Using the Simple Procedure

If you have followed correct procedures and your co-owners still won’t pay their share for common or mutual repairs, you can use the new Simple Procedure claims action at the Sheriff Court to recover what is owed to you. The claim limit is £5,000, fees are low, and arbitration and negotiation are the preferred methods of settlement. The procedures are designed to help those who do not have legal representation and are fairly informal.

Before using the Simple Procedure

Check that you have followed correct repair procedures – you have every chance of success if you have. However, you may still succeed if you haven’t.

Be prepared not just to take your co-owner to court, but to also take further action to collect the debt or to accept stage payments from your co-owner.

The claim must be for a sum under £5,000 (claims over £5,000 must use the Ordinary Cause procedure and the use of a solicitor is advised).

Getting help with using the Simple Procedure

You can see guidance on the Simple Procedure on the Scottish Courts website. The Sheriff Clerk at the court will help you with procedures but cannot give advice on points of law.

You can also get help from one of the many advice centres in Scotland. See Getting advice for more information.

Our example claim form can also give you an idea of what to write when making a claim.

Lay representatives and supporters

You may use the help of a lay representative – maybe someone from an advice centre. This person cannot be paid. You may also have a Courtroom Supporter, such as a friend or neighbour. This person cannot speak on your behalf but may take notes, help you cope with the papers, and quietly remind you about points to make or questions to ask. These people need to fill in a lay representation form (Form 2A), mainly giving the court their name and contact details.

How much does it cost?

Fees depend on the amount you claim (fees correct at April 2023).

  • claims under £300 – £20 fee
  • claims between £300 and £5,000 – £110 fee
  • service of notices by Sheriff Officer – £13, plus Sheriff Officer’s fee
  • marking of an appeal – £64

You will be exempt from fees if you are on benefits, such as income support, pension credit guarantee, or working tax credit. You can get full details from the Scottish Courts website (also see Sheriff Court Fees for more information).

What happens about expenses?

Keep evidence (receipts etc.) for any costs incurred in the case. The Sheriff decides on who will pay expenses. This is normally the party who loses the action.

Legal jargon
  • the person making the claim is called the claimant
  • the person claimed against is called the respondent

Further terms you may come across are covered in the legal glossary.

How does it work?

Making a claim

Claims can now be submitted electronically using the Civil Online portal and you can find further guidance on this from the Scottish Courts website. It involves completing an online form. You can also see the Civil Online Simple Procedure FAQs page for more information on this process.

If you are unable to complete the form electronically, you must contact your local Sheriff Court and seek the Sheriff’s approval to complete the claim in paper format.

When submitting the claim in paper format, you must complete two copies of the Simple Procedure Claim Form (Form 3A) and send both copies to the Sheriff Court dealing with your claim.

Alongside your claim forms, you should also include a note explaining why you are submitting the claim in paper form, rather than online. This does not need to be a formal letter, a few sentences is usually sufficient, but make sure to include the names and addresses of those involved in the claim at the top of the note.

Filling in the forms

Make sure to follow the guidance on the form and to include as much information as possible. You can use our example claim form to give you an idea of what to write.

You can claim interest on debts at the rate of 8% per annum.

If you have shared out the debt owed on a repair amongst several owners, you can use the ‘additional claimants’ forms to add these other owners to the claim.

If more than one flat owner owes money, you must make a separate claim against each one. See also Joint owners.

Which court?

The court which will hear the claim will be the one within whose area the respondent lives or has a place of business.

If you cannot find out where the respondent lives, go to your nearest court with the claim form and a completed ‘Service By Advertisement‘ form filled in with details of the steps you have taken to trace the owner. The court will then advertise your claim on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.

If the respondent does not live in Scotland, you can still use this procedure but need to follow other steps to serve the claim. The Sheriff Court will advise you on this.

After submitting the claim

Once a claim has been received, the sheriff clerk will check that it has been completed correctly.

If there is a problem with your claim and you submitted it online, the fee will be refunded automatically and the form will be sent back to you to correct. If you submitted the form in paper format, it will be returned to you, along with the fee, for you to correct.

If there are no problems, or after corrections have been made, the sheriff clerk will register the claim. They will assign the claim a case reference number and issue a timetable containing two dates, the last date for service and the last date for a response from the respondent (Form 3D).

The last date of service refers to the last date by which the claim form should be delivered to the respondent. The last date for a response refers to the last date by which a respondent must respond to a claim.

What if you think the respondent will try and avoid paying their debt?

If you are worried that the respondent will deliberately try and dispose of money or sell their flat in order to avoid payment, you can serve a Provisional Orders Application.

You can ask the Sheriff for:

  • an ‘Arrestment on the Dependence’ – an order freezing the respondent’s goods or money held in a bank account etc.
  • an ‘Inhibition on the Dependence’ – an order preventing the respondent from selling their home or taking out a secured loan
  • an ‘Interim Attachment’ – an order preventing the respondent from selling or removing their goods

Responding to a claim

The respondent will be given about three weeks to reply to your claim. They have a number of choices:

  1. They can settle the claim before the response date.
  2. They can dispute the claim and put forward their own evidence.
  3. They can offer to settle but ask for time to pay.
  4. They may do nothing – this is likely to lead to the case being found against them.

More information on defending a claim

What happens on the response date?

This depends on what action the respondent has taken.

1. The respondent settles the case

The procedure stops here.

2. Disputed cases

If the respondent disputes your claim, the Sheriff has three main options:

  1. If both parties are unable to agree to negotiate, the Sheriff can propose a case management conference. This allows the Sheriff to clarify the evidence and to aid negotiations directly
  2. The Sheriff can issue ‘Written Orders’ referring the parties to alternative dispute resolution.
  3. The Sheriff may call a hearing at this point.

The Sheriff may also dismiss the case at this time.

3. The respondent asks for time to pay

If the respondent asks for time to pay, the claimant will be sent a copy of the form and will be able to give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer as to whether they are happy to offer time to pay.

4. The respondent does not reply to the claim

The claimant MUST make a formal Application for a Decision within two weeks of the response date. The Sheriff decides the case on the basis of what the claimant has written (though may ask for further information).  A hearing is unlikely in this situation.

What if there is a hearing?

The List of Evidence Form

You must use this form to list all the evidence and documents that you are lodging with the court. This form and the evidence must be submitted at least two weeks before the hearing. You can bring other evidence to the court on the day but the Sheriff can refuse to consider it.

Tag the evidence documents with the numbers given in the List of Evidence Form and make sure all documents have page numbers. If you are having difficulty getting access to the documents you need, ask the court for help.

Preparing for the hearing itself

  • have all the evidence with you – the court will tell you what and what not to bring when they set the date of the hearing
    • you will need to bring two copies
  • keep a copy for yourself and highlight or mark the key sections so you can refer to them easily
  • rehearse what you want to say with a friend or other owners
  • take pens and paper
  • the case may be continued, so check your diary for dates when you won’t be able to return to the court
  • make sure you turn up at the correct time and place
    • you can get maps from the Sheriff Courts website and you can ask the sheriff clerks for advice on e.g. disabled parking
  • visit the court before the hearing if you can, to make sure you know exactly where to go
    • most courts have a reception point where staff can advise you about the courts and the facilities available

On the day

  • plan to arrive early
  • there may be delays if the cases before you run on – put plenty of cash on the meter if you’ve arrived by car
  • your hearing may be heard in a courtroom or other suitable meeting room
  • the Sheriff will go through the evidence with both sides, and try to reach a settlement between both parties or make a decision
  • you may not get a judgement on the hearing day itself – in all cases, you will be notified of the decision in writing
The decision

A decision may be made at almost any point after the response form, completed by the respondent, has been received. A decision may be made at a case management discussion, at a hearing, or after the Sheriff has considered the written evidence.

You will be sent a decision form. The decision form also sets out the Sheriff’s decision about expenses.

What to do when you win

If the respondent does not pay their debt, or do what the court has ordered, you may need to enforce the judgement.

Defending a claim

Don’t ignore any summons you get in the hopes that things will go away – they won’t and it could seriously affect your chances of getting credit or extending your mortgage.

Further information

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