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Deciding whether to make a small claim

This advice applies to England

A small claim is a way you can ask a court to get compensation or your money back if something’s gone wrong. That might be poor service, a faulty product, your landlord not doing repairs or if you haven't been paid for work you've done.

Small claims also called ‘money claims’. They’re meant to be simple, so you don’t need a lawyer.

Before you start a small claim, you should try to solve the problem another way - like making a complaint or using formal mediation like alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for consumer problems.

Sometimes, just starting a small claim is enough to make the person or business you’re claiming against pay, so you might not have to go to court at all.

Check if you can make a small claim

You can make a small claim for up to £10,000 if you have a problem with something you’ve paid for - like poor service or a faulty product. You can also make a small claim if you’ve paid for a service or product you haven’t received. You must make your claim within 6 years of when you bought it.

You can make a small claim if you want your landlord to carry out repairs and

  • the estimated cost of the repairs is less than £1,000
  • any compensation you’re claiming is less than £1,000

Compensation could be for things like inconvenience, stress, cleaning or extra heating costs. It can be difficult to decide how much compensation to claim. You might need help from a solicitor.

There’s a time limit for claiming for repairs that your landlord knew were needed but didn’t fix in a reasonable time. You must claim within 6 years of them knowing the repairs needed to be done.

You can claim up to £10,000 if you’re owed money for work you’ve done, for example if you’re self-employed.

Check the strength of your claim

If you don’t have a lot of evidence, you won’t have a strong claim and it might not be a good idea to start one. Gather together any documents or photographs you have to support your claim. It might help you to list what happened in date order then find evidence to back it up.

The evidence you’ll need will depend on the problem. It could include things like:

  • your original receipt
  • photos of damage caused
  • estimates or invoices for repairs

Check the cost of making a claim

It might not be worth making a claim if it’s going to cost you almost as much as you’re claiming.

You’ll have to pay a fee to make a claim - the amount depends on how much you’re claiming. You might also have to pay other fees as your case progresses. Check the court fees on GOV.UK. If you win your case, you might get these back from the other side. If you lose, you might have to pay their fees.

If you’re getting benefits or have a low income, you might get the fees reduced or not have to pay any. Check if you can get help with court fees on GOV.UK.

You can make a small claim yourself but if you want to use a solicitor, you’ll have to pay for that. Check with them to see if you might get some of their costs back if you win.

Check if you can get help with legal costs. If you can’t, check to see if your home insurance gives you any cover for legal expenses.

Check how likely you are to be paid if you win

If the person or company you’re claiming against can’t pay, you won’t get your money back.

There are ways to check if they might be having money problems - if they are, it might not be worth claiming. Check if a person or a business has been taken to court or refused to pay.

If you’re dealing with a business, check that they’re still trading. You won’t be able to take them to court if they’re not.

If you’re dealing with a sole trader or a partnership, you can check if they’re bankrupt on GOV.UK.

Making a claim

If you want to go ahead with your small claim, find out how to start your claim.

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