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Pre-Claim Notices to be Mandatory. Minor Debtors will Rejoice

Pre-Claim Notices to be Mandatory. Minor Debtors will Rejoice

30.7.2012 10:49
Autor: JUDr. Petra Mirovská, KŠB

Notwithstanding protests from opposition MPs, the Lower House of Parliament adopted a grand amendment applicable to enforcement and distraint proceedings that amends a total of 17 individual acts. A fairly inconspicuous provision was smuggled into the amendment under which a pre-claim notice to pay will be required if the claimant wishes the costs of the proceedings to be reimbursed. Although the Upper House made several changes and recently returned the bill to the Lower House, in the end it can be expected that the amendment will be adopted. It should take effect next year.

What awaits us?

The provisions of the new Section 142a of the Civil Procedure Code allow a claimant who wins a lawsuit for the discharge of obligations (such as paying a debt) to recover the costs of the proceedings from the defendant, but only if the claimant sent a notice to discharge (pay) to the defendant (to the delivery address or, where applicable, the last known address) at least seven days before filing the lawsuit.

The amendment was met with numerous complaints from debtors, as recently noted in the media. Many of them saw their original debt of only a few hundred crowns increase to tens of thousands during litigation, including distraint proceedings, because, among other things, they had not received a reminder that the debt was due, which in effect denied them the chance to pay the debt voluntarily.

Concerns dispelled

Lawyers and other legal experts have been discussing the issue of a mandatory pre-claim notices and the rules applicable to them for some time now. Opponents pointed to problems with delivering a notice to debtors and to unfairly transferring further obligations to creditors. They were concerned that mandatory notices would just be another tool in the hands of the debtors allowing them to delay the payment of their debts. However, the adopted amendment to the Civil Procedure Code constitutes a pretty reasonable compromise in that respect.

The deadline provided to debtors to pay their debts voluntarily was set at seven days and, pursuant to the concept adopted, the notice does not need to be actually delivered to the debtor. It will be sufficient if it is sent by the imposed deadline to the debtor’s delivery address or, where applicable, to the last known address. It is therefore practicable for the parties to state a delivery address for written communications in the agreement giving rise to the debt. Creditors should bear in mind that they will have to provide the court with evidence that they did in fact send the notice in the prescribed manner. Therefore, they should, in addition to retaining a copy of the notice, keep the postal slip documenting that the notice was sent.

The good news is that a creditor’s failure to send the pre-claim notice to the debtor, or failure to prove it was actually sent, will be without prejudice to the creditor’s right to payment of the debt. The bad news is that in such a case the creditor will lose the chance to have the costs of the litigation reimbursed. However, such legislative rigidity can be eliminated if there are grounds “worthy of special consideration”. But what those grounds may be has yet to be revealed by court practice.

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