Small claims court – starting a claim in England and Wales

small claims courtThe small claims court is a court procedure used for making claims which is designed to be fast, inexpensive and easy to use. You don’t need a solicitor to raise a claim in the small claims court but you can use one if you wish.

What types of claim can I use the small claims court for?

The small claims court in England and Wales is used for most breach of contract claims up to the value of 10,000. Claims for personal injury can’t be made using the small claims court procedure.

The most common claims in the small claims court are:

  • claims regarding faulty goods, e.g. if you buy a faulty washing machine from a shop
  • claims for poor services e.g. if you pay a builder and the workmanship is poor
  • claims by landlords against tenants for non-payment of rent
  • claims by small business for invoices that haven’t been paid
  • claims by employees for wages owed.

 Mediation service

In April 2013 a mediation service was introduced in England and Wales. This is to encourage parties to resolve disputes without going to court. Before you can proceed with a claim in the small claims court in England and Wales you are referred to a mediation service which decides whether mediation is suitable. Possible outcomes of mediation could be that a workman agrees to return and fix the faulty work. The outcome of mediation is not binding and you can still insist on going to the small claims court but if you act unreasonably by refusing mediation it could result in costs being awarded against you in court.

Starting a claim in the small claims court

You start your claim by completing form N1 which you can download from HM Courts and Tribunals Service. You have to provide the following information:

  • your name and address (you are called the ‘claimant’)
  • the name and address of the person you are making a claim against (called the ‘defendant’)
  • particulars of your claim
  • the value of your claim (including any interest you are claiming)
  • your preferred court where you want the small claims court hearing.

If you are claiming interest there is specific wording you must use.

If the particulars of your claim are complicated or you need help completing the form you should contact a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Once you have completed the form you should photocopy it and send one copy per defendant and one copy for the court to the court along with the court fee, if you have to pay one.

How much will it cost to raise a claim in the small claims court?

That depends on the amount of the claim and how far your claim goes. You have to pay an initial fee to start your claim: the maximum in England and Wales is £610. You may also have to pay for an expert witness e.g. for a mechanic to prove that repairs to your car were faulty.

If you win your case, the court may order that the other side pay all your expenses.

Before you start a claim you should try to settle it before taking court action. We provide the following letters before action stating your position and asking that the matter be rectified:

  • demand to pay promissory note
  • faulty goods on credit
  • faulty goods
  • final demand for payment
  • final letter before action
  • poor services on credit
  • poor services

If you receive no satisfactory response to your letter you should start a claim.

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 (image courtesy of kibsri at freedigitalphotos.net)