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A sum of money that is awarded by the court as compensation for loss, injury or damage suffered.

Damnum fatale

An 'act of God' such as a flood or earthquake.

Debt provable in bankruptcy

Debt incurred and due for payment prior to the making of the bankruptcy order.


A ruling of a judge or a court on a question of law.


The decision of the court in a civil matter.


A legal document that has been signed and witnessed. This term is usually used for legal documents relating to property, such as a deed of assignment, a mortgage deed or a title deed.

Default judgment/judgment in default

A judgment that can be granted against a defendant who has failed to file an acknowledgement of service or a defence within the time allowed.


The statement of facts and legal arguments used by and relied upon by the defendant.


A person sued in a civil action or charged with a criminal offence. In some cases known as the respondent.

Demoted tenancy

A demoted tenancy is a form of local authority, private registered provider of social housing or housing action trust tenancy that reduces a tenant's security of tenure and rights for a period of time (12 to 18 months). Tenancies can be demoted by the court if the tenant has engaged or threatened to engage in antisocial behaviour, or used or threatened to use the property for an unlawful purpose. It is much easier for a landlord to regain possession of a property while a tenancy is demoted. Demoted tenancies were introduced by the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 and have been in force since 30 June 2004.

Dependent children

The Housing Act 1996 does not define dependent children. The Homelessness Code of Guidance states that dependent children do not have to be the children of the applicant, but could be related to the applicant or her/his partner or be adopted or foster children. The Code suggests that all children under the age of 16 should be treated as dependent, as well as those aged 16 to 18 who are either receiving or about to receive full-time education or training or who are otherwise unable to support themselves and who live at home.


Money requested by a landlord at the beginning of a tenancy as security against non-payment of rent, damage to property, or removal of furniture.

Detailed assessment

The procedure by which a costs officer decides the amount of costs incurred in a case.

Directions hearing

A preliminary hearing at which the court considers which case management directions to make for the future conduct of the case.


These are the costs spent by a solicitor in conducting a case, such as court fees or expert fees.

Discharge from bankruptcy

Point in time from when the restrictions the bankrupt person are removed and most of her/his debts provable in the bankruptcy are written off.


Legal process that allows the trustee to renounce her/his interest in property. The effect of a disclaimer is to bring to an end the rights, interests and liabilities of the bankrupt or the bankruptcy estate in the property disclaimed.


The revealing of information, generally documents (held by either the claimant or the defendant), that will become the evidence in the trial. Disclosure occurs prior to the commencement of the trial.

Discretionary housing payment

Extra money that can be applied for from the local authority if a housing benefit does not cover the whole of their rent.

Discretionary leave to remain

This is an immigration status which is given to a person who may have applied for asylum but has been granted neither asylum nor humanitarian protection or those who have not applied for asylum but who meet the discretionary leave criteria. The only circumstances in which a person can be granted discretionary leave are when there has been a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (‘no-one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment’); people whose right to Article 8 would be violated (‘the right to home, private and family life’); unaccompanied asylum seeker children who cannot be looked after in their own country; and people whose personal circumstances are so compelling that granting them leave is considered to be appropriate. The amount of time that people are granted discretionary leave depends, but will usually be three years initially.


A formal contract for the sale of property.

District judge

A judge appointed to serve in a county court with more limited jurisdiction to hear cases than circuit judges. Confusingly, district judges are also appointed to serve in District Registries of the High Court.

Domestic violence

Violence or abuse (including psychological abuse) perpetrated by the spouse or relative of the victim, or a person who lives with the victim.


The Department for Work and Pensions, formerly known as the DSS (Department of Social Security).