Responding to a claim
If someone is chasing you for money, they may send you a letter of demand, or they might phone you, or send you an email or sms. There are different ways that you can respond to their claim, including:
It is best not to ignore a claim that is made against you. If you don't respond, the other party may decide to start a court case against you. This will cost time and money, and will increase the amount they are claiming from you.
You can respond to a claim verbally, but it is a good idea to put it in writing. For more information, see Responding to a letter of demand - debt.
If you have received a statement of claim, go to Responding to a statement of claim in the Local Courts – Small Claims topic.
If your dispute is about a home loan, personal loan, credit card or consumer lease or other type of credit from a bank or credit provider, you have other options. If you have received a default notice from your lender for a consumer credit contract, see Loans and credit cards. If you have been served with a statement of claim for a bank loan or credit card, see Resolving your dispute with the bank or credit provider.
Admit you owe the money
If you agree that you owe some or all of the money that the other party is asking for, you can tell them:
- the amount of money that you agree you owe
- why you don't think you owe the whole amount
- that you would like to pay the debt by instalments if you cannot repay the full amount right away.
You should get legal advice if you are not sure how much you owe or whether you should admit you owe the money.
Deny you owe the money
You may decide that you don't owe some or all of the money that the other party is claiming. If this is the case, you should tell the other party why you deny their claim.
You can do this by speaking or writing to them. It is a good idea to always be polite and courteous when communicating to the other party.
If the other party does not agree with you, they may decide to start a court case against you.
You should get legal advice if you are not sure whether you owe the money.
Ask for more information
If you don't know whether you owe what the other party is claiming because they didn't give you enough information, you can write back to them to ask for more information. This is known as a 'request for further and better particulars'.
In your letter you should be careful not to admit or deny the claim. You should ask the other party for information and documents that will help you decide whether you owe them the money, such as:
- invoices and bills
- emails and letters
Sample: Sample request for more information - debt.
You can contact the other party at any time to reach an agreement about the claim. You can offer to pay a lesser sum, or an amount in instalments until the debt is repaid.
Negotiating with the other party doesn't need to be formal. You can negotiate with the other party in person or on the phone, or by writing a letter, email or sms. For information on how to respond in writing, see Responding to a letter of demand - debt.
If you negotiate verbally, keep notes of any conversations you have with the other party, including dates and times. These may be helpful if you end up going to court. For more information, see Resolving your dispute – Negotiation.
If you come to an agreement, it is a good idea to put your agreement in writing. For more information, see Resolving your dispute - Put it in writing.
If you cannot reach an agreement with the other party, they may decide to start a case in court against you. It is a good idea to try to resolve your dispute with the other party, before going to court. For more information, see Resolving your dispute.
The time limit to start a court case to recover a debt is six years from when the money became owed, when the last repayment was made, or when the debt was last acknowledged in writing (whichever comes last). If you are unsure, you should get legal advice.