Starting a claim
Common types of claim in the small claims track are:
- Compensation for faulty services, for example, by builders, dry cleaners or garages
- Compensation for faulty goods, for example, televisions or washing machines which go wrong
- Disputes between landlords and tenants, for example, rent arrears or compensation for not doing repairs
- Wages owed or money in lieu of notice.
If a case is complex, the judge may refer it to another track for a full hearing, even if it is below the financial limit of that track.
If the value of a case is £10,000 or less, it will generally be allocated to the small claims track. However, if it is a personal injury claim, it will be allocated to the small claims track only if the value of the claim for the personal injuries themselves is not more than £1,000. If the claimant is a tenant, and is claiming against their landlord because they want their landlord to carry out repairs or other work to the premises and the cost of the repairs or work is £1,000 or less, the case will be allocated to the small claims track.
In some cases, even if the value of the case is more than £10,000 the court could allocate the case to the small claims track. If this happens the usual rule about costs does not apply and if the claimant loses the case, they may have to pay the defendant’s solicitor’s costs. However, if the claimant wins the case, the defendant could be ordered to pay the claimant's costs.
There are three routes called tracks (small-claims track, fast track, and multi-track). Small-claims track –generally for lower value and less complicated claims with a value of up to £10,000 although there are some exceptions. You can get more information in the EX306 leaflet the small-claims track in the civil courts. Fast track – This is for claims with a value of between £10,000 and £25,000.Multi-track – This is for very complicated claims with a value of £25,000 or more.
Any money claim must be issued at the County Court Money Claims Centre. Other cases can be issued in the local county court.
As a claimant, you should mostly start a claim by first sending the defendant, respondent a letter before action asking them to pay the money they owe within 21, days, 30 days or a reasonable time span. Otherwise legal action will commence. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/legal-system/taking-legal-action/small-claims/deciding-whether-to-make-a-small-claim/
As a claimant, you start a claim by filling in a claim form (N1). The form is available from local courts, and from HM Courts and Tribunals service at www.justice.gov.uk.
The claim form asks for details of the claimant and the defendant and how much is being claimed. The claim form includes space for the particulars of claim which should be used to set out the details of the claim, but if there is not enough room, they can be set out on a separate piece of paper. In some circumstances, as a claimant you might need extra time to complete the particulars of claim. You have the right to send the particulars of claim to the defendant separately, but no later than 14 days after the claim form.
As the claimant you should send or take two copies, of the claim form to the court where you want to start court action.
You should keep an extra copy for your own records. You must also pay the court a fee. The amount will depend on how much money you claim. Court fees for online claims must be paid by credit or debit card. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fees-for-civil-and-family-courts/court-fees-for-the-high-court-county-court-and-family-court
If the details of the case are complicated, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau, or a County court adviser normally based within the court. Both services are free. The court will stamp the claim form and in most cases serve it on the defendant. It will give you a notice of issue, a document with the case number on it.
As the claimant, you may be able to claim interest on your claim. If so, you must include interest in the amount you are claiming on the claim form. There is a specific form of words you should use to do this. For more information about claiming interest, see the guidance notes that come with your claim form.
In some circumstances, additional documents need to be attached to the particulars of claim. For example, if the claim is based on a written agreement (such as an agreement to purchase goods or services), a copy of the agreement should be attached to the statement of claim.
Some claims for a fixed amount of money can be started online at www.moneyclaim.gov.uk. Usually, claims will be issued, printed and sent to the defendant on the day the claim is submitted.
If your income is low, the fee can be waived or reduced. This is called a fee remission. You can ask the court to tell you how to apply for a fee remission or you can get more information and the exemption form from HM Courts and Tribunals Service at http://www.justice.gov.uk/
Help with your legal costs – legal aid
Depending on the kind of problem you have, and on your financial circumstances, you may be able to get legal aid. This means that you can get free legal advice, or may only have to pay something towards your legal bill. More about legal aid http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/for-the-public/paying-for-legal-services/legal-aid/
If you are the defendant
If you admit to part or all of the claim, then you will need to complete the admission form N9A attached to the claim form stating the amount s/he does not dispute. This should be sent to the court with the form of defence; and complete the defence form N9B stating the amount s/he disputes and her/his reasons. The completed form N9B should be returned to the court within 14 days of service of the claim form. The day of service is the second day after the day of posting of the claim form.
How a claim form is served
Usually the court will serve the claim form by sending it to the defendant by first class post. The defendant will be deemed to receive it on the second business day after posting, unless the claim was issued online. As the claimant, if you want to serve it yourself, you can ask the court to give it back to you once it has been stamped so that you can serve it. There are a number of forms that must be sent with the claim form.
If the defendant is not defending the case
If you are the defendant and you accept that you owe the money claimed, you will not be defending the case and the court will not allocate it to the small claims track to be dealt with.
If the defendant can pay the money immediately, they should send it to the claimant directly.
If you need time to pay, you can suggest an arrangement, for example, that you pay the money in instalments or all the money in one lump sum at a certain date in the future. If the claimant accepts this offer, they will have to return a form to court requesting ‘judgment on admission’. If you are the defendant and you do not keep to the arrangement, the claimant can take legal action forcing you to pay.
If you are the claimant and you do not accept the defendant's offer, you must give your reasons and a court official will decide what a reasonable arrangement should be. The court will send both parties an order for payment (‘judgment for claimant after determination’).
If you are the claimant and you are not happy with the order, you should write to the court giving your reasons and you must send a copy of the letter to the defendant. A judge will then decide what is reasonable for the defendant to pay. If the defendant does not keep to the arrangement, the claimant can take enforcement action.
Getting a court order set aside
If the defendant doesn’t agree with what’s owed or you think there's been a mistake in the way the case has been handled, you could try to get the court order set aside. (You can't ask for an order to be set aside if you agreed you owe the money).
If you manage to get the order set aside, this doesn't wipe out the debt. You will still have to repay what you owe and your creditor can still go back to court to chase you for payment. But they may have to start the process all over again and this would give you more time to sort out your finances and pay back the money. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/help-with-debt/changing-a-court-order-for-debt/#h-getting-a-court-order-set-aside
If you are going to take court action, you must do this within certain time limits. The time limit depends upon what type of action you are taking, for example, the time limit for breach of contract is six years.
You could get further legal help and free legal advice, from agencies such as:
Citizen Advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/