Check if you can make a small claim

Whether you’re able to make a small claim depends on the circumstances of your dispute and the amount of money that you seek. Usually, the limit for small claims is £10,000 but this figure varies in some situations. For example, if your claim is against a landlord for repairs that you have paid for, the limit is £1,000.

You can find more information on the Citizens Advice website to check if your claim is eligible for the small claims track.

Before starting a small claim

Before you start a small claim, it is a good idea to write a formal letter to the person or business with whom you have a dispute. This is known as a ‘letter before claim’ or ‘letter before action’. The letter should include:

  • your full name and address
  • a summary of what you feel has gone wrong
  • what you want the person or business to do about it
  • how much money you want and how you’ve calculated that amount.

You should also set a reasonable deadline for reply (usually 14 days). You should make clear that you will start court proceedings if you do not get a satisfactory response from the other side.

It is possible that the other side will agree with your letter and make an offer to settle the dispute. You should think about this carefully and weigh up the advantages of settling the matter out of court.

If the other side does not agree with your letter, they should set out in reply which parts they disagree with and why. They may even make a claim of their own (known as a counterclaim) if they feel that you owe them money. If so, they should indicate any counterclaim in their response to your letter. 

Making a small claim

If you are not satisfied with the reply to your letter before claim, or if you do not receive a reply, you can commence your small claim. This can be done online or by post.

To make a claim by post, you will need to download a claim form (Form N1). Alternatively, you can use the Money Claims Service to make an online claim if:

  • you’re over 18 or your claim is against someone who is over 18
  • you know how much you are claiming
  • you have an address in the UK
  • you’re not making a claim under the Consumer Credit Act 1974
  • you’re not making a claim for personal injury
  • you’re not making a claim for a tenancy deposit.

For more information, the Citizens Advice guide to making a small claim has all the essential information you need to know. The Government’s guide ‘Make a court claim for money‘ is another good place to start.

Remember that even if you start court proceedings you may be able to sort out your problem without going all the way through to a final hearing before a judge. Or, you may find that you can agree on some parts of the dispute even if you can’t agree on everything. If you can do this then it will probably cut down the time and costs involved.

Support available

If you do not understand any part of the court proceedings, or what you need to do, then get legal advice straight away. To learn about the ways you could get free advice, look at our information about getting free legal advice.

If you decide to use a lawyer to help you with the court process, they will explain exactly what will happen and when. You can find out more about the different types of lawyer on our types of lawyers page.

You can also find out more about court hearings and making appeals against a court decision in this Advice Now guide Going to Court: Hearings, the trial and appeals.