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Small claims actions

In Scotland, small claims court procedure is a way to deal with simple civil cases where the claim is worth £3000 or less.

What is a small claims action?

Small claims court cases  (or 'small claims actions' as they are sometimes called) have a simplified court procedure that is designed to be easy to use. As an individual, you do not need a solicitor unless your case is more complicated, as you can represent yourself or ask someone else to represent you. There are standard forms for you to complete both for starting a small claims case and responding if someone raises a small claim against you. Small claims are dealt with by sheriff courts.

There are a range of possible decisions that the sheriff judge can make once they hear a case. In addition, the person responding to the summons (initial court papers) has several options for what they can do - see below.

What can I use small claims for?

Some examples of housing problems that could be dealt with by small claims procedure:

  • Your title deeds say that you and your neighbour have a joint responsibility for the boundary between your houses but your neighbour refuses to pay towards the upkeep of your joint fence.
  • Your landlord has locked one of the rooms in your home and refuses to give you a key. Some of your personal belongings are in there and you want them back
  • You live in a block of flats and you are all responsible for repairs to windows in the stairwell. Your neighbours refuse to pay their share. You've had to pay the full amount to get the work done and you want your neighbours to contribute.

How to raise a small claims case

How to start a small claims case (guidance notes) - from the Scottish Courts website.

Use our checklist for raising a small claims case

Responding if someone raises a small claims case against you

If you do receive a summons because someone has started a small claims case against you, you must respond so that you get your say. You do have several options, including:

  • avoiding going to court by admitting you owe the other person money
  • challenging the location of the court case
  • requesting time to pay if you admit you owe the money
  • defending yourself
  • launching a counterclaim, a separate case dealt with at the same time as where you claim the other person owes you money too.

How to respond to a small claims case summons (guidance notes) - from the Scottish Courts website. You should try to get advice as soon as possible to help you decide the best option - you could speak to Citizens Advice Bureau, a law centre or the Clerk at a sheriff court.

Costs and solicitors

You do not necessarily need a solicitor to represent you. If you represent yourself you will be referred to as the 'party litigant' and if you get someone else to represent you they will be called a 'lay representative'. You can read more about your options (including getting a solicitor) in our section on legal representation.

Legal aid is not available for small claims cases.

The costs to raise or defend a small claims case vary but there are fees to raise the case and outlays plus the marking of an appeal. If either you or the other person uses a solicitor this obviously adds to the cost substantially. You might have to pay court expenses to your opponent if the sheriff decides against you and you lose your case. If the claim in your case was less than £200 and it was defended, the sheriff probably won't make you pay court expenses if you lose. If the claim was between £200 and £3,000 and it was defended, you will probably have to pay some money to your opponent. There is a limit to what court expenses can be claimed.

Depending on the outcome of your case, you might have to meet all the costs yourself.

Costs associated with small claims court cases

Appealing a small claims court decision

If your case has been heard in court and a decision has been made but you aren't happy with it, you can appeal against it. You'll need to pay a small fee to do this, although you might get this back if your appeal is successful and your opponent is told to pay your court expenses.

If you go to court

You can also find lots more useful information in this section including what happens if you go to court:

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