Small claims guide

This is our guide to the english/welsh court procedures also known as the Civil Procedures Rules.

This guide is intended for people/businesses making a claim for monies owed. As such this guide deals mainly with claims for debt and taken through the 'small claims' process. However, most of the procedures outlined are the same for larger debts or for other kinds of claims.

The same procedures also apply when a claim is being made for damages. So this guide might also be useful to an individual wishing to claim damages.

The guide starts with an overview and an introduction to the courts and court procedures. The guide is laid out in, roughly, the same order that a claim would be processed.

It begins by looking at what should be done before starting a claim. It then works through the process step-by-step up to winning judgment. After judgment there are further sections dealing with the different enforcement options.

This guide tries to cover all the various possible options. This means there is quite a lot of it. In practice, using the court procedures is easier than trying to describe them.

DISCLAIMER: These notes are provided without any kind of guarantee. Use them entirely at your own risk. We have tried to make them as clear as possible and also as accurate as we can but can offer no guarantee that they are correct.


The current procedures have been in place since April 1999.

The current system sets out a single set of rules (known as the civil procedures rules). These rules apply to civil cases made in a county court or in the High Court.

These rules are not very different from the rules that applied to 'small claims' before 1999. In general, the old rules for small claims have been extened to cover all kinds of civil claims.

Index to Sub-sections


The new court procedures apply only in England and Wales.

Scotland has a separate legal system and separate arrangements exist for Northern Ireland. Information about the scottish system can be found at and for Northern Ireland at

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are also not covered by these rules.

Small claims track, fast track and multi-track

Under the rules, cases are run on one of three tracks. The three tracks are:

  • 'small claims track' (not exceeding 5000 10000* pounds)
  • 'fast track' (over 5000 pounds, not exceeding 25,000 pounds)
  • 'multi-track' (over 25,000 pounds)

*Since April 2013.

'Small claims' and 'fast track' claims are managed by the county courts. 'Multi-track' cases are more often made in the High Court.

As is typical with the legal system, even a simple rule like this has exceptions.

Tracks (Exceptions)

The monetary values that determine which track a case is allocated to are different for some kinds of claims.

The limits may be different in the case of personal injury claims. Though it depends on how much of the claim is defined as being for damages (see CPR 26.6.1.a). The part of the claim that is classified as personal injuries is limited to a maximum of 1000 pounds.

If a claim is being made by a tenant (residential) for housing repairs, the cost of repairs is limited to 1000 pounds and other parts of the claim are also limited to 1000 pounds.

In addition some specific pieces of legislation require action to be started in the High Court regardless of the amount involved.

It is also possible, if the parties and the court agree, for a case to be allocated to a different track. For example, a simple claim for more than 10,000 pounds can still be dealt with on the 'small claims' track if all parties agree.

See also: Court leaflet: EX306 - The small claims track in the civil courts (If your dispute has gone to court) and EX305 - The fast track and the multi-track in the civil courts.

Pre-action protocols

The rules include provisions for 'pre-action protocols'.

These protocols lay down guidance for the parties on action to be taken by the parties for particular kinds of claim. The protocol deals with attempts to settle the dispute and disclosure of documents.

Pre-action protocols exist to cover the following kinds of disputes:

  • for Construction and Engineering Disputes
  • for Defamation
  • for Personal Injury Claims
  • for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes
  • for Professional Negligence
  • for Judicial Review
  • for Disease and Illness Claims
  • for Housing Disrepair Cases
  • for Possession claims based on Rent Arrears
  • for Possession Claims based on Mortgage or Home Purchase Plan Arrears in Respect of Residential Property

The current pre-action protocols may be viewed on the Ministry of Justice web-site.