You have personal property in another person's home and unfortunately, she has refused to return your belongings. You have tried unsuccessfully to retrieve your property, but the other person is unreasonable and holding your property hostage. Small claims court is an option for you that allows you to take the other person to court, prove your case and win back your property. The court also has additional measures to ensure that you retrieve your personal property even if the defendant refuses to return your belongings after you receive your judgment.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Defendant's address
- Defendant's legal name
Sign an affidavit stating that you have attempted to collect your property through all legal channels, but you have not been successful. Determine at which court you will need to file your lawsuit. This is typically the court nearest the county where the property is located or in a separate small claims court division, depending on your area.
Collect all evidence that will help prove your case before heading to the courthouse. Find any receipts that you have for your property or a record of payments to a finance company where you financed the purchase of your property. Organise any records that indicate the defendant agreed to return your belongs or a note where he stated his intentions to return the belongings as this documentation can serve as a promissory note and help your case in court.
Ask any potential witnesses if they would be willing to testify on your behalf if they personally saw the defendant damaging, moving or agreeing to return your property. Signed statements from witnesses do not usually stand up in court since the defendant does not have a chance to cross-examine the witness.
Determine the financial worth of your property. Although you are suing for the return of personal property, it is possible the defendant disposed of or damaged the property and the court may require that you are offered a monetary reward.
Write down the defendant's exact address and legal name. This information is necessary to file a valid lawsuit as well as to serve the defendant.
Go to the courthouse and collect the paperwork from the court clerk to file a lawsuit. Submit your affidavit, sign an oath that the information is true and pay the appropriate filing fee. Present copies of all paperwork for the defendant to receive.
Call the county clerk's office and ask when the court date will be. Sign a request for default judgment if the defendant does not respond. Go to the hearing if the defendant will be contesting the case.
Answer when the bailiff calls your case. Take an oath. Present your testimony in an objective, non-emotional matter. Do not talk when the judge is talking. Present all evidence that strengthens your case to the judge. Call any witness you have so he can testify to what he witnessed.
Wait as the judge hears the defendant's version of the events. Do not interrupt the defendant while he is talking. Write down any discrepancies and mention these to the judge when he calls upon you again.
Complete an application for wage or property execution if you win your case in court but the defendant refuses to release your property. This measure can cause the defendant's wages to be garnished or allows you to place a lien on his property. File the application for execution with the court clerk where you received your judgment. Pay the appropriate fee. Contact the local sheriff to collect your belongings as an alternative.
Tips and warnings
- Try alternative dispute resolution, a mediation strategy offered by the court in lieu of a hearing. This service is usually much cheaper if not free and can be a legally binding alternative to hashing out your problems in court.
- Consult an attorney if your case is particularly difficult or the property value exceeds £3,250. Your attorney may suggest a different legal recourse than small claims court.
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