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How does a small claims court work?

Are you thinking about making a small claim? Latest Deals is here to help you understand how a small claims court works and whether you should go for it or not!

What are small claims? 


Small claims are more straightforward court cases that don't involve large amounts of money or complicated issues. 

They are often used to get compensation for a service or a product that went wrong. 

Small claims are never more than £10,000. Often, small claims are called money claims. 

What can a small claims court be used for? 

A small claims court can be used to get compensation under £10,000 for:

  • a faulty product
  • a poor service
  • an unpaid refund
  • landlord and tenant disputes regarding the property repairs
  • to get paid for work that the other party refuses to pay
  • accidental damages

What to do before deciding to go to a small claims court? 7 things to do before making a small claim 


1.Try to resolve the issue directly with the other party 

Before deciding to make a small claim, you must have first tried to resolve the issue with the other party directly. 

You can do that by contacting them directly until you have a final and unsatisfactory answer. 

The final step you should take is sending them a letter before action

In this letter, you should include your full name and address, explain briefly everything that happened, let them know what you expect from them and how much money you want. 

After sending this letter before action, you need to give them at least 14 days to reply. Make sure you mention if they don't respond in 14 days, you are going to court. 

2. Reach out to the Ombudsman Services 

Usually, after you tried to resolve the dispute directly with the other party and were unsuccessful, you can reach out to the Ombudsman. 

Different types of Ombudsman deal with specific issues. You can find them here. 

These organisations were created to help you resolve these disputes without needing to go to court. 

If the Ombudsman can't help you, you still have the option to go to court. 


It's doubtful that the Ombudsman Services won't be able to help you. Check here to how to complain to the Ombudsman Services.

3. Contact Citizens Advice

Before going to court, you should reach out to Citizens Advice to tell them about your case and how much you want to claim.

There are many ways to contact them. You can find them here. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: You might need the help of a solicitor, and in some cases, you could get low-cost legal help. Find more information about low-cost legal advice here. 

Citizens Advice will be able to tell you if you need a solicitor, depending on your case. 

4. Gather as much evidence as you can

To have a strong claim and win the case, you need to have good evidence. 

The more information you gather, the stronger your case is and the more chance you have to succeed. 

All communication between you and the other party, any photos of the damage, invoices and statements should be put together to support your claim. 

5. Check how much this will cost you

Even if you don't need a solicitor or get low-cost legal help, you still need to pay a fee to make a claim.

The fees start from £35 and can go up to £455 for small claims court.

These fees change according to how much you are claiming. The more money you claim, the more expensive the fee is going to be. 

Keep in mind that you must pay for these fees, so you need to make sure it's worth taking the case to court. 

If you are on benefits or have a low income, you might get help with your court fees. Check more information about this here. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you win the case, you might get these fees back from the other party. If you lose the case, you might have to pay the other party's fee as well. 

Sometimes, this can be more costly than the amount you are claiming. 

In addition, you might need to pay for all the extra expenses you put the other party through, such as travelling expenses. 

6. Check how much you could be compensated

Even if you don't know how much money you want, you can still make a small claim as long as you are sure the amount is under £10,000. 

Before deciding how much compensation you want, you can calculate all the money you are entitled to and add interest. 

If you have invoices from expenses regarding the issue, you can add those as well. 

Citizens Advice can help you come up with a number if you are not sure how much you can claim. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Even if you know how much you want to be paid, there is no guarantee you will receive this amount. 

7. Check if the other party has the means to pay you 

It's vital to keep in mind that if the other party doesn't have the means to pay you; you probably won't be paid. 

That can make your small claims court case a waste of time, money and energy. To avoid that, check if the other party has the means to pay you: 

8 things to know about a small claims court 

  1. They should be your last resource, as they can be expensive and, most of the time, more than you expected or prepared for. The Ombudsman Service might be able to help you. 
  2. Even if you win, you might not get the amount you are asking for, as the judge will decide how much you should be compensated.
  3. If the other party can prove they can't pay you, you won't be paid. That's why it's important to check first if the other party has the means to pay you. 
  4. Even if you make a small claim, you can still use the Small Claims Mediation Service to resolve the dispute with mediation before going to trial. 
  5. Your case might be denied by a small claims court if the case is complicated. You may need to use a different court.
  6. You probably won't need a solicitor as small claims courts have an easy process to make it accessible to the general public. 
  7. Although you probably will have less chance of winning, you can claim things that happened in the last six years. To have a better chance of winning, make sure you claim as soon as the issues have occurred but after trying other means. 
  8. You could win by default if the other party doesn't reply to the small claims court letter within 14 days. You will be entitled to a judgment by default. If you've asked for a reasonable amount of compensation, the judge could approve it. If not, the other party will have a chance of disputing it. 

Step-by-step process to make small claims 


1.Prepare the case

As mentioned before, gather as much information as you can to have a winning case. The more information you have, the better. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: You will also need to know as much information about the other parties involved to make it easier for the court to contact the right person. 

2.Fill in the claim form

You can make small claims online or by post. In both cases, you need to fill in the claim form. 

If you are claiming online, you can use this link. However, you will need to answer some questions to see if your case is eligible to proceed online. If yes, you will be able to fill the form online. 

You can also use a printed form and mail it to this address: County Court Money Claims Centre, PO Box 527, Salford, M5 0BY.  

In both forms, you will need to write a brief description of the facts, how much money you are claiming and if you are claiming interest and at what rate. 

During this step, you will also need to make the fee court payment. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: You can only use the online system if you know how much money you are asking for. 

If you don't know how much money you want to be compensated, you must claim using the printed form. 

3. After the court received your claim, they will contact both parties 

Once the court has received your claim, they will contact both parties first to let both know that the action has been taken and later with questionnaires to ensure they have the information to judge your claim.

The other party, the defendant, will have a chance to file a defence against your claim. They have 14 days to do that. If they don't, you might win by default, but you will need to ask for a judgement. 

The defendant can also file an Acknowledgement of Service within these 14 days, which give them a further 14 days to file a defence. 

If you have made a claim online by using Money Claim, the defendants have 19 days to defend themselves. If they need more time, they will need to tell the court, then they will have 33 days.

You, the claimant, can add more information to the case, including witness information and where and when you would like the trial to happen.  You can see here a copy of the Directions Questionnaire (Small Claims Track).

With these questionnaires files, the judge will decide what needs to be done to get the matter rolling and a trial date, if that's necessary. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: In some cases, after the court contacts the other party, they decide to pay what you’ve asked for to avoid any more problems. 

The other party must let the court know how much they are willing to pay, and you can accept it or not, but you will need to give reasons if you do not. The judge will decide if you are being reasonable or not. 

If you do accept, that's it. You have to wait for the payment. 

If you don't accept, your case will continue. 

4.You and the other party might be invited to use the Small Claims Mediation Service

The court will always encourage the parties to use the Small Claims Mediation Service. This can be a great solution to avoid going to trial. 

The mediation often happens over the phone, so it's quicker to get things resolved. The mediator is there to help both parties get to an agreement. 

This option will be available to be selected on the  Directions Questionnaire (Small Claims Track).

5.Your case is going to trial 

If the other party refuses to pay and there is no resolution after the mediation, your case will go to trial, which is also called a final hearing.

Before 14 days of the final hearing, both parties should have submitted any relevant documents to support their positions. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: If the court asks for any relevant document or filled form, you must have provided them correctly. If you fail to do so, you might have your case delayed. 

6.The trial date or final hearing 

The trial date or final hearing at a small claims court often happens in a small room with the judge, court employees, you and the other party. 

You have the opportunity to present your case. Make sure you are on the right day and time with all your documents. 

The judge will ask questions to both parties and will make a decision. Everything that happened up to this point will be taken into consideration. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: The judge will give the final judgment on the same day of the hearing. 

7.Resolution/Judgment - The Judge Decision 

If you win the case, you can also ask for an expenses refund, you can include almost everything you have to spent to go to court, including unpaid time off work to attend the court hearing (up to £90) and experts used to support your case (up to £750). 

If you lose the case, you may have to pay the other party's expenses. Of course, you can appeal the decision and take it to a higher court, but this will cost you more money, and for this case, you probably will need professional legal advice and the help of a solicitor. 

8.Collecting a Judgement 

It's essential to keep in mind that the court won't be responsible for collecting a judgement. 

The court will only permit the claimant to use other means to get the money collected. The claimant will probably have even more expenses to get this done. You can use some extra court services for that. Below you can find three of them: 


If you win the case and the other party refuses to pay, you are entitled to use enforcement. There are many types of enforcement. You can find some of them below:  

  • Warrant of execution 

This is a very common type of court enforcement, where someone goes in person to the other party's address to ask for the payment or even collect any material possession to pay the debt. 

You will need to pay a fee to the court for this service and fill in this form. 

If this first warrant of execution is unsuccessful, you will need to request a new one and fill in this other form. 

  • Attachment of earnings

You can also ask for an attachment of earnings. This is when the money will be collected from the other party's salary. 

You will need to pay a fee to the court for this service and fill in this form. 

Attachment of earnings only works if the other party is employed. Keep in mind that they have the right not to pay if they don't want their work to find out about the case. 

  • Third-party debt order

Another option is the third party debt order. This is when the court freezes money allocated in the debtor's account, then the money owed is taken out from this account and transferred to yours. 

You will need to pay a fee to the court for this service and fill in this form.



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