If you don't know where to find the debtor, you can't write a letter of demand, try mediation or file a claim in the Local Court. See Finding and naming the right defendant for suggested ways to find a debtor.
If you can't find the debtor now, you may be able to in the future. Keep in mind that the time limit for starting legal action is six years from the date the debtor should have paid the money.
Most information about a debtor's income and assets is private. All you can find out from public records is whether the debtor is bankrupt and whether they have any court judgments against them. Before starting a court case, you should search the National Personal Insolvency Index or the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.
For more information, see Do I have to go to court? - Questions to consider.
If you get a court judgment against the debtor, you can make the debtor provide information about their income and assets. This is done through an Examination Notice or an Examination Order.
For more information, see After the case.
Community Justice Centres say that over 80% of the mediations they hold result in an agreement.
For more information, see Mediation.
Agreements made in mediation are not legally binding or enforceable. However, if the parties reach an agreement at mediation, this agreement may be used as the basis for a legally binding agreement or deed if both parties consent.
For more information, see Settling the case.
No, you don't have to respond to the request for more information about a letter of demand. However, it could save time and make it more likely that the debtor will pay the debt if you provide the requested information.
If you don't know how to respond to the request for further and better particulars, get legal advice.
If you file a claim in the Small Claims Division of the Local Court, the length of the case depends on whether the debtor defends the claim. If the debtor does defend the claim, it is likely to take between 3 and 6 months to finalise the case.
If the debtor doesn't file a Defence within 28 days of being served with the Statement of Claim, you can apply for a default judgment against the debtor on the 29th day.
Even if the court says the debtor owes you the money, the debtor may not pay you. If this happens, you will need to take enforcement action. This could take several months. The court may agree to an instalment order so that you receive the money in smaller amounts over a longer period. If the debtor has no assets or income, you may never receive the money.