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Small Claims and Costs Recoverability

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What is a “small claim”?

A small claim is essentially a claim which is or will be allocated to the small claims track. A claim will ordinarily be allocated to the small claims track if it is for a monetary sum of less than £10,000 and the legal and factual issues are relatively straight forward.

The procedure in the small claims track is intended to be more straightforward and easier for litigants in person to follow. The rules of evidence are not as strict and there are fewer steps to follow.

A hearing in the small claims court is informal.

Are costs recoverable?

Generally speaking, it will be cheaper to bring a claim in the small claims court both in terms of solicitor’s fees and court fees. The court has a banded fee structure for small claims.

However, most people are surprised to learn that, unfortunately, there is a “no costs rule” in the small claims court which means that even if you are successful in bringing or defending a claim the other party will not be ordered to pay all of your legal costs. They will be ordered to pay fixed costs to include the court fee and some travel expenses but these will be minimal.

Are there any exceptions?

There is an exception to the no costs rule if it can be shown that the other party has behaved unreasonably then a submission can be made for costs to be summarily assessed by the court. Examples of unreasonable behaviour include; demonstrating that the other party has pursued a claim that has no merit, or that they have unreasonably refused to accept a without prejudice offer which otherwise would have resulted in the hearing being avoided. In such cases the court may assess that certain costs should be recovered such as; costs for attending the hearing or preparing for the hearing.

Please note that bringing a claim without merit or a party’s unwillingness to accept an offer does not automatically mean that they have acted unreasonably but it may be taken into account when the court is considering unreasonable behaviour.

If you would like assistance with the issuing of a small claim we offer a fixed fee service of £2,000 plus VAT and disbursements (such as court fees) for claims that are under £5,000 and a fixed fee of £3,000 plus VAT and disbursements (such as court fees) for claims that are under £10,000.

For further information, please contact Jessica McSorley by email: or telephone on 01562 820181.