Learn how to enforce a payment in SA in three steps.
Step 1: Informal Communication
What is this?
The more formal Steps 2 and 3 (Letter and potential Court action) could be intimidating to the other party, so you should try to salvage the existing relationship. As such, you should attempt to re-establish informal contact with them by perhaps phone or email. We recommend this because at times, the unpaid invoice could be a result of a simple oversight or misunderstanding, and a phone call here could be a solution. If you are unsuccessful with this step, proceed with Step 2.
STEP 2: Send a Final Notice of Claim
What is it?
This is a formal notice, but not a court action, which states your position in writing for recovering the outstanding amount. The form can be found online or at the Magistrates Court.
What should it contain?
You will need to state what is being claimed, the potential to proceed to court if unresolved and also the alternative options such as mediation. Also, there is a 21 window in which they can reply, a lack of reply would result in court proceedings.
If the 21 days elapse or there is an unsatisfactory response, proceed to Step 3.
STEP 3: Small Claims debt recovery action
What is it?
Basically, this is a relatively informal local court action, which you can do yourself. It is applicable to money, goods purchased/delivered, labour or a combination of these. Within South Australia, the Magistrates Court can only deal with claims up to $6 000. You will most likely prefer to be self-represented as this is a relatively minor process.
How to do it:
This process has three sub-steps.
1. Preliminary instructions before getting to court:
a. Then, to commence court proceedings, complete a ‘Minor Civil Action – Claim form’, found at Court or on the website
i. You need to complete four of these forms, where one is for the other party
ii. This ‘Claim form’ must be actioned within 1 year
2. It’s important to appreciate that at any point before the hearing, you can attempt to negotiate for a settlement. If no agreement is reached and the hearing date is reached, then you should proceed to court and obtain a favourable judgment.
3. Attend Court: here you will tell the Magistrate your perspective of the events and the basis for your claim. This will be done under oath and you will be expected to provide relevant evidence. Similarly, the other party will get a chance to do the same and finally, the Magistrate will make a final and binding decision.
Still unsure of how to recover your money in SA? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH to learn more.