New Uniform Civil Rules 2020 for legal proceedings in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts of South Australia commenced on 18 May 2020. The information contained below applies to the Minor Civil Action jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court, unless otherwise stated.
Before commencing proceedings in court, a notice of intention to sue should be given to the debtor. If no notice of intention to sue is given, the costs of filing the claim will not be recoverable. Notice of intention to sue can be given by EITHER filling out and serving a Final Notice (Form P1) OR serving a written pre-action notice of intention to commence action (i.e. a Letter of Demand).
A Final Notice (Form P1) gives notice to the defendant that you intend to start an action to claim the debt owed to you. This form can be obtained from the Magistrates Court Registry or or from the Magistrates Court website online here [link opens in a new window].
There is a cost for the form. The Registry will stamp the form, but you must serve it yourself; the court will not do it for you.
After serving the form on the respondent, you must wait a minimum 21 days for a response before taking any further action. Send an Enforceable Payment Agreement with the Final Notice if you are willing to accept payment in installments.
No written pre-action response (explained in further detail, below) is required from the respondent if the prescribed Final Notice form (Form P1) is used [r 332.3(3)]
Written notice of intention to commence action
A written pre-action notice is a formal request that the debtor pay you the money owed.
A final letter of demand can be used instead of a Final Notice (Form P1) but to be considered a written pre-action notice of intention to commence a claim under the Court Rules, it must include:
[see Uniform Civil Rules rule 332.3(1)]
The debtor is then required to serve the creditor with a pre-action written response within 21 days. If no response is served, this may be taken into account in determining any costs awarded in the action. [r 332.3(2)]
The pre-action response must include:
[see Uniform Civil Rules rule 332.4(1)]
You must serve your Final Notice (Form P1) or pre-action notice (letter of demand) on the debtor.
There are a number of ways to serve court documents.
1. Personal delivery: The documents can be served by handing them to the debtor (or director) as long as you can identify the debtor. If you want to serve the documents personally, you may also use an agent or process server for a fee.
3. Court Sheriff: For a fee, you can ask the court to serve documents. This ensures that the documents are served properly as long as your address is correct and the Sheriff can find the debtor. The Sheriff will also complete the affidavit of service.
4. Email: If you have previously been communicating with the debtor by email, and you are sure that the debtor uses the email address regularly, you can serve the documents by email. You may also use a business email address if the debtor has one specifically for the service of documents.