Requesting documents referred to in the claim

Using CPR 31.14

All money claims require documentary evidence showing that the money is actually owed and how the amounts were arrived at. For accounts regulated by the Consumer Credit Act, there is a need for specific documents such as a copy of your credit agreement and a default notice. For accounts that have been assigned (sold to a debt purchaser), there should be proof of assignment.
Disclosure of documents

Documents

When  claims are issued electronically through the Northampton Business Centre, there is no requirement to attach the documents to the claim. This means the vast majority of money claims will be sent without any paperwork to back up the claim, however, you have the right to request the documents mentioned in the particulars of claim.

The pre-action conduct states that the parties should disclose key documents and information prior to issuing a claim. See pre-action conduct. If the claimant and/or their solicitors did not send you a letter of claim or you did not take advantage of the opportunity to ask them to disclose the documents they intended to rely on under the pre-action conduct practice direction, you can still do so under Part 31 of the CPR. See disclosure and inspection for more information.

Part 31 of the CPR deals with disclosure of documents.

Scope of this Part

31.1

(1) This Part sets out rules about the disclosure and inspection of documents.

(2) This Part applies to all claims except a claim on the small claims track.

Meaning of disclosure

31.2  A party discloses a document by stating that the document exists or has existed.

31.3 states that you have the right to inspect, i.e. look at, a document that has been disclosed.

If the document has been mentioned in the claim, then you have the right to look at it, unless there is a valid reason not to.

Right of inspection of a disclosed document

31.3

(1) A party to whom a document has been disclosed has a right to inspect that document except where –

(a) the document is no longer in the control of the party who disclosed it;

(b) the party disclosing the document has a right or a duty to withhold inspection of it;

31.6 details what documents must be disclosed. This means you can only request the documents relevant to the case.

Standard disclosure – what documents are to be disclosed

31.6  Standard disclosure requires a party to disclose only–

(a) the documents on which he relies; and

(b) the documents which –

(i) adversely affect his own case;

(ii) adversely affect another party’s case; or

(iii) support another party’s case; and

(c) the documents which he is required to disclose by a relevant practice direction.

Requesting documents under CPR 31.14

31.14 gives you the right to inspect the documents referred to in statements of case.

This means you can request any documents mentioned on the particulars of claim.

Documents referred to in statements of case etc.

31.14

(1) A party may inspect a document mentioned in –

(a) a statement of case;

(b) a witness statement;

(c) a witness summary; or

(d) an affidavit.

(e) Revoked.

31.15 refers to inspection of documents. 31.15(b) states that the claimant must supply you with the documents you requested within 7 days of receiving your CPR 31.14 request.

Inspection and copying of documents

31.15  Where a party has a right to inspect a document–

(a) that party must give the party who disclosed the document written notice of his wish to inspect it;

(b) the party who disclosed the document must permit inspection not more than 7 days after the date on which he received the notice; and

(c) that party may request a copy of the document and, if he also undertakes to pay reasonable copying costs, the party who disclosed the document must supply him with a copy not more than 7 days after the date on which he received the request.

(Rule 31.3 and 31.14 deal with the right of a party to inspect a document)

A request under CPR 31.14 should be limited to documents mentioned within the particulars of claim. You can also send a separate request for specific information under Part 18 of the CPR, see Part 18 requests.
Although Part 31 of the CPR does not apply to the small claims track, a claim does not get allocated to a track until after a defence has been submitted, so technically you can still request documents under CPR 31.14 even if the claim is under £10,000.

The letter to request documents under CPR 31.14 should be addressed and sent recorded delivery to the address for correspondence printed on the claim form. With most creditors this will be the address of their solicitors.

For the purpose of disclosure, a document is ‘mentioned’ if there is a direct allusion to it as per Rubin -v- Expandable Ltd. See disclosure and inspection for more information.
Claims for debts regulated under the CCA

Most claims for consumer credit accounts will mention an agreement or contract, which enables you to ask for a copy of your agreement or contract. If the claimant is not the original creditor because the debt has been sold to a debt purchaser, there should be a mention of assignment and you can also request a copy of the notice of assignment.

If your claim is for a credit product regulated under the Consumer Credit Act, in addition to requesting documents mentioned on the particulars of claim,  you can also request a copy of your credit agreement under sections 77/79 of the CCA. This request should be sent separately to the claimant themselves rather than their solicitors.

ReferenceSee CCA requests.

  • These fall under the CCA
    • Bank loans
    • Credit agreements with finance companies
    • Credit cards
    • Storecards
    • Hire purchase agreements
    • Catalogue accounts
  • These do not fall under the CCA
    • Utility bills
    • Mobile phone contracts
    • Service contracts in general (landline, broadband, hosting)
    • Government debts: taxes, fines, benefit overpayments
    • Student loans
    • Debts to service providers such as web designers, tradesmen, etc.
Special rules apply to bank account overdrafts and short-term loans such as payday loans.
ReferenceFor more information regarding regulated accounts and enforceability of credit agreements, see Consumer Credit Act.

You have the right to request a copy of your agreement as long as:

  • You haven’t sent another request for the same account in the last 30 days;

  • The creditor has not obtained judgment against you;

  • There is a balance outstanding on the account.

Extension to file your defence

If the claimant or their solicitors fail to respond to a request sent under CPR 31.14 within 7 days as stated, they need to be reminded of their obligation to comply, you can do this by email if there is one available and/or over the phone. Even if the solicitors don’t accept service by email, you are not serving documents, just sending a polite reminder.

You may want to ask the claimant’s solicitors to agree to an extension to file your defence. CPR 15.5 allows up to 28 extra days to be agreed between the parties.

Agreement extending the period for filing a defence

15.5

(1) The defendant and the claimant may agree that the period for filing a defence specified in rule 15.4 shall be extended by up to 28 days.

(2) Where the defendant and the claimant agree to extend the period for filing a defence, the defendant must notify the court in writing.

If the claimant’s solicitors agree to an extension, you must tell the court in writing.

If they refuse to comply with your request for documents and/or agree to an extension, you have the option to either apply to the court for an order to force disclosure (see applications) or submit a defence based around lack of documents supplied (see defences).

The creditor has to respond to a CCA request within 12+2 working days. Failure to respond can be used as an item in your defence and there is no need to remind them of their obligation to comply.
Due to the tight timescales for submitting a defence, it is advisable to send your requests for documents as soon as possible upon receipt of the claim.
Non compliance

In many cases the claimant will not comply with your request for documents. This is simply because they haven’t got them. If the claimant is a debt purchaser, they are likely to have bought your account along with many others without any paperwork and would be reliant on the original creditor to supply them with the documents.

Your options

If you send a request for documents and the claimant fails to comply you can either:
  • File a defence based on non-compliance and lack of documents – there is no cost but the claimant could provide the documents later on (see defences); or

  • Apply to the court for an unless order to enforce your request – you will have to pay an application fee but the claim could be struck out (see applications).

Example letter

An example CPR 31.14 request letter can be found below.

If you need to get historical data about your account, you may also want to send a Subject Access Request (SAR). Without an extension agreed, you probably won’t get the documents before your defence is due, however, they may come in handy if the cases progresses further.
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To avoid default judgment, you need to file a defence in time even if you have not received any documents.
See defending a claim.
You have a maximum of 33 days from date printed on claim to file a defence.
Calculate your date.
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