The small claims court allows you make make a claim for money owed to you which is below £10,000. Its is a good way to settle consumer disputes legally.New rules mean you may pay twice as much if you lose so be sure you have a case before you go to the small claims court.
What is a small claims court?
If you don't think mediation will work or have tried and failed at it you can take someone or a business to the small claims court to recover any money owed to you or any money you feel you deserve.
How do you make a small claim?
You can make a claim online of you are claiming a fixed amount.
You will usually have to pay a fee to make a claim to the small claims court.
Filling a form sounds all too easy but to ensure you don't lose your claim you should thoroughly prepare your case and have all the necessary evidence you may require to convince the court.
What you need to know about the small claims court process
Going to court should not be the first step of recovering money owed to you. The court will like to see that you have made every effort outside court to recover your money. You should do this in writing and should have given the person a reasonable amount of time to respond. You should also have warned them that you will take the case to court if they do not pay or reply within a given time.
The court will also first attempt at mediation using its small claims court mediation services for claims under £10,000. This process gives both parties the chance to save further court fees and come to an agreement.
Not all claims will be accepted by the small claims court. The judge might find it too complex to deal with and refer you elsewhere.
For claims higher than £10,000 you should see Her Majesty's court and tribunal services for a court whom deals with larger amounts.
You can start a claim, hence the issuance of a claim form within 6 years of the event or 5 years in Scotland.
The small claims court might also not be your best option. You might consider going to the relevant ombudsman such as the financial ombudsman if your issue is with a business. Its free and you could end up with better compensation. If you accept the decision of the ombudsman you will likely not be allowed to present your case to any courts.
Claiming interest on the money owed to you
You can claim interest on the money owed to you via the small claims court.If you are claiming a fixed amount then you will need to work out the interest owed to you. If you are claiming an unspecified amount then the interest will be worked out for you by the courts.
What happens after you make a claim?
In some cases after you make your claim , you might have to go to court if the business or individual disagrees on the amount you are claiming, they say they do not owe you or you do not agree to the payment terms they have offered..
The court may also agree to a request from you to order them to pay if they do not respond to your claim or admit they owe you money but do not pay. If they do not respond to your claim within 14 days you may win the case by default.
If you have to go to court for a hearing you can:
ask someone to advise you in court - they don't have to be a lawyer
ask someone to speak on your behalf - you may need to get the court’s permission
Or pay for a barrister or solicitor to represent you
You will usually hear the court decision on the day and it will also be sent via post.
The court will order the person who owes you to pay if you win and the case will be closed. You will get a refund of your court fees plus expenses but any legal costs will be yours to bear.
If you do not win the case you will not get your court fees back and you will be asked to pay any expenses for the defendant. You will have 14 days to do this but yu may ask the court to give you more time. The court will want to see full details of your income, assets, liabilities and expenditures before agreeing on any installment payments with you.
If you lose you could be asked to pay:
*£90/day For loss of earnings or leave to attend a hearing, plus reasonable travelling expenses for each of the other side and any necessary witnesses they take along to court.
*£750 If the judge gave them permission to get evidence from an expert, eg, having to get an expert to inspect a sofa for a fault.
If you feel the judge made an error in handling the case you will have 21 days to appeal. You should seek advice from the citizens advice bureau and find out which court you will have to appeal to and its fees.
If the business or person who owes you fails to pay after you have won the case and they have received the court order you can ask the court to enforce the judgement . This will cost you more court fees.
The court can ask the court to:
- Send bailiffs
- Deduct money directly from their wages
- Charge the debt to their property or land
- Freeze their accounts and assets
The small claims court process in Scotland
In Scotland you can apply for money owed to you by a business or person in two ways.
The simple procedure: if money is less than £5000 and it isn't complicated.
There are also other ways to get money owed to you in Scotland without going to court.
The small claims court process in Northern Ireland
The small claims court process is very different to those of England and Scotland. You can read more about the process here .