The most common types of claim in the small claims track are compensation for faulty services so this very much applies to construction related matters. Generally your case will be allocated to the small claims track if the value of the claim is £10,000 or less. If you are going to take court action you must do this within a certain time limits and generally with construction related matters this is six years as this is the time-limit for breach of contract.
In all cases you must try and settle a claim before taking court action. If you do not try to settle first you may be penalised so you must endeavour to resolve the dispute in an amicable way with your other party. If you have demonstrated your intention in this respect the court will thereafter expect you to make your claim in writing giving the other party a reasonable time to reply which is normally up to a month and you should also at the same time warn them that you will take court action if they fail to reply to you within the given time. You may be able to sort out your claim by using mediation if the other party agrees. This is where an impartial third party called a mediator helps both parties to reach a mutually agreeable solution to a problem and often the court will refer your case to a mediator in any event. Mediators can be booked through the Ministry of Justice website for which you will be charged a fixed fee.
As a claimant you start claim by filling in a claim form (N1) which are available from local courts and can be downloaded. Thereafter you will be asked to provide details of how much is being claimed and you also provide particulars of the claim which can be presented at the same time or no later than 14 days after the claim form has been submitted. As the claimant you are able to claim interest upon the outstanding amount which should be included upon the claim form. As is likely in construction related matters you will need to attach additional documents to show the initial written agreement and all subsequent correspondence all by way of evidence.
Once formulated you should take two copies of your document to the court where you wish to start the court action where you will pay a court fee depending on the amount of money you are claiming. The court will thereafter stamp the claim form and serve it upon the defendant and it will give a notice of issue with a case number. This is then sent first class post and the defendant is deemed to have received it on the second business day after posting unless you have issued online.
If as the defendant you accept that you owe the money that has been claimed the court will not allocate it to the small claims track. If you are unable to pay the money immediately you can suggest an arrangement to pay the money in instalments or in one lump sum at a certain date in the future. If the claimant accepts this offer they will have to return the form to the court requesting “judgement on admission” and if as defendant you do not keep the arrangement the claimant can then take legal action forcing you to pay. If the claimant does not accept your proposed arrangement the court officials will decide what the reasonable arrangement should be and if the defendant does not keep to the arrangement the claimant can then take enforcement action.
If as a defendant you intend to defend the case you should respond to the claim form and attached particulars within 14 days from the date of service or within 14 days from the date of service of the particulars of the claim. If you do not send in a defence to the court the order is likely to be made against you. If you require more time to prepare your defence you can send back an acknowledgement of service and then the defence within 14 days thereafter. The court will then send a direction questionnaire to both the claimant and defendant which must be returned no later than the date specified thereon. Once the court has decided to allocate the case to the small claims track both parties will be sent a notice of allocation informing both parties what they have to do to prepare for the final hearing. These instructions are called “directions” and at this point you will be told the time and place of the hearing.
It is important to prepare the case carefully which TEAM can do for you. Your claim needs to be properly set out. TEAM will do this for you!