Filling in the N1 form
To begin your claim you will need to fill out a claim form (N1), which can be downloaded for free here.
On the form you will need to give details of both the claimant and defendant, the nature of the claim and its value.
In the box labelled ‘particulars of claim’ you should describe in detail the claim you are making. If you find there is not enough room then you can continue on another piece of paper which can be attached to the form.
At any rate, if you do find yourself short of space then your case is likely to be fairly complicated in nature, and in these cases we would recommend seeking expert guidance, for example a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Certain claims for fixed amounts of money can be initiated by using the Money Claim Online website.
Submitting the N1 form
Once you have completed the form you will need to give it to the court, either in person or by post. You must deliver two copies along with the court fees due. The fee payable will depend on the value of your claim.
After the court has received the form from you it will serve it on the defendant by mailing it to them by first class. Thereafter the defendant has the choice of whether to defend the case or not.
If the defendant does not accept that they owe you money then they must respond within 14 days of the form being served on them, which is taken to be the second day after it was posted by the court. If a response is not forthcoming within the deadline then the court will be able to impose an order on the defendant, known as a default judgment.
Once the court has learnt of the defendant’s decision and allocated the case to the small claims track (for money claims valued at £10,000 or less), both parties will be sent a notice of allocation, which gives information on what needs to be done in order to prepare for the hearing.
The notice of allocation will include ‘directions’ which must be adhered to, otherwise you may risk the case being postponed and having to pay the costs regardless.
Hearing or no hearing
In most cases a date will be set for your case’s hearing at the allocation stage, but sometimes the court will not decide to set a time for a hearing. The case can be dealt with without a hearing (providing neither party objects), or it may be decide that a preliminary hearing should be held first. This could be because:
- There are additional complicated directions that the judge wants to explain in person; or
- The judge feels one party has little chance of success and wants to nip the case in the bud to prevent time being wasted.
A hearing in the small claims court will be less formal than other court cases and rules are therefore not as strict. The judge has the flexibility to carry out the hearing in the way which he feels is most convenient.
When the judge has made a decision the judge will announce it and give his reasons in a concise manner.
If you win the case then you will get the amount you claimed along with any court fees. However, if you lose, you will have to pay the court fees.
Post-hearing – appeals and enforcement
If you wish to appeal a decision made in the small claims court, then you must file a notice of appeal within 21 days of the decision being announced. Note however that appeals will only be successful if a mistake has been made in the application of the law or there were serious irregularities in the hearing.
If you submit an appeal you must pay a fee, unless you are in financial hardship.
If the court has made a decision that money should be paid by one party to the other and the defendant does not comply, the claimant must return to the court to apply for an enforcement order.