Hi, my name is Paul Fletcher from Lancaster in the UK. In 2012, I successfully used the Small Claims Court to settle a rental dispute with my Landlord. I was a complete novice when I started this process having never had any involvement with the Law or the UK Court system. When researching my case I could not find a simple, concise, 'How-To' guide to the Small Claims procedure so I decided to write one.
When you take somebody to Court there are many possible scenarios and outcomes that can occur. Most websites that cover this subject are overly complex and also unsympathetic to the Lay person or anyone coming in 'cold'. This site covers the main topics that most Claimants will require, with I hope sufficient detail to provide you with the knowledge and confidence to bring your Claim to a successful conclusion.
I used the excellent Money Claim Online website also known as MCOL www.moneyclaim.gov.uk, to start my Small Claims action - the alternative method is to get an N1 Form from your local County Court - I'd recommend using MCOL, and this website deals with Cases started via the MCOL route.
Here are 4 things that I wish I had known when I first considered legal action:
- Taking somebody to court is actually quite easy, you go to the MCOL site www.moneyclaim.gov.uk, register as a user and away you go (but please take advice from this website before doing that!). I had a consult with a solicitor before launching my case, but that wasn't strictly necessary.
- Taking someone to court will cost you money, you pay Fees as the Case progresses throught the Court system, I paid £385 in Court fees, the fees vary dependening on how much you claim (see MY CASE below).
- Taking someone to court will take time, the wheels of due process move slowly, you need to accept this and play the long game. My case took over 6 months from start to finish.
- The Small Claims process actually works, if you have been ripped-off and are considering legal action, I say go for it, I'm certainly glad I did.
I have divided the Small Claims process into a number of Logical Steps (see above left) on the Main Menu. I would advise you to read through the entire process before starting your Claim, as I stated above, taking someone to court is easy, but you need to know what you are letting yourself in for before going ahead.
MY CASE: I claimed £1650 from my Landlord who evicted me at short notice and then refused to return my deposit and 6 weeks advanced rent. The fees were £80 to start my Claim on MCOL, then a further £40 to Allocate the Claim to a 'Track', then a Hearing fee of £165. And finally, £100 to Enforce the judgment. Total £385. I won the case and the fees were added to my Claim, i.e. the final cost to my Landlord was over £2000. For an explanation of costs, see Small Claims Court Fees or see My Court Case for details of what happened to me.
Terminology: Why the Small Claims 'Court' doesn't exist
The term 'Small Claims Court' has slipped into common parlance, it is however something of a misnomer; the term 'Small Claims Court' is unofficial shorthand for the Small Claims Track of the County Court. There are 3 County Court Tracks that deal with Cases according to their complexity and the amount/value of the Claim. Your Claim will be dealt with by the County Court, but using the rules, processes and procedures of the Small Claims Track.
When does your Claim become a Case?
When you take a person or company to Court, what you are in fact doing is Making a Claim against them, your Claim becomes a Case when it is allocated to a Court Track. This terminology is important to understand when dealing with the Court Office and following Court procedures. Both Online and hardcopy Court documentation use the term Claim in the early stages and Case in the later stages.
England and Wales, Scotland, NI
This website, and my experience, is with the Courts system in England and Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland there are equivalent Small Claims tracks, but the rules/procedures are different (e.g. the limit for a Small Claim in Scotland is £3000 whereas in England and Wales it is £10,000). See the Useful Sites page for the respective Scottish and NI Court websites.
Going to Court - What's the first Step?
The first step is trying to stay out of Court. You may have been ripped-off and want to see justice done, but you need to at least try to settle the matter before going to Court. If your Case progresses to a Hearing, the Judge will want to see that you took reasonable steps to avoid Court action, so the first step is Resolving the dispute without going to Court.