Recover debts owed to you

If a person or company owes you money and won't pay, there are ways of recovering the debt. The action you take will depend on the size of the debt and your ability to prove that you are owed the money.

Contacting the person or company who owes you money

Speak to the person who owes you money. You may be able to informally agree a plan to get the money repaid.

If that doesn’t work, you can write a letter. Tell them:

  • how much they owe
  • what it’s for
  • what you have already done to try to get the money

It's important to include information like:

  • who's involved - the name and address of both you and the person who owes you money
  • dated copies of all paperwork for the debt
  • a date when you expect payment (at least seven days)
  • a request for the debtor to put in writing any issue or dispute they have with your statement
  • details of the steps you'll take if payment isn't received

You should avoid:

  • being drawn into heated arguments or lengthy correspondence
  • threatening legal action that you're not prepared to follow up

Using mediation to settle a debt dispute

If you are unable to come to an agreement over the debt, you can get help negotiating a solution using a mediation service.

In mediation, someone from a mediation service helps two sides find a solution to a dispute. It can be quicker, cheaper and less stressful than going to court.

The court will expect you to try to solve the dispute through negotiation or mediation before going to court.

If mediation doesn’t work, you can still take a case to court.

Using a solicitor

If you’re not able to come to an agreement, it can be helpful to discuss your case with a solicitor who's experienced in debt recovery.

For a fee, they can write a letter to the person who owes you money. The letter can tell them that legal action may be taken if they don't pay. A solicitor's letter can produce quick results.

Talking with a solicitor can also help define your case in legal terms and help identify further action that may be available to you.

Sometimes solicitors will work to a fixed fee. If they are charging an hourly rate, this is usually around £50.oo an hour.

Using a debt recovery agency

Some companies specialise in debt recovery and will employ a solicitor to take legal action to recover your debt. They may charge a fixed fee or take an amount of the money they recover on your behalf.

It's possible the agency might not use legally trained staff.

Recovering debts through the courts

If you can't settle the matter in any other way, you may want to make a claim in court. This is normally used as a last resort. It's a good idea to seek independent legal advice first.

It's important to remember that:

  • it can take months for a case to go to court
  • there’s no guarantee you’ll win the case
  • you may have to pay the other side’s costs if you lose the case
  • if the other side can’t pay (for example, they’re bankrupt or not working), it will be hard to get money back

If win your case, you may have to apply to the Enforcement of Judgments Office EJO) to ask them to try to recover the money on your behalf, as the court won’t enforce a judgment.  

There are further fees that the EJO will charge you to enforce your judgment. You can find out more information by contacting the EJO at:

Claiming online

Where the value of the claim does not exceed £3000, you can make a claim online using the Small Claims service.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.