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Deciding whether to make a small claim

This advice applies to England

Small claims are for simple cases that don’t involve large amounts of money or complicated issues. They’re often used to get compensation or your money back if something’s gone wrong. Small claims are never usually for more than £10,000.

You can use small claims for things like:

  • a faulty product
  • poor service
  • being owed a refund
  • disputes with your landlord - for example, if they haven’t done minor repairs
  • being owed money for work you’ve done
  • accidents when you’ve been injured - for example, a car accident

Small claims are sometimes called ‘money claims’. They’re meant to be simple, so you probably don’t need a solicitor. If you decide you want help with your claim, you can:

Before you start a small claim, try to solve the problem another way if you can - for example, by making a complaint or using formal mediation.

You can check our advice on solving consumer problems, including how to use ‘alternative dispute resolution’. This can involve mediation and is a way of trying to solve problems without going to court.

If you have a different type of problem, you can get advice on mediation from the Civil Mediation Council.

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

The rules about making a small claim depend on what the claim is for.

If you’ve had a problem with a service or product

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 have the right to make a claim up to  6 years after you paid for the service or product . Sometimes you can have rights for longer than 6 years - contact the Citizens Advice consumer service to find out more about this.

If you rent and have a problem with repairs

You can make a small claim if your landlord is responsible for repairing something and either:

  • they haven’t repaired it and the estimated cost of repairs is up to £1,000

  • they’ve repaired it but you’re claiming compensation of up to £10,000

Check which repairs your landlord is responsible for if you’re not sure.

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 to get legal help from an adviser or 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.

If you’re owed money for work you’ve 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.

If you have another type of small claim

An adviser at your local Citizens Advice can help you check if you can make a claim.

Check what evidence you need

If you don’t have good 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.

What makes good evidence will depend on the problem. It could include things like:

  • a letter or a receipt
  • photos of damage caused
  • estimates or invoices - for example, for repairs
  • a statement from someone who saw what happened

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. How much you have to pay depends on what 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 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’re unlikely to get your money back. In some cases you might still be able to claim money even if they can’t pay - for example, if they have assets like a business or property.

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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