This article will seek to answer the following questions about the Small Claims process:
- What is Small Claims Court?
- What kind of cases go to Small Claims Court?
- How much does it cost to apply to Small Claims Court?
- How to file a Claim in Small Claims Court
- What is Mediation?
- What is a Counterclaim?
- What is a Third Party Claim?
*Disclaimer: This post is designed to be a source of information about the small claims process, but is not intended as legal advice. Should you have specific questions about your legal issue, please contact a lawyer.
1. What is Small Claims Court?
B.C.’s Small Claims Court is part of the provincial court system and is designed to address civil disputes ranging from $5001 to $35,000. In this context, “civil disputes” means disputes relating to disagreements between two or more individuals, and does not include criminal or family law issues.
As we all know, the legal system can be expensive to navigate—putting justice out of reach for many. In response to this, the Small Claims Court seeks to provide access-to-justice for those citizens who may not otherwise be able to afford to bring their claims forward at the Supreme Court level.
Generally, Small Claims Court processes are less expensive and complicated than those of the Supreme Court and are designed to encourage self-representation and out-of-trial settlement in order to keep the costs as low as possible.
Should an agreement outside the courtroom not be possible, the Claim will then be resolved at settlement conference or trial by a judge.
2. What kind of cases go to Small Claims Court?
As noted above, the B.C. Small Claims Court hears claims for damages ranging from $5,001 to $35,000. In this context “damages” means a monetary award to be paid as compensation for a harm or loss. Claims under $5,000 must be taken to the online Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), which also deals with many motor vehicle Claims up to $50,000. (The specifics of the CRT will not be addressed in this post.)
Subject to the monetary restrictions noted above, the Small Claims Court has the jurisdiction to make decisions relating to:
- the performance of agreements or contracts relating to personal property (but not land) and/or services;
- the recovery of debt or damages; or
- disputes over personal property (but nothing relating to interests in land).
Though you can bring a Claim over $35,000 to the Small Claims Court, a provincial judge cannot award more than $35,000 plus interests and expenses. Therefore, if you decide to bring the Claim to the Small Claims Court, you must abandon any amount exceeding the $35,000 mark.
3. How much does it cost to apply?
If you are applying without the help of a lawyer, you can pay the fees with cash, debit card, cheque, money order, or bank draft. For a complete list of current fees, please visit: Small Claims Rules (gov.bc.ca).
If you cannot afford to pay the fees, you can make an application every time a court fee is due for the court to wave the fees. To apply you must complete a form called Application to the Registrar, provide a Statement of Finances, and submit them to the court registry together with your financial information like tax receipts and bank statements. All of the Small Claims Forms can be found here: Small Claims Forms (gov.bc.ca).