From time to time, many of us are faced with debtors who owe us relatively small amounts, in the region of several thousand Rand. While the legal costs of suing these debtors often make litigation impractical, individuals can approach the Small Claims Court to resolve the situation if debtors seem unwilling to pay.
The Small Claims Court deals with any civil claim not exceeding R12000, and provides individual citizens with a cost-effective means of recovering money which may be owed to them by other individuals. The Small Claims Court is not available to hear debts owed to businesses.
How it Works
The Small Claims Court requires individuals to represent themselves, although your lawyer will be able to advise you on your case before you go to court. The Court is presided over by a commissioner who acts as a judge, hearing the details of the case and asking questions of both parties to establish whether the claim is valid and how much should be paid in settlement.
If you wish to make a claim in the Small Claims Court, you’ll need to ensure that the amount involved is less than R 12000. The Court does not hear cases related to divorces or criminal proceedings.
The Legal Process
Before you appear before the Court along with your debtor, you will need to do the following:
- Send the debtor a letter of demand, giving them 14 days to pay what is owed.
- If the amount is not settled within 14 days, you may approach the Clerk of the Court to institute a claim.
- A summons must be served on your debtor.
- On the court date, you should arrive on time at the Court with all documentation, evidence and any witnesses that may strengthen your case.
The court proceedings in the Small Claims Court are extremely simple, with the commissioner asking questions of both parties before reaching a decision. You and your debtor will not be cross-examined and the entire process should not be a stressful one.