Small Claims Court

Learn about the rules of small claims court and how to prepare your case to claim back your money.

General

  • Going to court can be expensive and time consuming, and this can limit peoples access to justice.
  • In recognition of this South Africa has hundreds of small claims courts across the country, usually operating within a magistrate's court.
  • These are set up to make justice easily and cheaply accessible to all.
  • These courts operate outside of normal court hours, i.e. after 16:00.
  • You may not have legal representation at these courts.


Restrictions: 

  • The amount being claimed cannot be over R15000.
  • However, you can abandon a portion of your claim to be within this limit.
  • These courts cannot deal with things like divorce, insolvency and emancipation.
  • No companies or associations may bring an action within this court.
  • The plaintiff (person who brings the claim) must be a human being.
  • The defendant (person whom the claim is against) may be a company or association, but it cannot be the state.

Steps to Institute Claim

  1. Contact the opposing party and attempt to first resolve the issue without the courts.
  2. If this fails, issue a written letter of demand stating that you wish for them to remedy the situation and why they have an obligation to do so. You need proof that this written letter of demand was given to the opposing party.
  3. After 14 days of this letter of demand having been given, report to the clerk of the court with:
    1. The proof the letter of demand has been given
    2. Any proof you have of your claim, i.e. contract, document etc.
    3. The full name, physical address (home and business if possible) and telephone number of the opposing party
  4. The clerk will assist you in the drawing up of a summons which you must serve upon the opposing party as well as giving you a date and time for the hearing.
  5. You must serve the summons on the opposing party and have them sign for it, you keep the original and hand them a copy which you must have made. You are required to return the original summons as well as a return of service to the clerk before the hearing.
  6. If the opposing party satisfies your claim at this point then you must provide a written invoice to the clerk so they may close the case. If not, then you will proceed to the hearing.
  7. Be polite and cordial always. Ensure you have all your evidence to support your claims including any witnesses and documents. Also make sure you have proof of the letter of demand and summons having been issued and served on the opposing party respectively.