Taking someone to a small claims court



The most common types of small claims are:

  • Compensation for faulty services provided e.g. by buildrs, dry cleaners,garages etc.
  • Compensation for faulty goods e.g. televisions or washing machines that go wrong
  • Disputes between landlords and tenants e.g. rent arrears or compensation for not doing repairs

Before taking legal action you need to exhaust all other options for resolving the dispute

Check out www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/consumer and look for ‘taking action about consumer problems’. You should also consider mediation. This is when an impartial person helps two sides to work out an agreement. This could be quicker and cheaper than going to court. Go to www.civilmediation.justice.gov.uk for a list of civil mediation providers, together with the cost of using them.

Can the trader afford to pay if you win the case?

You are unlikely to get your money if the trader you are taking to court

  • is unemployed or on a low income
  • is in debt and cannot afford to pay. (You can find out whether a trader has other unpaid County Court judgments, High Court judgments or fines by searching the on-line Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines at www.trustonline.org.uk
  • has no money and owns nothing else of value.

If the trader has a very low income you may get your money if you are prepared to accept very low payments (possibly as little as £1 per month).

If you make a small claim, what will it cost?

Claims of up to £10,000 (the amount of the claim plus interest – which is usually at a standard rate of 8%) are normally allocated to the small claims track unless they are complicated. For personal injury or housing disrepair claims £1,000 is the limit.

Fees depend on the value of the claim and whether you use the Money Claim Online option or send your completed form to the County Court Money Claim Centre. Making an on-line claim is cheaper – a claim for up to £300 costs £25 on-line or £35 by post. A claim for £5,000 to £10,000 costs £210 on-line or £245 by post.

You may have to pay more fees later if there is a court hearing or if you win your case, but still don’t receive your money and have to pay to have the judgement enforced.

You may be able to claim costs back if you win the case, but the judge might not award you costs if he thinks you ‘ve made no effort to agree out of court.

The system has been designed so that small claims can be handled without a solicitor. They are often dealt with using only written evidence. If there is a hearing you can represent yourself, or ask someone such as a partner or friend to speak on your behalf, or you can pay a solicitor to represent you if you feel it is necessary (but you will not be able to claim a solicitor’s costs even if you win the case).

If you decide to go ahead with a claim

You must first write to the person or company you are claiming from stating your claim and giving reasonable time to reply – a month is usual. You should warn them that you will take court action if they fail to settle within the given time. If this doesn’t work, there is guidance on how to proceed at:

and there are helpdesks for Money Claim Online mcol@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk  or tel 0300 123 1057 or 0160 461 9402 Monday-Friday 8. 45 a.m.to 5.00 p.m

or, if you are using the paper claim form, for County Court Money Claims Centre on 0300 123 1372 Monday to Friday 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

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