Making a claim in the small claims court

Be aware of your right to take someone to the small claims court: it can protect you if you’re owed money.

Most cases involve disputes with tradesmen

Henrik Sorensen photographer,

We've all heard of the small claims court, and some of us have undoubtedly threatened to use it even though we may not be sure exactly how it works. In the first quarter of 2018 there were 21,681 small claims cases. The majority involved disputes with builders and tradesmen.

Going to the small claims court is a low-cost way to claim money you feel you are owed by an individual or small business, perhaps because someone's not paid you, or has provided you with faulty goods. Note that before taking this route, you must be able to demonstrate that you have tried to settle a claim with the other party before resorting to the small claims court. This should involve a letter in writing (a "letter before claim") warning of your intention to go to court and setting out a reasonable time limit for a reply. This may be enough to prompt them to hand over any money owed.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Next, note that there is a limit on how much you can claim through the process (just in case you weren't tipped off by the name). You can claim up to £10,000 in England and Wales, £5,000 in Scotland and £3,000 in Northern Ireland. If your dispute involves larger sums it will involve a more expensive court case.

The benefits of going through the small claims court should be that the situation is resolved fairly quickly and without the need to hire expensive lawyers to help you. Make sure you budget for court fees, though. These vary from £25 for a claim of up to £300, if done online, to £455 for claims of up to £10,000 made with a paper form. Note that these expenses may be covered on your car- or home-insurance policies, depending on what your case is about.

If you do decide to go to the court with a dispute, be aware that the onus is on you to prove you've been wronged. Your case will be a lot stronger if you can provide evidence, such as receipts or photos.

Advertisement - Article continues below

To start the process, apply to the courts with a claim for the money you believe you are owed. You can do this online at The court will then contact the other party and give them a chance to respond (though it may suggest mediation first). Many companies will decide to settle just to avoid having to pay to defend themselves. If they dispute your claim, then a court date will be set for you to present your case. If you don't like the judge's decision, you have 21 days to appeal.

TSB loses out

TSB's IT woes have caused the bank to lose 21,790 customers in the second quarter of the year, according to the latest figures from the Current Account Switch Service. Up to 1.9 million people were locked out of their TSB accounts in April, when a system overhaul went disastrously wrong.

The stampede out of TSB headed towards Nationwide, which gained 34,577 new customers. Nationwide's FlexDirect account has long been popular, thanks to its 5% interest on balances up to £2,500. But it was also a successful quarter for challenger banks. Mobile app-based Monzo featured in the league table for the first time with a net gain of 2,702 customers, says comparison site MoneySavingExpert.

Monzo offers fee-free banking, alongside traditional services such as direct debits and overdrafts. Its auto-budget facility is also appealing. It tells you how much you're spending on eating out or shopping. The app-only bank plans to introduce some branch-based banking with a partner in the coming months. Monzo has more than one million current-account holders, notes Louise Eccles in the Daily Mail "more customers than 42 out of the 44 building societies".



Inheritance tax

Are you due a refund on your inheritance tax bill?

If you’ve paid inheritance tax recently, you may well be due some of your money back. Here’s how to tell
23 Jun 2020
Personal finance

How to navigate the probate process

Death can create a great deal of paperwork. Here’s what to do if you need to apply for probate.
15 Jun 2020
Personal finance

Don’t count on a holiday abroad this year

With travel firms offering big discounts, people have rushed to grab a bargain. But it is unlikely Britons will be able to holiday overseas this year.
5 Jun 2020
Personal finance

How to protect your online passwords

There are several ways to help prevent cyber-criminals from accessing your online accounts, says Ruth Jackson-Kirby.
3 Jun 2020

Most Popular


House price crash: UK property prices are falling – so where next?

With UK property prices falling for the first time in eight years, are we about to see a house price crash? John Stepek looks at what’s behind the sli…
2 Jul 2020

The end of the bond bull market and the return of inflation

Central bank stimulus, surging post-lockdown demand and the end of the 40-year bond bull market. It all points to inflation, says John Stepek. Here’s …
30 Jun 2020

How can markets hit new record highs when the economy is in such a mess?

Despite the world being in the midst of a global pandemic, America's Nasdaq stock index just hit an all-time high. And it's not the only index on a bu…
3 Jul 2020