Small Claim Court

About the Small Claims Court

The Small Claims Court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice, and handles nearly half of all civil claims in the province.  The Court has civil jurisdiction over monetary claims up to $35,000, and provides an efficient and cost-effective forum for Ontarians to bring or defend these claims.  The Rules of the Small Claims Court provide for streamlined procedures so that cases can be determined at a lower cost and in less time for litigants than cases commenced in the Superior Court.

Small Claim Court Judge

Typically, deputy judges preside over proceedings in the Small Claims Court. Deputy judges are senior lawyers appointed for a term by the Regional Senior Judge with the approval of the Attorney General.  The Small Claims Court Administrative Judge and judges assigned to the Provincial Court (Civil Division) before September 1, 1990 may also hear Small Claims Court proceedings pursuant to the Courts of Justice Act. Every judge of the Superior Court of Justice is also a judge of the Small Claims Court.

The Small Claims Court presides in over 90 sites in the province. To locate a court in your area, please see the List of Ontario Court Addresses on the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website.

What you can sue for

You can sue for claims for money owed under an agreement, such as:

  • goods or services sold and delivered that weren’t paid for

  • unpaid loans

  • unpaid rent

  • NSF (non-sufficient funds) cheques

You can sue for claims for damages, such as:

  • property damage

  • clothes damaged by a dry cleaner

  • personal injuries

  • breach of contract

Steps to sue someone in Small Claims Court

The steps listed below are the five key steps when you need to sue someone in small claims court. 

  1. Decide if you want to sue someone. You might be able to solve the problem another way. One thing to consider before deciding to sue is whether you will be able to collect the money if you “win” but the person you sued doesn’t pay. In this case, it will be up to you to enforce the judgment to collect the money.

  2. Start a claim. This involves filling out paperwork to start the claim, sending the claim to the person or business you are suing, and paying some fees. You can file a claim in-person, by mail, or online (where eligible). Learn more about this step.

  3. Wait for a response. The person or business you are suing may or may not agree to pay you back. If they agree, the process may end, and you won’t have to go to court. Learn more about this step.

  4. Go to court. If the person or business you’re suing does not agree with all or some of your claims, you will both be asked to meet with a judge at a settlement conference. If you still can’t come to an agreement, the next step would be to go to trial. Learn more about this step.

  5. If you win the case, the court will ask the person or business you are suing to pay you. If that person doesn’t pay you, you can start a legal process to collect the money or property owed to you. If you lose, you might owe money to cover the costs of the case. Learn more about this step.

Steps to sue someone in Small Claims Court

The total cost of filing a claim depends on the steps you take.

Fees also depend on how often you file a claim. Someone who files fewer than 10 claims in a calendar year at the same court location is called an infrequent claimant. Someone who files 10 or more is called a frequent claimant.

An infrequent claimant will pay:

  • $102 for filing a claim

  • $89 for filing of a request for default judgment

  • $290 for setting a date for a trial or an assessment hearing

  • $120 for filing a Notice of Motion for an Assessment in Writing

A frequent claimant will pay:

  • $215 for filing a claim

  • $121 for filing of a request for default judgment

  • $380 for setting a date for a trial or an assessment hearing

  • $120 for filing a Notice of Motion for an Assessment in Writing

Other expenses

Depending on your case, you might have to pay for other expenses like travel costs for witnesses or interpretation services.

The judge might order the person you are suing (“the defendant”) to pay some of the costs if you win the case. If you lose, you might have to pay your own costs and some of the defendant’s costs.

Even if you win, the person or business you sued may not pay you or return your goods. If this happens, you will need to enforce (attempt to collect) the judgment, which also involves fees.

What will  happen if someone sued you?

If you have been served with a Plaintiff’s Claim, you must file your Defence within 20 days of the date that you received a copy of the Plaintiff’s Claim. 

If you do not file a Defence, the Plaintiff may seek a default judgment. A default judgment is where the Plaintiff alerts the court that they have served you with the lawsuit but you have not defended, and so asks for an automatic or “default” judgment. To protect yourself, it is very important that you do not miss the deadline to file your Defence.