How to start a court case

You can sometimes take your landlord to court to settle disputes, to get compensation, or to apply for an injunction.

Decide if court action is needed

Taking a case to court is the right choice for some disputes, but not for others.

You could go to court about issues such as:

  • getting back your deposit
  • badly done repairs or your landlord's repeated or persistent failure to do repairs
  • damage to your home or belongings
  • noise nuisance or antisocial behaviour
  • personal injury

You should not go to court about:

  • serious crime, for example, a theft or violent assault – you should report this to the police
  • less serious problems, which can often be dealt with by making a complaint
  • the amount of rent you have to pay
  • a dispute that can be dealt with by a leasehold tribunal
  • a dispute that is already being dealt with by alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or an existing court case
  • appeals involving public authorities – unless the procedure tells you to go to court

Find out more from AdviceGuide about ADR.

Depending on the nature of your claim, you may need advice and representation.

Work out which court to use

Before beginning a case, you must find the right court. In most cases, you need the county court.

All money cases for less than £25,000 (and £50,000 for personal injury claims) and most residential possession cases go to the county court. But judicial review and some other cases go to the High Court.

Find out more about courts from the Ministry of Justice HM Court Service.

Small claims

Small claims is used for:

  • cases that are relatively simple
  • are for less than £10,000 (or £1000 for personal injury claims and repair claims where the work will cost £1000 or less)
  • cases that should take less than a day to sort

There is no special form for the small claims court. Your case should be allocated to the 'small claims track' automatically at a later date.

Take steps before you start court action

Court action should be a last resort. You must give a person or organisation the chance to put things right before you start your court case.

You need to do at least one of the following:

  • write a letter explaining your claim and what needs to be done to put it right
  • use alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
  • use a pre-action protocol (these are required in certain types of cases)

Read more from AdviceGuide about going to court

Pay court fees

Ask at the court office if you need help with the rules on court fees.

Post the forms to the court with a cheque if you know how much the fee is. If you don't know, or if you want to ask the court not to charge you a fee, take the forms to the court.

The court may be able to waive the fee if you can't afford it.

Find out more from HM Courts and Tribunals about court fees.

Complete the claim form

You must complete a claim form when you start a court case. Usually this is form N1.

Ask the court for this form or download claim form N1 from the Ministry of Justice HM Court Service.

Use extra pages if there isn't enough space on the form for all your information. You can set out your case in a separate document, which is called 'particulars of claim'.

Use form N208 to start a possession case and for some other cases, These cases must be accompanied by 'particulars of claim' on other court forms.

Download form N208 from HM Courts Service.

Sometimes you can start a money claim or a possession claim (for reasons of rent arrears only) online.

If you are making a money claim and not using the online service you should send your claim form to:

County Court Money Claims Centre

PO Box 527

Salford M5 0BY

Get advice if you are not sure which form to use. Ask the court or use our directory to find a local adviser.

Read the guidance notes that come with the forms and check whether you have to attach other documents, for example a copy of your tenancy agreement. Attach photocopies and keep the originals yourself.

Set out your case

It is important to make the case against the right person, company or organisation. This is called the defendant.

Ask a solicitor or adviser if you are not sure who the defendant should be.

Make enough copies of relevant documents. You need the original form (and attached documents) for the court and at least one copy each (including attached documents) for you and one for the other party (defendant). Also, take one extra copy to keep while you are waiting to get the form back from the court.

Last updated 30 Apr 2015 | © Shelter

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