- However irritating you opponent may be, it is important that you come across as reasonable.
- You want your dispute to be sorted. This is less likely the dispute becomes too personal
- So rise above the temptation to tell the other side what you think of them!
Guide to resolving your dispute in 6 clear steps - Part 2
After you’ve paid an admin fee of £20, Small Claims Mediation (UK) Ltd will appoint an independent mediator. This mediator will then call you to discuss your case, the complaint letter you may have sent, and any documents to support your claim.
The mediator will then contact the other side to try to persuade them of the benefits of using mediation instead of you taking them to the small claims court. For mediation to work, you both will need to agree to try mediation.
A day and time (convenient to you both is then set aside), usually in the following week (including weekends and evenings). You both pay the mediation fee (in your case this is less the £20 you have already paid).
For disputes involving up to £5,000, 2 hours is usually all that is needed. This can include stopping the clock to take a break. It is not solid time on the phone as the mediator will speak to you both separately.
Where an agreement is reached that both sides can live with – then the mediator will put this into a legal agreement that you both sign. A successful outcome like this is reached in over 80% of cases.
Step 4: Small Claims Court
The Small Claims Court is part of your local County Court. It is specially designed to deal with disputes where the value of the amount in dispute is :
|Amount of claim
|Type of dispute
|£10,000 or less
|All disputes, other than the following 2 exceptions
|£1,000 or less
|Injury compensation claim, where you made a full recovery in 3 or 4 weeks. However to get a full assessment of how best to receive compensation after a personal injury call for Free Initial Assessment on 08000 ***
|£1,000 or less
|A claim against your landlord to make repairs to your rented property, where the cost of the repairs and your losses and expenses comes to under £1,000. However to get a full assessment of how best to receive compensation for housing disrepair call for Free Initial Assessment on 08000 ***
You are called the claimant. The person or business you are claiming against is known as the defendant. To use the court the defendant must be a person, firm or company in England or Wales.
The procedure is intended to be simple, informal and cheaper to enable people to conduct their own case without being represented by a solicitor at court. You will usually need to pay the court a fee to start your claim that will depend on the amount that you are claiming. The fees are given lower down in this guide.
You may be entitled to not pay the court fee if you can produce proof that you have a low income or receive certain benefits (although these may change) examples include –
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Pension Credit guarantee credit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Working Tax Credit but not also receiving Child Tax Credit
If you think this may apply to you, ask at your local court for current details or You can get more information by reading the leaflet EX160A ‘Court fees - do I have to pay them.’ Available online at www.hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk
- There is no point in going through the small court procedures to claim money if your opponent does not have the money to pay:
- There is no point in starting a legal action claim if the defendant is unlikely to pay up. Before starting, you can make some checks:
- See if they are bankrupt using the Government’s Insolvency Register at www.insolvencydirect.bis.gov.uk/eiir/
- Find out if they already have judgments (CCJs) against them that they have not paid using The Registry Trust (for a small fee). If they are a business, see if others have sued them: www.trustonline.org.uk
- If you know the other person, do you know if they are unemployed?
- If the opponent is a business – is it still trading?
Sometimes you may have to accept regular monthly payments rather than the full amount in one go.
If they do not have the money to pay, then even if you took them to court and got a judge to order that they pay you the money then if they really do not have the money (or other property they could sell to raise the money) then you will still not get paid.
Completing the claim form:
To start a Claim you will need to complete a Claim Form. This is also called Form N1.
All court forms can be obtained from your local County Court or online using the HM Court and Tribunal Service Form Finder. It can be found here (using the form number - N1)
However you may prefer to follow the full online process. This is called ‘Money Claim Online’. You will need to obtain a government gateway number and be able to pay the court fee by credit card or debit card:-
Help completing the claim form:
Our £99 service can be used to give you advice before you start the court process. This can include looking through your claim form and other paper work before you send it to court. We can help to make sure you are presenting your case in the best way. This can include advice on the strength of your particular claim and circumstances, proving it and valuing your losses and expenses. See back page/ page 2 for details
How to complete the N1 claim form
|Court details (top right corner of form)
In the …
Money claims: If your claim has a financial value (almost all cases) it is will start in the County Court Money Claims Centre. This is simply known as CCMCC. So here complete “CCMCC”
Possession of property claims: The main exception is where you are applying for possession of a property, for example from squatters or where you are owed rent and also want your tenants to leave. Then you should use the name of local court to the property, for example “Newtown County Court”
Leave blank - this will be completed by the court.
Leave blank - this will be completed by the court.
|Claimant(s) name(s) and address(es) including postcode
That is you, so complete your details.
If there are two of you with the same, joint dispute, then complete the details for you both as claimant one and then claimant two.
If your dispute was not in your personal name but in the name of a business you run complete your business details, such as John Smith trading as JS Limited of …
This is your opponent, so complete their name.
If the dispute is with a business then check any emails, paperwork such as invoices or their website to get the correct format for their official business name.
|Brief details of claim
This needs to be a very simple summary as you’ll give the details later on. For most situations just use the following 2 headings
Dispute about ….
“Dispute about the building work carried out at my home by the defendant”
“Dispute about a faulty washing machine I bought from the defendant”
“Dispute about the repair work carried out on my car by the defendant”
“Dispute about the problems and illness I suffered on a holiday bought from the defendant”
This may be the same amount as in your complaint letter. It may be less if the opponent has now paid part back. Include the cost of the main item as well as any additional losses and expenses you wish to claim back.
Amount in dispute: £ X
Then you can also claim interest. Either at the court rate of 8% or (if you are a business and your contract allows a higher rate – claim that). You can use whichever wording applies:
Interest claimed in addition: This is claimed at the County Court rate of 8% until judgment
Interest claimed in addition: I provided the defendant with my terms of business which allow for a rate of interest of X%
|You must indicate your preferred court for hearings here
Ask for the town with a court that is nearest and most convenient to you and any witnesses you may have. Otherwise the court will automatically put the hearing at the court nearest to your opponent. For example Bristol.
|Defendant’s name and address including postcode
Repeat the name of your opponent and provide their address and postcode.
Take care to get this right as it is the address the court will use to send them papers.
Put the same amount as before at value.
Complete the figure from the following table that applies to the value of your claim. It is slightly cheaper if you are using the Money Claim Online version of the form. If you win you case you will get the fees back as well as your money.
Check the latest fees at www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/court-fees
Value of the Claim Amount payable Amount payable if using Money Claim Online
Up to £300 £35 £25
£300.01 - £500 £50 £35
£500.01 - £1,000 £70 £60
£1,000.01 - £1,500 £80 £70
£1,500.01 - £3,000 £95 £80
£3,000.01 - £5,000 £120 £100
£5,000.01 - £15,000 £245 £210
See above if you qualify for free court fees and just put “exempt”
There are rules limiting what you can claim back with small claims.
However if you have paid for advice, such as the QualitySolicitors’ £99 Ask the Legal Expert service, there is no harm in putting down what you have paid.
Add up the figures.
Leave blank - this will be completed by the court
|Does or will you claim include any issues under the Human Rights Act 1998?
Usually this will be “no”
|Particulars of claim: (attached) (to follow)
Cross through both brackets and then complete the box as follows:
“I rely on my letter of complaint (attached) sent to the defendant on [date]. This confirms details of the dispute and my valuation of my claim”.
Then add a few further sentences to explain what happened next. Usually it can be one of the following options:
Option 1: I did not receive a response.
Option 2: I did not receive a response that I considered to be reasonable.
Option 3: This resulted in communication with the defendant, but this did not lead to a resolution to our dispute.
Option 4: This resulted in communication with the defendant. Whilst it did not resolve all of the dispute, it has reduced the items in dispute as followings:
[enter details of what you would now accept to settle the claim] for example:-
I have claimed a refund of £500 but would accept a replacement or repair
Note: If you follow this approach, remember to attach your complaint letter. However, you would not usually send other letters or emails or other documents at this stage. But you will need to keep them for later on.
|Statement of truth
It is important to realise that there are legal consequences if you submit this form to the court and are later shown to have deliberately lied or misled the court about aspects of your dispute.
As you are completing this yourself it should be left:
(I believe) that the facts stated in this particulars of claim are true.
Full name: print your full name
Name of Claimant’s solicitor’s firm: none [as you are mainly doing this yourself]
Signed: usual signature [if using Money Claims on-line service, then no need to sign]
Position or office held: leave blank unless you are bringing the claim in the name of your business
(claimant) (litigation friend) (claimant’s solicitor)
|Claimant or claimant’s solicitor’s address
Here complete your contact details (including telephone postal address and email address) for the court to contact you.
|Send to court
|Post or in personal process
|Money claims Online process www.moneyclaim.gov.uk
Print or photocopy copies of the N1 Claim Form:
1 for you, 1 for the court and 1 for each opponent.
Save and/or print a copy of the completed form for your records.
|Other documents (such as complaint letter)
If you have referred to documents in the particulars of claim section print one copy for each Claim Form and staple a copy to each N1 Claim Form
Attach a copy of your complaint letter (if you have referred to it in the particulars of claim section)
Write out a cheque for the court fee made payable to “HM Courts & Tribunals Service”.
Or pay by card at your local court office (if taking the papers in in person).
Follow the on-line instructions for card payment of the court fee.
Send Claim Form, other documents and cheque by post to:
County Court Money Claims Centre
Salford Business Centre
Any covering letter just needs to say “Please issue my claim”
Follow the on screen instructions.
The court will send you confirmation they received your completed claim form – sending you a Notice of Issue form. They will also send your Claim Form and paperwork onto to the defendant (the other side to your dispute). This will give you the service date – that is the date treated as the date they officially received a copy.
Then you case an follow one of the 4 following routes depending on how the other side reacts:-
- They ignore the court’s paperwork – then 14 days after the service date you can apply complete the bottom half of the Notice of Issue form (called Application for Judgement in Default). The court will the order the other side to pay you the amount of money you requested within a specified amount of time. This is known as a ‘Default Judgment’.
- They send a full admission – sometimes showing you are serious by taking court action is all that is needed. Rather than dispute the claim they admit they are to blame. They may make proposals to pay you in instalments. If they do the court will write asking if you agree. If you do not agree a judge will decide what is fair (usually without you needing to go to court).
- They respond with a Defence to part of your claim – this may mean they offer to pay part of your claim but not all of it. You will need to decide if that is acceptable of whether you wish to continue. You may accept this or you may be able to negotiate an agreement between you both. If this happens you should write out what was agreed and get your opponent to confirm the agreement. This should then be sent to the court to show your legal case is over – asking the court to record the agreement in a court order.
- They reject your claim with a full Defence to your claim – Depending on what they say, you may wish to reconsider whether you wish to continue. You can withdraw your claim by informing the court. If you are happy to fight on then you will be sent a form called a Directions Questionnaire to fill in.
Evidence to support your claim
If fighting on – statements
If you did not do so before, it may be relevant to your case to get a signed statement from any witnesses to what happened or witness to what went wrong.
- With claims in the small claims court, the rules are quite informal and a letter from the witness can be enough
- With a witness, it is sometimes it is easier and quicker for you to chat through the issues with them and then you prepare a draft witness statement on their behalf.
- You do not have to comply with any particular format but if you are preparing the statement for a witness you can use the witness statement format (provided in this guide).
- Take care not to put words in the mouth of the witness that go beyond what they can remember for themselves. This will go against you if it comes out at court and could undermine an otherwise strong case.
- Sent it to them for checking and signing. You are responsible for making it clear to them that they need to be can (and should) amend the draft statement you send them if it is not right.
- Once they have made any corrections needed in pen, it is usually best if you can re-type/ correct the statement to deal with their corrections and re-send it for them to sign and return to you.
- The person who signs a statement will be in contempt of court if the statement is false or contains facts where it is later shown that must have known those facts to be untrue. This is taken very seriously by the court and can result in a fine or even imprisonment.
Witness statement format:-
Court reference: [if known]
1. Witness full name:
2. Witness full address
3. Witness date of birth
4. Witness job/occupation:
5. How do you know [enter claimant’s name eg Mr Ian Rates]?:
6. How do you know [enter opponent’s name eg Bloggs Garage}?
7. What was the date of the events you witnessed?
8. What was the time of the events you witnessed?
9. What was the location?
10. Why were you there?
11. How close were you to the events you witnessed (in particular did you have a good view and were you able to hear clearly what was said)?
12. If the events were outside, what was the weather like?
13. If the events were at night time, what was the lighting?
14. Set out details of what you witnessed/saw for yourself in the sequence they happened.
Conversations you had or heard
15. Set out details of any conversations you had at the time about the events being clear about who said what.
16. Set out details of any relevant conversations you overheard about the events being clear about who said what and when the conversation happened.
17. If it would help, please draw a diagram and sign it
Statement of truth:
I believe the facts stated in this statement are true.
Print name: ______________________________
If fighting on – expert evidence
If you did not do so before, it may be relevant to your case to get a letter or witness statement from an expert.
You may have to pay them for this – but you can often claim the cost back this cost in addition to your compensation.
In many cases the “expert” will be a repair man or from another company. It can just be a letter.
For example with a faulty product you might ask a repair man to inspect the product to quote for the cost of repairs. With a dispute with a builder you might ask another builder to look at the work and quote for putting it right.
You should try to be clear with the expert as to the issues he needs to cover in his letter. It does not need to be a formal report for a small claim but this is a useful format that may be adapted to cover your situation.
As part of our commitment to serving you better, we highly recommend utilising the resources available at the Money Advice Service website. Their comprehensive guides and information cover various aspects of financial and legal matters, including small claims advice and may be able to give you the support you need.