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Before you start a claim you must write a formal letter to the person or business you feel you have a claim against – they will be known as the “defendant” in any proceedings. This is called a ‘letter before claim’ or a ‘letter before action’.
You’ll need to do this even if you’ve already written to them to complain. If the letter before claim doesn’t resolve the matter, you can then start your claim by filling in a form (usually online) and paying a fee.
You must write ‘Letter before claim’ at the start of your letter to show this is a formal letter and your letter should include:
your name and address;
a summary of what’s happened;
what you want the person or business to do about it;
how much money you want e.g the cost of repair or a replacement – and how you’ve calculated that amount;
a deadline for reply – usually 14 days; and
a statement that you will start court proceedings if you don’t get a reply.
You should also say that you and the defendant should both follow the court’s rules on what to do, stating : ‘I refer you to the Practice Direction on pre-action conduct under the Civil Procedure Rules, and in particular to paragraphs 13-16 which set out the sanctions the court may impose if you fail to comply with the Practice Direction.’
If you haven’t already tried alternative dispute resolution, you should say you’re willing to try it.
Keep a copy of the letter and you should get proof of postage.
The other person or business should reply to your claim within 14 days.
If they don’t agree with your claim, they should say:
the reasons why and which facts they don’t agree with; and
if they’re making a claim of their own (a ‘counterclaim’).
If the other person or business makes a counterclaim, check the facts they’re relying on and make a note of anything you disagree with. Also try to find evidence to prove they are wrong. For example, if you told your landlord about repairs but they ignored you and now claim it was you who damaged the property, find proof of when you told them.
If you don’t get a reply or you’re not satisfied with it, you can start your small claim. You can make a claim online or download and fill in the N1 claim form – read the notes to help you fill in the form.
If you know exactly how much you want to claim, you can do it online. This is the cheapest option.
You can’t make an online claim if you’re on a low income and qualify for reduced fees. Check if you can get lower fees on GOV.UK.
Making a claim online
You can use the Money Claims service if:
you’re claiming less than £10,000;
you’re over 18 or your claim is against someone who’s over 18;
you live 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; and
you don’t need help with court fees.
To use Money Claims, you need to know how much you’re claiming, why you’re owed it, what happened when and if you want to claim interest.
Money Claims is part of the HM Courts and Tribunals Service.