“I got a call from a sheriff saying he is outside my house and has documents to give me. It was a Summons he was there to deliver and now I do not know what to do. Will I get into trouble? What does this Summons mean, and will the Sheriff come back for something else, perhaps to get my furniture? Please help! I really need to protect myself?” – Shawn from Johannesburg
The most important thing to remember when receiving a Summons, is that you check the date on the Summons. This is more important, especially if it was not handed over to you but left on your property because you were not there.
The Summons gives you 10 [Ten] working days to respond to it. So, if you still have time, stay calm, speak to your legal team, and get the matter defended before the 10 [Ten] days have passed.
Even if you do not have time anymore to defend the Summons, contact your legal team anyway and get advice from them on what to do next!
Here are a few important points to remember once you have received a Summons:
- Stay calm!
The Sheriff will not come back immediately and start attaching your goods, there are processes in place. You will also not get arrested if you avoid them. This used to be a risk, however, in 2010 the Constitutional Court found it unconstitutional to arrest debtors for fear of them leaving the country. In this regard see the judgment of Malachi v Cape Dance Academy International and others Also have a look at this News 24 Article confirming that you can not be arrested for unpaid debts. Once you receive the documents, read through it, get legal advice, and defend the matter as soon as possible. There is no need to panic if you take the simple steps listed below to defend yourself.
- The process.
At the point of receiving a Summons, you should have already received a letter of demand for the debt. The process works as follows:
- A Section 129-Letter of Demand must be sent to you by the creditor. This letter gives you 10 [Ten] working days to either pay the indebtedness or to defend the matter.
- A Summons is then issued after lapse of the 10 [Ten] days provided for in the Letter of Demand. The Summons now allows you 10 [Ten] working days to defend the matter.* Noteworthy- you need to defend the matter by responding with a Notice of Intention to Defend. *
- If the matter is not defended, default Judgement could be granted against you. Only once the Judgement is granted, will the Sheriff be able to return to your home to attach movable assets.
- Pay the account.
Its not always as simple as just settling the debt, and if it were, you probably would not have received the Summons in the first place. What is important though is to act on the Summons swiftly and not to ignore it.Here is our suggested plan of action:
- Make an appointment with your Attorney of choice and obtain full and proper advice on your position.
- Defend the matter – Regardless of whether you agree with the outstanding balance / account or not.
- If you feel that the Summons is incorrect or that you do not owe the money, dispute it, using the correct legal process to do so. This will be done by your legal team.
- If you do rightfully owe the money and cannot settle it once off, attempt to make an arrangement with the Creditor. One is always free to negotiate payment terms. It is important to reduce the agreement to writing though and have both parties sign and acknowledge it. Here is a handy article on negotiating payment terms with your creditors.
- Once you have settled your account, make sure that you request a settlement letter from your creditor, just in case. Also, make sure that you are not blacklisted for the debt and if you are, provide the credit bureau with your settlement letter to have the listing removed.
Receiving a Summons can be stressful and scary; however, we hope that for anyone receiving a Summons, that these pointers will help you to understand the process.
This will ensure that you know exactly what to do when receiving a Summons or even a Letter of Demand. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you need any assistance with defending a Summons, and we will gladly help.