The Process of Defending a Debt Claim 

This page will give you an idea of the steps involved in disputing a debt claim against you. However, we can support you throughout the process and advise you about your options as the claim progresses.  
Remember that you can only defend a debt claim for one of the reasons listed on the Defending a Debt Claim page. If you do not have a valid defence you have no choice but to admit the claim and attempt to reach a settlement with the creditor. We can help you to negotiate this.  
How long will it take? 
We would expect it to take between 6 months and 1 year to resolve the dispute. It can take up to a year for disputed debts to be listed and heard in Court.  
Respond to the Letter Before Action 
Your creditor will have sent you a ‘letter before action’ (also known as a letter of claim) because they want to start legal action. The letter before action will give you a specified period to respond depending on whether you are an individual, a sole trader, or a limited company. If you are an individual you should receive a reply form included with the letter before action. You need to complete and return this to the creditor within the time specified.  
Once a claim has been issued, reply to it as early as possible, even if you disagree you owe the debt. If you don’t reply, you might be taken to court for a debt you don’t owe. It will be harder to challenge the decision at a later stage and might end up costing you money to correct it. 
If you need longer than the time specified to fill in the defence form, fill in and return the ‘acknowledgement of service’ form, which gives you additional time to respond. We will help you to fill in forms correctly. 
You need to explain why you don’t think you owe the other party money, or why you don’t agree with the amount being claimed. You may also dispute the claim because you feel your creditor hasn’t acted properly, and you should explain why. For example, if your creditor hasn’t warned you of the debt or they’ve started legal action too quickly. 


Once written details of the dispute have been filed, the Court will issue an Allocation Questionnaire, gathering information to help decide where and when the case should be heard. This questionnaire gives the parties an opportunity to request the matter be ‘stayed’ for a period, usually 28 days, to allow the parties to communicate and attempt to reach a settlement.  
Parties may choose to negotiate directly or through their solicitors, or to use a mediator. For debts under £5,000 the Courts offer a Small Claim Mediation Service free of charge. Where the debt is over the value of £5,000, parties wishing to use a mediator must instruct an independent mediator and agree how to divide the cost between them. 


If the claim can not be settled, the matter will proceed to trial. Proceeding to trial is an expensive route, so the value of the claim should be taken into account when proceeding to a final hearing. Witness evidence in person is often requested and depending on the nature of the dispute, experts may also be called. Depending on the complexity of the case, Counsel may also be instructed. 

Get in touch 

Do you have a legal matter you'd like to discuss with us? Get in touch using the details below or use the form here and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss your enquiry. 
Phone: 0121 452 5130 
Address: Spencer Shaw Solicitors Limited 
Vancouver House, 111 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16 8LB 
Opening hours: 
Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 5:00PM 
Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays - Closed 
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