This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Small claims track

This content applies to England & Wales

The small claims track, suitable for most straightforward low-value claims.

The small claims track is intended to be simple enough for people to conduct their own cases without having a legal representative. In general, any straightforward case with a value up to  £10,000 (£5,000 for claims started before 1 April 2013)[1] will be dealt with in the small claims track.

Exceptions

However, there are some important exceptions to this rule. The following types of housing cases cannot be allocated to the small claims track:

  • disrepair claims involving a claim for work to be carried out (known as 'specific performance') where either the cost of the work or the value of any damages being claimed exceeds £1,000. See the section on Taking action on disrepair for more information on disrepair cases.
  • claims for injunctions following alleged illegal eviction or harassment or claims for damages for illegal eviction or harassment.[2] For more information specifically about harassment and illegal eviction cases, see the Harassment and antisocial behaviour section.

Claims for possession of land will not be allocated to the small claims track unless all parties agree.[3]

Small track process

Most disputes over return of deposits between landlords and tenants are suitable for the small claims track.

When the claim has been allocated to the small claims track the court will notify the parties of the allocation and will usually give standard directions without holding a hearing. Documents being relied upon must be served at least 14 days before the date fixed for a final hearing.

The notice of allocation will, depending on the case:

  • incorporate standard directions and fix a date, time and place for the final hearing
  • incorporate special directions (ie directions made for that individual case)
  • incorporate special directions and fix a time, date and place for a final hearing
  • fix a date for a preliminary hearing
  • give notice that it proposes to deal with the case without a hearing and request the parties to notify the court if they agree with the proposal.[4]

If a date for a final hearing is fixed, the parties will be given at least 21 days' notice of it.[5] If one of the parties wishes to attend the hearing but has a good reason for not being able to on the date fixed, an application can be made on form N244 for a different hearing date.

There are several consequences of a referral to small claims track:

  • the hearing will take place in the judge's room (see the section on Introduction to court action for information about location of court hearings) and will follow a more informal process
  • the parties have to comply with a more streamlined set of directions (preparatory steps) before the hearing date
  • publicly funded legal representation is not available but advice under the publicly funded legal help scheme is available. In exceptional circumstances, 'help at court' may be available
  • the successful party can usually only recover a limited amount of legal costs (known as fixed costs)[6]
  • the losing party does not run the risk of having to pay her/his opponent's full legal costs.

[1] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 26.6, as amended by Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2013 SI 2013/262.

[2] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 27.1.

[3] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 55.9.

[4] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 27.4(1).

[5] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 27.4(2).

[6] Civil Procedure Rules, rules 27.14 and 45.

Back to top