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Defending a County Court money claim

The defendant can file a defence to all or part of a County Court money claim issued under part 7 Civil Procedure Rules.

This content applies to England

How to defend a money claim

A defendant who wants to defend all or part of a claim must file a defence with the court on form N9B. The form must be filed at court and sent to all parties to the court proceedings. It can be filed at court by posting, by hand delivery, or by completion of the defence form through the money claims online portal.

Read more about the process for money claims.

How to complete the defence form

The form contains some space for the defendant to explain the reasons for defending the claim. If the defence relies on complex legal arguments or detailed facts, the defendant should continue on a separate sheet containing the parties' names and the claim number.

The defendant should address each point in the claim and say whether it is:

  • admitted

  • denied

  • neither admitted nor denied

The defendant must explain their reason for denying each point in the claim. A district judge can grant a summary judgment to the claimant or strike out the defence if they decide it has no real prospect of success, and there is no other good reason for a trial.[1]

If the defendant has not included enough information, their defence could be struck out.

Time limit to file a defence

The defendant must complete and return form N9B within 14 days of service of the claim. A form is filed when it is received by the court. If the particulars of claim were served after the claim form, the 14 days runs from the date of service of the particulars.[2]

If the defendant files their defence after the deadline has passed, they should send the court a letter with the defence form asking for permission to file the defence late, and explaining the reason for the late filing.

The claimant can apply for a default judgment at the end of the 14 days (or 28 days, if an acknowledgment of service has been submitted) if the defendant has not replied to the claim. The claimant cannot apply for default judgment if a defence has been filed, even if it was out of time.[3]

Types of defences in money claims

The defendant could defend a money claim on the basis that:

  • they have already paid the amount claimed

  • it has been issued for the wrong amount

  • it has been issued against the wrong person

  • it was issued out of time

  • the claimant did not follow the correct process, such as issuing notices under the Consumer Credit Act 1974

This list is not exhaustive, other defences could be available.

Defendant has already paid the claim

The defendant can tick the box on the defence form to tell the court they have paid the claim, and include evidence if they have it. This could be in the form of a bank statement if they do not have a receipt from the claimant.

The court can strike out the claim if they are satisfied it has been paid.

Claim issued for the wrong amount

The defendant must file the defence form and the admission form, specifying how much they admit and how much they deny. They must provide their reasons for denying each point.

Claim issued against wrong person

The defendant can ask the claimant for more proof that they have issued the claim against the right person. They can refer to any evidence that they are not the intended defendant. This could be evidence that the date of birth, address or other details held by the claimant do not match the defendant's.

The court can strike out the claim if they are satisfied it was issued against the wrong person.

Claimant is out of time to issue a claim

For most debt claims, the claimant has six years to start court proceedings. This is the case for most consumer contracts[4] and rent arrears arising under a tenancy.[5] A claimant has 12 years to recover a debt that was secured by a deed, such as a mortgage.[6]

The time limit usually runs from the date of the last payment or formal acknowledgment of the debt.[7] Formal acknowledgment means it must have been made in writing. For Consumer Credit Act regulated agreements, the time limit runs from the date the default notice expired, unless there has been a part payment or formal acknowledgment since then.[8]

The defendant can ask the court for summary judgment to strike out the claimant's case if it was issued out of time. The court can demand the claimant provides evidence from the claimant that the claim was brought in time. The burden is on the claimant to show their claim was in time.

Claimant did not follow the correct process

The defendant needs to set out what the claimant has done wrong. The court does not undertake its own investigation into the law. Technical defences based on a failure to send statutory notices or undertake any other legal duties are likely to require legal advice.

Defendant's counterclaim

A defendant can issue a counterclaim as part of their defence, if they have a money claim against the claimant.[9] If the defendant files a counterclaim, the court deals with both claims in the same set of court proceedings.

The defendant should file their counterclaim at the same time as their defence form. They need the court's permission to file the counterclaim at any other time.[10]

The defendant needs to pay the appropriate court fee to file the counterclaim. They must also prepare and submit their own particulars of claim for the claimant to respond to.

A successful counterclaim could reduce the final judgment debt, wipe out the debt entirely, or result in a judgment against the original claimant for the defendant.

Examples of counterclaims

The original claim is for rent arrears, a counterclaim could be for disrepair at the property.

The original claim is for a Consumer Credit Act regulated debt, the counterclaim could be for a refund of interest because the claimant did not send statutory notices of sums in arrears.

The original claim is for financial loss due to a breach of contract, the counterclaim could be for the claimant's breach of contract.

What happens after the defence is filed

The court can strike out the claimant's case if it is satisfied that the claim should not have been issued. This is more likely to happen if the defendant has satisfied the court that the claim was issued out of time or against the wrong person, or that they have already paid the claim.

The claimant can file a reply to the defence. They must send a copy of the reply to all the parties to the case.[11]

Unless either the claim or the defence is struck out, the claim proceeds to a trial. A trial allows the court to consider evidence, hear legal arguments, and make a final decision on the case.

Small claims mediation

The claim will be automatically referred for small claims mediation if it is:[12]

  • for a fixed sum of money less than £10,000

  • not issued online through Civil Money Claims Online

  • not for personal injury or a road traffic accident

Small claims mediation is a one hour session arranged by HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

Allocation to a track

The court must allocate the claim to a track before it can proceed to a trial.

In the County Court, the claim could be allocated to the:

  • small claims track

  • fast track

  • multi track

The small claims track is for claims where the value is less than £10,000.

The fast track is for most other claims.

The multi-track is for claims where there is a complex issue to be decided. The procedure is more complicated the defendant could incur significant costs if the claim is allocated to the multi-track.

Directions questionnaire

The court sends a directions questionnaire to the claimant and the defendant on form N150. The parties must file the completed questionnaire by the date specified. Either party can apply for summary judgment striking out the other party's statement of case if the form is not returned by the deadline.

The court sends the defendant and the claimant a notice stating which track they think the case is most suitable for.[13] The court uses the information in the questionnaires to decide whether to allocate the case to a different track

Directions for a trial

The court issues directions to the claimant and the defendant. Directions are instructions for the parties to submit certain documents by a given date.

Typical directions include instructions for the parties to file at court and send to each other:

  • witness statements, containing the facts of the case

  • skeleton arguments, containing the law they seek to rely on

  • further and better particulars, if the particulars of claim are not sufficient

The parties must also file schedules stating their costs for cases allocated to the multi-track.

The court hearing

The court lists the case for a trial to make a final decision about the case based on the evidence that has been filed by the claimant and the defendant. The hearing date is sent out to the claimant and the defendant by the court.

The defendant must attend the court hearing. The judge who deals with the case is likely to have questions about points raised in the defence and the witness statements.

If the defendant is relying on evidence from another witness, they should also attend the court hearing.

Defendant unable to attend

The defendant must give the court and the claimant seven days' notice in writing if they cannot attend the hearing. They can ask the court to deal with the claim in their absence, taking into account all the written evidence available.[14]

If the defendant does not attend and has not given seven days' notice, the court can decide the claim on the claimant's evidence alone.[15]

A defendant who was unable to attend the hearing and did not give seven days' notice can apply to have the order set aside, and the case reheard.[16] They must make the application within 14 days of the date of service of the judgment.


The claimant and the defendant can cross-examine each other's witnesses, and each other, if they want to.

If the defendant wants to cross-examine the claimant, they should make a list of the questions they want to ask, based on the written evidence they have seen. The court has a set amount of time to deal with the case, and will not allow the parties to spend time on irrelevant or spurious questioning.

Alternative dispute resolution

The defendant should file a defence if they want to seek an alternative way of resolving the dispute. They can indicate on the defence form any steps they have taken to resolve the dispute so far.

The defendant can tick the box on their directions questionnaire to ask for the case to be stayed for alternative dispute resolution.[17]

Financial Ombudsman Service

The Financial Ombudsman deals with complaints against firms that are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. FCA authorised firms include banks and finance providers, insurance firms, pension providers, and mortgage lenders.

The court can stay the court proceedings for the defendant to make a complaint about the claimant to the Financial Ombudsman. A decision of the Ombudsman is binding on the claimant. If the Ombudsman decides in favour of the defendant, the claimant can be prevented from continuing with their claim.


Different mediation services are available depending on the type of claim.

Some claims under £10,000 are automatically referred for mediation.

The small claims mediation service is available for claims with a value of up to £10,000. It is available to the parties at no cost. The claimant and defendant are given a telephone mediation appointment. If they reach an agreement, they are sent the terms in a settlement agreement. If the terms are breached, either party can apply to court to reinstate the case.

Mediation for claims over £10,000 can be referred by the court, but there is a cost to the parties.

Last updated: 28 May 2024


  • [1]

    r.24.2(a) Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [2]

    r.15.4 Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [3]

    r.12.3(1) Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [4]

    s.5 Limitation Act 1980.

  • [5]

    s.19 Limitation Act 1980.

  • [6]

    s.20 Limitation Act 1980.

  • [7]

    s.29 Limitation Act 1980.

  • [8]

    Doyle v PRA Group (UK) Ltd 2019 EWCA Civ 12.

  • [9]

    r.20.2 Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [10]

    r.20.4 Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [11]

    r.15.8 Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [12]

    CPR Practice Direction 51ZE, in force from 22 May 2024.

  • [13]

    r.26.3 Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [14]

    r.27.9 Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [15]

    r.27.9(3) Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [16]

    r.27.11 Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [17]

    r.26.4 Civil Procedure Rules.