Pay up, mate

By Nick Holmes on September 5, 2007
3 comments
Filed under Justice

A day in court is a rare event for me. So it was illuminating to attend a county court hearing assisting a friend trying to recover her tenancy deposit.

Judgment had been issued against the landlord, who had failed to respond to the claim. In his application to set aside the judgment, apart from denying he had received the claim, the landlord had set out the spurious arguments previously given in a letter to the tanants and more as to why he felt entitled – without it seems any serious consideration of the terms of the tenancy agreement – to withhold almost the entire deposit.

The DJ listened politely but felt no need to ask the tenant to speak and dismissed the landlord’s application as he could show no quantifiable loss. So the judgment stands, though seeing the colour of the landlord’s money will have to wait.

What struck me, however, was how inefficient the system is:

  • The DJ admitted he did not have a copy of the claim in front of him though it had been submitted online and was presumably just a click and print away.
  • The proceedings were informal, but nevertheless the DJ used standard legal jargon. Neither claimant nor defendant were native English speakers and did not fully understand much that was said or the result. Indeed, the landlord seemed to think he had won and I had to disabuse him after the hearing. Could the DJ not have explained “that means you’ll have to pay up, mate”?
  • We’d all taken a few hours off to see to the matter and were all gathered together in one room, the amount of the judgment was calculable and the landlord had his wallet in his pocket. Yet there was no court service “ATM” in the corner to accept the landlord’s credit card at the one end and spew out a cheque in favour of the tenant at the other!

Bring on Justice 2.0!

3 comments

Enforcement is a sod, it is true. We sometimes have to use the full gamut of charging orders, attachment of earnings etc. against private landlords.

Most District Judges in small claims, at least where parties are not represented, do usually take considerable time to make sure the parties understand what is going on and the result, in my experience. I hope you just got an exception.

Claims Online is being rolled out very fast, with inadequate support (surprise) and the courts are under great pressure because of it, not least because of a set time limit for the first hearing. A good idea, without proper support – How familiar is this in the public sector?

by Contact on 5 September 2007 at 9:43 pm. #

I agree. Enforcement of county court judgments is a national disgrace and helps bring the court system into disrepute. The enforcement proceedures that we have are bureaucratic, slow and expensive. The result is that around 30% of all judgment (so I understand) go unpaid. Which is shocking.

by Tessa Shepperson on 6 September 2007 at 10:16 am. #

I can sympathise with your experiences. The system is entirely inefficient. However, there’s always a diamond in the rough. Check out Money Claim Manager at http://www.moneyclaimmanager.net . The enitre money claim process is handled for you online at the click of a button (unlike the government’s MCOL service). What’s more, the service enables you to apply for a warrant or refer the matter to a high court enforcement officer. It’s simple, easy to use, and although you must subscribe to the service which seems expensive, you’ll easily get this back out of the extra money you recover. The Site’s enforcement matrix is also very useful and ensures that the claim process is pursued right up to recovery of your debt.

by Andrew Nicholson on 15 April 2009 at 11:15 am. #