You can use the Small Claims Court to take legal action against someone if you are claiming less than £5000.
What is small claims court?
The Small Claims Court is a division of the county court. It can deal with certain legal case where a person is claiming up to £5000.
It is less formal than other courts. The focus is on negotiation and the judge encourages parties to work together to find a solution.
You won't need a solicitor and the costs are lower than costs for other types of court action.
Small claims court can deal with different types of housing problems, including
- claiming back fees paid to a letting agent
- disputes over deposits that are not protected
- rent arrears claims against tenants and counterclaims against landlords.
Before going to court
You need to try to solve the problem yourself before taking it to court. You could try negotiating with the other party or using a mediation service. Housing Rights provides free mediation for private tenants and their landlords.
Write to the other party. Make sure to
- explain the problem
- suggest a possible solution
- set a deadline for a response
- explain that you may take legal action in court if you do not get a response.
Small claims court fees in Northern Ireland
You will have to pay a fee to use the Small Claims Court. The amount you'll pay depends on how much you are suing for. The fees are
- £39 for claims of £300 or less
- £65 for claims between £300 and £500
- £91 for claims between £500 and £1000
- £130 for claims over £1000
- £195 to lodge an appeal
What if you can't afford the court fees?
Some people are exempt from paying court fees. You may not have to pay fees or you may have your fees reduced or returned to you if you
- receive income-based jobseekers allowance
- receive income support
- receive universal credit
- receive the guarantee element of pension credit
- receive working tax credits and you meet certain other conditions
- can show that paying the fee would cause financial hardship
- receive income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Filing your case in small claims court
The court service has written a guide to small claims court which you should read before you file your case. You can either
Make sure to say on the form if you want to
- claim interest or
- claim your court fees back.
Staff at the court will carry out some checks on your application. If everything is in order, they will send you an information pack. This explains what you should do next.
Responding when someone sues you in small claims court
The court will contact you if someone is suing you. Court staff will send you
- a respondent's information pack, and
- a copy of the claim against you.
- settle the claim with the person who is taking action against you
- admit that you are liable and pay the full amount
- dispute that you are liable or
- submit a counterclaim.
The judge will choose a date to hear the case if you dispute the case or want to counterclaim.
What happens if you ignore the case against you?
If you ignore the claim, the person who is suing you can apply to the court for a decree. The judge will more than likely order that you must pay the money. This can have a big impact on your credit rating.
Talk to an advice agency if someone is taking you to Small Claims Court.
Getting your money
The court does not give money to the winning party. It orders the other party to pay the money owed. The other person should usually pay between 14 and 28 days after the judge's order.
If the person refuses to pay, you may have to take them to another court. Read the guide to small claims court to find out more about enforcing a court order.