SMALL CLAIMS COURTS Questions Answered
What is a Small Claims Court ?
A court set up to deal quickly with claims for small amounts of money. If you are suing someone or they are suing you for a small amount of money this is where you may end up.
The Small Claims Courts can be found in your local County Court. They will send, or give you if you visit, a complete pack of all the forms you need and a 'plain English' guide to making a claim in the Small Claims Court.
How much is a Small Claim ?
If the amount of money claimed is £5,000 or less then it is likely to be heard in the Small Claims Court.
However, if your claim is for personal injury it will only be heard in the Small Claims Court if the claim for the injury itself is not more than £1,000.
For housing cases involving a landlord's failure to repair the property the claim will be heard in the small claims court if the cost of repairs or the compensation claimed is not more than £1,000.
How do I start a Claim ?
Ask your local County Court for a document known as a "Claims Form", you will need to complete this with details of what you are claiming and against whom.
You may also have to pay a court fee, this will depend upon how much you are claiming. You can claim this fee back from your opponent, if you win your case. (This is known as Fixed Costs).
If you start the claim you will be called the "Claimant" and your opponent will be called the "Defendant".
What sort of Claims can I bring in the Small Claims Court ?
Contract Claims, Debt Actions, Housing Disrepair and Personal Injury Claims, anything where you are claiming money up to £5,000. (Except personal injury and housing disrepair claims where the Small Claims Court limit is up to £1,000).
How will I know how to prepare for my case ?
After you start your claim and your opponent has filed a "Defence", the court will then send you a timetable (this is called "Directions").
This timetable will tell you what you have to do next. For example, you may be told to send to your opponent copies of all the documents that you intend to use at the Hearing, including any Experts Reports.
Someone owes me money on an invoice, any advice before I go to the expense of a small claim?
Because the small claims pack is free and you complete it, in plain english, yourself, it may be worth filling it in and then, before registering it with the court (which costs money) fax a copy to your customer and tell them that, unless they pay - within say three days- you will register it with the court. This has been known to show that you are serious and, unless they are in real financial difficulties, often brings a positive result.
Any other credit control tips
Yes, don't get into the situation, when you start your new business that you are so desperate to sell that you will give it away. If you haven't dealt with the customer before, and it's a reasonable amount of money, ask for cash up front, a deposit to cover your outgoing expenses, or do a credit check through your local bank before selling to them.
Asking for money up-front is not unusual, after all you probably haven't been able to set up many credit accounts with some of your suppliers, have you. They want you to build up a good track record with them first.
Don't be desperate for business, if what you have is value for money, and the customer wants it, there is no reason to let them steal it.
How can I prevent myself getting into this position with another client?
Take a look at our section on Invoicing and Credit Control for some very practical ways of avoiding debt and improving cashflow. To access click here
Is there any way I can sue people through the UK Courts on-line
Yes there is just follow this link to a new service set up by the courts on-line for just that purpose - you can sue for up to £99,9999