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What Court Should I use - and why?

To be honest, the title is a misnomer as all civil claims are started in the same courts - the County Court.  Some may progress to he High Court, but this would be unusual in a tenancy claim.

How do I Start a Claim?

However, to start the process, you have various options.  The 'traditional' way of starting court proceedings is to fill out a specific form, and send it (with a fee) to your local court.  However, for some claims there are now online services which cost less.
  • http://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk covers claims for just money (as the name implies).  The fees are slightly lower than filling in for N1, which is the usual way of commencing these claims.
  • https://www.possessionclaim.gov.uk is for landlords who wish to evict tenants inder section 8 of the 1988 Housing Act.  This is considerably cheaper than using forms N5 and N119.
County Court fees (including online) are detailed in this leaflet from the court service.  If the claimant falls into certain categories it is possible to have court fees waived (or refunded for online applications).  The full description of this facility (and the application form) can be found here.

Monetary Claims

What happens next

The court will send a copy of the claim form to the defendant to give them a chance to either
  1. Accept the claim,
  2. Accept part of the claim; or
  3. Defend the claim
If the defendant chooses option 2 or 3 then a hearing will be required.
The court will send the claimant an Allocation Questionaire which gives the court more details of the claim, and allows them to decide which track to allocate the claim to, and how much court time to allocate to the claim.
The claim will be allocated to either;
The small claims track is for simple money claims with a total value of less than £5000.  The process has been simplified to enable claimants and defendants to represent themselves, no solicitor is required, although you can appoint one.  In the small claims track it is not possible (under normal circumstances) for the winning party to claim their legal costs (solicitors etc).  It is possible to claim limited expenses, and your court fees.  Court fees for a 'small claim' would typically include the claim fee, an allocation fee and a hearing fee.  The total fees should be between £50 and £485 (April 2011).  Your local library will have books on the 'small claims process' or they are available on Amazon.
The fast track and multi track are much more complex, most litigants would require the support of a solicitor to process a claim of this nature.  In view of this, the successful party can also ask for their legal costs to be repaid by their opponent.  The fees for these tracks are considerably higher than in the small claims track.  To bring a claim to the hearing stage will cost between £900 and £3090 in court fees alone (April 2011).
Tenants should note that the following would NOT be allocated to the small claims track:
  • Claims for deposit repayment which include a claim under section 214 of the 2004 Housing Act
  • Monetary claims by a tenant which include a claim for disrepair of over £1000
  • Monetary claims which include a claim for personal injury over £1000

Possession Claims

The process for possession claims is outlined elsewhere on this site
Landlords (section 8)
Landlords (section 21)