Small claims procedure
What is the small claims procedure?
The small claims procedure (also known as the Small Claims Court) is a service which provides an inexpensive way for consumers and businesses to resolve disputes without employing a solicitor.
The service is provided by the local District Court offices. To use the service, the claim cannot exceed €2,000.
Who are the parties in a claim?
If you are making the claim, you are known as the claimant. The person you are claiming against is known as the respondent.
Both the claimant and the respondent must be living or based in Ireland. If either party lives or is based in another EU member state, the European small claims procedure should be used.
How to make a claim
To make a claim, you must complete a small claims procedure (doc) application form and return it to the District Court Office in the relevant area.
This form is available from local District Court offices where staff can help you complete it.
You can submit the application online, by post, or in person at a local District Court office (see ‘Where to make a claim’ below).
You can apply online using the Courts Service Online website. You need an email address and a credit/debit card to apply online, and you will need to create a Username and password.
Once submitted, you will be able to track the status of your claim by logging into your Court Service Online account.
Completing the application form
It is important when completing the application form to give all the necessary information. This will help the Small Claims Registrar to process your claim. If no resolution can be reached, it will also make it easier to enforce a decree or court order, if one is granted.
The application form has 3 sections:
Here, you should provide your name, address and contact details if you are the person making the claim.
The person making the claim should be the one who:
- Bought the faulty goods
- Requested that the work be done
- Had their property damaged
Here, you should provide the name, address and contact details of the person or company you are making the claim against. You must make sure that these details are accurate so that a judgment or court order can be enforced if necessary.
If you are unsure of the correct title of the company or business, you can:
- Try searching the Companies Registration Office website
- Contact the Companies Registration Office by phone or email
Here, you should set out the details of the claim clearly. These details should include:
- When you bought the goods or services, when the work was carried out, or when the property was damaged
- What went wrong and how you handled it
- Why you are taking court action
- How much you are claiming for
You normally can only claim for the amount you have paid for the goods or have spent on repairs. For this reason, you should include copies of any documentation or receipts which support your claim and show how much money you have lost.
The Courts Service website has more information on how to apply on its website.
Where to make a claim
The small claims procedure is provided through local District Court offices. You make your claim to the District Court office in the relevant area.
The relevant area is one or more of the following:
- Where the person you are making a claim against lives or carries on business
- Where the contract was made
- Where the damage to property took place
You will find a list of District Court areas on the Courts Service website.
Types of claims dealt with under the procedure
The procedure can be used to resolve consumer complaints and certain other types of disputes.
You can make consumer claims about:
- Minor damage to your property
- Goods or services bought for private use from someone selling them during business
- The non-return of a rent deposit for certain kinds of rented properties, such as a holiday home or a flat in a premises where the landlord also lives
The small claims procedure cannot be used to make consumer claims for debts, personal injuries, or breaches of leasing or hire-purchase agreements.
Can a business claim against another business?
Since January 2010, businesses can make claims against other businesses relating to contracts for goods or services purchased.
It does not apply to claims about:
- Breaches of leasing agreements
- Debt or liquidated damages
- Agreements to which the Consumer Credit Act 1995 applies
How does the small claims procedure work?
The claimant submits the application form to the Small Claims Registrar either online, by post, or in person at a local District Court office (see ‘How to make a claim’ above).
The respondent is notified of the claim and is sent a copy by post.
What happens after I submit my claim?
At this stage, the respondent can choose to do one of the following:
- They can admit the claim
- They can dispute the claim
- They can counterclaim
- They might ignore the claim
The respondent usually has 15 calendar days to reply, but this can vary depending on the District Court office.
Respondent admits the claim
The respondent admits the claim and informs the Registrar by completing a Notice of Acceptance of Liability form (doc).
The respondent then has 4 options.
1. They agree to pay the amount claimed
The respondent agrees to pay you immediately by cheque, postal order, or money order. This is sent to the Registrar to settle the matter.
2. They agree to a conditional refund
The respondent agrees to refund you the full amount once certain conditions have been met, for example, once the goods purchased have been returned. The Registrar must seek your agreement to this.
3. They consent to judgment
The respondent consents to judgment, which means they agree to allow the court to rule against them in the case. This means they will only pay after the claim has been reviewed by a judge in the District Court and a judgment made in the case.
You will swear an Affidavit of Debt and the respondent is issued with a Notice to Pay. The respondent has 28 calendar days to pay, and if they do not, you will be given a decree for the Sheriff. The Registrar will assist you with this process (see ‘Enforcing your judgment’ below).
4. They request to pay by instalments
The respondent wishes to pay the amount claimed by instalments. The Registrar must seek your agreement to this.
If you accept this request and the respondent fails to complete the payments, you can tell the Registrar who will give you a decree for the Sheriff.
Respondent disputes the claim
The respondent disputes the claim and informs the Registrar by completing a Notice of Dispute form (doc).
The Registrar sends you a copy of the Notice of Dispute and tries to settle the dispute. If no settlement can be reached, the matter is set down for a hearing in the District Court.
The respondent outlines their intention to counterclaim (take a claim against you).
The respondent informs the Registrar by completing the Notice of Dispute form with the details of the counterclaim. The respondent must pay the €25 fee.
The Registrar will inform you of the counterclaim and share a copy of the details with you, and the matter will be set down for a court hearing.
Respondent does not reply to the claim
If the respondent does not reply to the claim within the specified timeframe, they are deemed to have admitted the claim. From here, the procedure is the same as if they had consented to judgment.
You will swear an Affidavit of Debt and the respondent is issued with a Notice to Pay. The respondent has 28 calendar days to pay, and if they do not, you will be given a decree for the Sheriff. The Registrar will assist you with this process.
If your case has been referred for a hearing in the District Court, you will receive a letter from the District Court office telling you the date and time of the court hearing, and the location of the court itself.
The case will be heard in public as part of a normal sitting of the District Court. You may wish to get legal advice.
Under Irish law, a business is required to be legally represented if it goes to court.
Enforcing your judgment
If a judgment has been given in the claim, the respondent has 28 calendar days to comply. If they do not comply within this timeframe, you may need to enforce your judgment.
To enforce your judgment, the following steps apply:
- You must contact the Small Claims Registrar to notify them.
- The Registrar gives you a decree.
- You give the decree to a Sheriff or County Registrar for execution.
- The Sheriff or County Registrar goes to the respondent and seizes goods or money to the value set out in the decree.
You can read more about enforcement procedures on the Courts Service website. Further information and assistance is available from the Small Claims Registrar.
Do I have to pay to enforce a judgment?
You will need to pay a small fee to the Sheriff or County Registrar to enforce the judgment. If the Sheriff or County Registrar successfully executes the decree, the fee to enforce the judgment will be refunded to you.
Can the court’s decision be appealed?
If either you or the respondent are unhappy with the decision of the court, you have the right to appeal to the Circuit Court. An appeal application must be made to the court within 14 days, but you can apply to have this timeframe extended.
The respondent is likely to have legal representation and the judge can award costs against you, so it is important to carefully consider any decision to appeal.
How much does it cost to make aclaim?
It costs €25 to make a claim through the small claims procedure. This fee is payable by:
- Bank draft
- Postal order
- Solicitor’s letter
- Cheque (with a guarantee card)
- Credit/debit card (if applying online)
Bank drafts, postal orders and cheques should be made payable to 'The Courts Service'.
If your claim is rejected as not suitable for the small claims procedure, you will be refunded the fee.
If your claim is accepted as suitable for the small claims procedure, the fee is not refunded, even if your claim is successful.
You can read more about the small claims procedure on The Courts Service website.
It is also possible to book an appointment online to discuss small claims queries in some court offices.