.
If you decide to accept the defendant's offer then fill in the Form N225/N227 Request for Judgement that you were sent by the court.
Tick section B. Inside section B tick the box marked 'I accept the defendant's proposal to pay'.
Fill in Section C with the details of the defendant's proposal to pay. Fill in the rest of Section C with the amount of your claim.
The court will process this form and send the defendant a judgment order N30(1). The form tells the defendant how much to pay, when to pay and where to send the money.
You can reject the defendant's offer of payment but you should consider carefully about your reasons. You must decide whether you think the defendant's offer is reasonable or not. More exactly you must decide whether the court will think their offer is reasonable or not.
If you do decide to reject the defendant's proposal then you will need to fill in Form N225/N227 Request for Judgement stating why you object and how much you would be willing to accept.
The court will then look at the information provided by you (on Form N225/N227 Request for Judgement) and the information provided by the defendant (on N9). The court will then decide on a fair amount for the defendant to pay. This is called 'entering judgment by determination' and will be sent to the defendant. You will also receive a copy.
Either you or the defendant can appeal the decision if unhappy with it.
The defendant can decide to return an 'Acknowledgement of Service' to the court.
The defendant will do this if they need more than 14 days to issue a defence or wish to dispute the court's jurisdiction. This could be used by the defendant as a delaying tactic. However, they would then not be able to apply for a judgment to be 'set aside' at a later date - claiming that they had never received the summons.
This option is new. It didn't apply in the older small claims procedures (pre 26th April 1999)
The defendant can choose to admit only part of the claim. They could dispute the whole claim or they could issue a counter-claim.
If the defendant admits some of the claim and disputes the rest, you will receive their part admission on N9A and the defence on N9B. The part admission is dealt with in the same way as described under admitting the claim.
The defendant may dispute your claim or may issue a counter-claim. You should check this carefully and decide whether you want to proceed. You may decide to that some of the defendant's arguments are reasonable. There is nothing to stop you and the defendant agreeing to settle at this stage rather than continuing with legal action.
The defendant may state as their defence that they have already paid the amount owing. (This used to be known as a 'states paid' defence.) If this happens the court will send you Form N236 - Notice of defence that amount claimed has been paid. You have 28 days within which to notify the court whether you accept this defence or not.
See also: Court leaflet: EX306 - The small claims track in the civil courts (If your dispute has gone to court)