Guide to making money Claims (with focus on contractual and consumer protection disputes with homeowner claimant and builder/contractor defendant)
Steps to Consider Before Going to the Small Claims Court
When renovating, things can often go wrong. Therefore, this article is a guide to outline your options when trader’s fail to deliver a service up to your standards. Disputes can often be sorted via communication. If this is not the case, then court may be the only option. The small claims court is normally used as a last resort, but this article will outline the procedure if you do wish to take matter to court.
Firstly, consumers are protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This means that when you enter a contract, the service or goods provided by the trader should be done with reasonable care and skill. This is a way of measuring trader performance. If the service is not done with reasonable care and skill, then you may be able to claim. You can claim against anyone who provides you a service such as a builder, an electrician, a plumber and so on. If you are unhappy with the service or quality of goods, a business has given you then here are some ideas to try before taking the case to court.
-You should be to talk to your traders directly and try to mutually agree on how the service or goods could be done more to your liking.
-You can create a written record of an agreed completion date. This is always useful to refer to if work is not completed on time. It also can be used as evidence if needed in court.
-Consider if you have insurance that covers legal expenses if it comes to it.
-Formal complaints can be made directly to the company.
-If the situation worsens and they are acting unlawfully, then you can report them to the main association they belong to such as a trading association. This could provoke a response because they do not want to tarnish their reputation.
Sometimes the issue can be sorted just by conversing, especially after threating one of the above. However, this is not always the case and some businesses can make it extremely difficult for you.
The Small Claims Court Process
Sometimes you may find it difficult to come to an understanding. For example,
1) the trader may disagree with the amount you are claiming for
2) they may sate that they do not owe you any money
3) you may disagree with the amount they have offered to repay to you.
If discussing the case amicably has not worked then legal action may be necessary. Evidence will be required, so any photographs of damage or documentation of uncompleted work would be beneficial when taking someone to court. The small claims court, as assumed from the title, is a court that deals with small claims with a limit of £10000 in England and Wales.
Remember, going to the small claims court is a last resort and there is the chance to go to medication (which is free) to discuss the case amicability. This may be something you opt for further down the line.
Small Claims Court Fee
Unfortunately, the small claims court is not free. There is a small fee and this all depends on how much you are claiming for and in what part of the United Kingdom you reside. You can use online calculators to estimate how much your court fee will be and this can be found on the government website. However, on the upside you do not need to pay for a solicitor to represent you in court.
Where is the Claim Made?
The HM Court and Tribunal Service log your documentation and will make the defendant aware that you are taking them to the small claims court. This can be done online or in person. Generally, the online process is quicker. The form simply consists of your name, address and the defendant’s name and company name. You will have a box below to explain your situation and why exactly you are bringing them to court.
If the defendant does not accept, then you may have to consider the free medication. Medication is where a mediator hears both sides of the of the argument and then will suggest an outcome such as, an apology and the trader agree to repair and fix the botched work. The only way medication can go against the claimant is if you are unreasonable and refuse medication then there could be penalties against you (which is up to the judge’s discretion). However, most of the time the court will see that you tried to sort the dispute out amicable but with little success.
If the Defendant Does Not Respond?
In addition, if the defendant fails to respond, the court will follow up with the claim. The defendant must respond to your claim and they normally have a certain amount of time to respond. The defendant can file for a defence or a file of acknowledgement of service. However, this only enables them to have 14 more days to expand on their evidence. Therefore, they are not off the hook they just have extended the time they have to create a defence. If they do not respond at all, then the court may grant your claim in full by claiming for a ‘request for judgment.’ These forms can be found either online or in the court itself.
Follow Up Questions?
If the defendant does respond, the court will send out the proposed allegations with directions on what to do before a final hearing. Please read these carefully and prepare/copy the documentation ready for the hearing.
Make sure you have all your evidence ready within 14 days. Both parties have this amount of time. Photographs are preferable.
After the Claim
If you lose your case, you may have to pay the other sides expenses. However, if you win, you will be awarded a sum of money which is up to the judge’s discretion. In conclusion, if you are not content by the outcome then you can appeal the case to a higher court. At this stage most would advise you to get professional legal advice if this is the route you take.