This court deals with minor claims, which includes recovering debts of up to $12,000 and Minor Statutory Proceedings, such as relief from neighbourhood disputes like trespass, nuisance or applications under the Fences Act. These matters are dealt with minimal formality and the parties involved are not entitled to legal representation except in special circumstances.
This page will provide information on how to take a matter to court and what to do if you are being taken to court.
The court will hear a variety of matters, such as when you believe someone owes you money or someone has wronged you. These claims must be $12,000 or less. If the value exceeds this, the claim will be handled under a different process. See the Civil Claims section for the various claim amounts.
Examples of matters that may be heard as a minor civil claim include:
where your property has been damaged (eg. Your car is in a car accident)
where you loaned money to someone and they haven’t paid it back
where you are owed wages by an employer
where you are having a dispute with your neighbour
where you have had work done and it has been faulty
If you believe someone owes you money or if someone has wronged you, you may have a claim. You can make a claim against a person or against a company or business.
The law sets time limits for when a legal action can be brought, so if you think you might have a claim you will need to make sure that it is ‘within time’. The court will no longer be able to hear the matter if it is out of time. See the list below for time limits that will apply to a minor civil claim:
The courts do have the power to extend the period of time to issue an action but this will not always occur.
The minor civil process has been designed to make it possible for people to take legal action at a minimal cost. There will be some initial filing fees for starting a minor civil claim. You may be able to get this money back from the other party if your claim is successful. If you are successful, it is likely that the other party will have to pay your expenses of filing, attendance and witnesses.
There may be fees involved for you if your claim is unsuccessful. If your claim is not successful, you may have to pay the other party what it cost them to defend your claim. This may include their costs to file documents, a fee for their attendance at court and fees for any witnesses they bring to court. You would also have to pay for your own witnesses and cover any of your own costs.
The fees can be viewed here.
You can speak to a lawyer if you wish to get some help in preparing your matter, but a lawyer won’t be allowed to appear in court for you. The court can give permission for a lawyer to appear for you in certain circumstances, such as if the other party is a lawyer, if both of the parties wish to have a lawyer or if one party believes they would be unfairly disadvantaged by not having a lawyer. This is a decision for the court and you must apply to the court for permission before having a lawyer appear for you. Do not assume that one of the exceptions will apply to you.
Generally minor civil claims do not require the assistance of lawyers. This makes the process more informal, simple and cheaper for you. You may still seek assistance from a lawyer to assist you in preparing documents, explaining processes and telling you how to present your case to the magistrate.
It is by no means essential that you see a lawyer for a minor civil claim. It is possible for anyone, even without any legal knowledge, to use the minor civil process without legal help.
See the legal aid section for information on your options to get some free legal advice if you still want legal advice but can’t afford a lawyer.
If you have not been involved in a court process before, it is likely you will get confused at some stage. The minor civil claims process makes the court procedure as simple as possible, but there are legal rules to comply with, which sometimes makes things a little confusing. Don’t feel embarrassed if you are not sure what is going on or what you should be doing. You can always contact the court registry for procedural assistance but note they cannot give you legal advice or opinions.
You can also contact the Magistrates Court call centre on +61 8 8204 2444 or email them at: email@example.com. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t know what to do next, as it will make the process quicker and easier if you can ensure all the proper steps have been followed.