Please note that new Uniform Civil Court Rules 2020 for legal proceedings in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts of South Australia are scheduled to commence on 18 May 2020. The information in this chapter is still based on the rules that apply prior to the commencement of the new civil rules, but will be updated on or about 18 May 2020 to reflect the new rules.
The information in this section is aimed at creditors who are owed debts of no more than $12 000 (which is the limit for claims in the Civil (Minor Claims) Division of the Magistrates Court of South Australia).
The information is largely reproduced from our booklet How to Recover a Debt.
If you are owed a debt as a subcontractor or supplier in the building and construction industry, then you may be able to make a claim under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2009 (SA) (for further detail see Debts in the Building and Construction Industry).
Things to consider before pursuing a debt
Proving your debt
Whenever you are owed a debt you should have proof that the debt exists and proof of the debt’s value. You should keep copies of any agreements, invoices, emails, letters or other documents that show how much money is owed, and the time, date or circumstances of the debt.
When making a verbal agreement, write down any terms or conditions of the agreement and the time and date that it took place. In the case of a verbal agreement, it can be useful if there is a witness who saw the agreement take place or saw the debtor refuse to pay. Evidence such as a bank transfer or cheque records may also substantiate the verbal agreement.
Legal action to recover a debt must be commenced within six years from the date when the debt first came about. If, during that time, the debtor acknowledges or confirms the debt (by making a promise in writing signed by the debtor or their agent to pay the debt) then the six year period begins again from that date.