Small Claims Court

Issued by the Department of Justice

Institute your own claim

Who may institute a claim?

  • Anyone except juristic persons such as companies, corporations or associations
  • A person under the age of 21 must be assisted by his/her parent or legal guardian

Against whom may a claim be instituted?

  • With the exception of the State, against anyone, including companies, corporations, municipalities or other entities within the area of jurisdiction of the court

What amount can be claimed?

  • An amount not exceeding R15 000
  • If your claim exceeds R15 000 in value, you can institute a claim for a lesser amount in order to pursue your case in the small claims court

What matters are excluded from the jurisdiction of the court?

  • Claims exceeding R15 000 in value
  • Claims against the State
  • Claims based on the cession or the transfer of rights
  • Claims for damages in respect of defamation, malicious prosecution, wrongful imprisonment, wrongful arrest, seduction and breach of promise to marry
  • Claims for the dissolution of a marriage
  • Claims concerning the status of a person in respect of his mental capacity
  • Claims in which specific performance is sought without an alternative claim for payment of damages, except in the case of a claim for rendering an account or transferring movable or immovable property not exceeding R15 000 in value

Are you compelled to institute your case in the Small Claims Court?

No, you may choose whether you want to institute it in the small claims court or any other competent court

Legal representation and assistance in the preparation of your claim

  • Representation by an attorney or advocate is not allowed. You may, however, at your own cost obtain prior advice from an attorney
  • Legal assistants and clerks of the small claims courts will assist you free of charge

Interpreters

  • Any of the official languages of South Africa may be used in the court
  • Arrangements for an interpreter must be made with the clerk of the court beforehand if evidence is to be given in a language with which one of the parties is not sufficiently conversant

How to institute a claim

Steps preceding the institution of a claim

  • Contact the opposing party (the person against whom you are instituting legal proceedings) in person, by telephone or in writing, and request him to satisfy your claim
  • If the opposing party does not comply with your request, address a written demand to him (setting out the particulars of the facts on which the claim is based, and the amount of the claim) affording him a minimum of 14 days from the date of receipt of your written demand to satisfy your claim
  • Deliver the demand by hand or by registered post to the opposing party (the person against whom you are instituting a claim)
  • After a lapse of a period of 14 days, report in person to the clerk of the court with your proof that the demand was delivered to the opposing party

What to take along to the clerk of the court?

  • Your written demand and the proof (e.g., post office slip) that it was delivered
  • Any contract, document or other proof upon which your claim is based or that has regard thereto
  • The full name and address (home and business addresses, if available) and telephone number of the opposing party

What are the duties of the clerk of the court?

  • He and the legal assistant will examine your documents and assist you in drawing up a simple summons
  • He will inform you of a date and time for the hearing of the case
  • He will issue the summons and hand it to you

What do you do with the summons?

  • You can serve the summons on the opposing party in person. (Try to obtain an acknowledgement of receipt)
  • You can hand the summons, together with the sheriff’s service fees, to the sheriff in whose district the opposing party resides for service on the opposing party

What do you do then?

  • Where the sheriff has undertaken the service, you must obtain prior to the date of hearing a copy of his written proof that he has done so
  • Keep the contract, document or other proof upon which your claim is based, at hand
  • Inform your witnesses of the date and time the case will be heard and arrange for them to be present in court at the appointed date and time

Possible steps by the opposing party after receipt of the summons

  • He may comply with the applicant’s claim
  • He may deliver a written statement, containing the nature of his defence and particulars of the grounds on which it is based, to the clerk of the court and send a copy thereof to the applicant
  • He may institute a counterclaim by delivering a written statement which contains the same particulars as those required for a summons to the clerk of the court
  • If a plea or a counterclaim is instituted, the court proceedings must still be attended

What do you do if the opposing party has satisfied your claim in the meantime?

  • Supply him with a written receipt
  • Inform the clerk of the court immediately that your claim has been satisfied and that you will no longer proceed with the case

What do you do on the appointed date and time of the hearing?

  • You must appear in court in person
  • Ensure that you have with you all the documents upon which your claim is based
  • Ensure that all your witnesses are present
  • Ensure that you have the written proof that the summons was served on the opposing party

The hearing

  • The court procedures are informal and simple
  • No advocate or attorney may appear on your behalf
  • The commissioner of the court will request you to state your case. State the facts as concisely as possible
  • Answer the questions of the commissioner and submit your exhibits
  • No cross-examination between the parties is allowed. With the commissioner’s permission you may.Issued by the Department of Justice

    Institute your own claim

    Who may institute a claim?

    • Anyone except juristic persons such as companies, corporations or associations
    • A person under the age of 21 must be assisted by his/her parent or legal guardian

    Against whom may a claim be instituted?

    • With the exception of the State, against anyone, including companies, corporations, municipalities or other entities within the area of jurisdiction of the court

    What amount can be claimed?

    • An amount not exceeding R15 000
    • If your claim exceeds R15 000 in value, you can institute a claim for a lesser amount in order to pursue your case in the small claims court

    What matters are excluded from the jurisdiction of the court?

    • Claims exceeding R15 000 in value
    • Claims against the State
    • Claims based on the cession or the transfer of rights
    • Claims for damages in respect of defamation, malicious prosecution, wrongful imprisonment, wrongful arrest, seduction and breach of promise to marry
    • Claims for the dissolution of a marriage
    • Claims concerning the status of a person in respect of his mental capacity
    • Claims in which specific performance is sought without an alternative claim for payment of damages, except in the case of a claim for rendering an account or transferring movable or immovable property not exceeding R15 000 in value

    Are you compelled to institute your case in the Small Claims Court?

    No, you may choose whether you want to institute it in the small claims court or any other competent court

    Legal representation and assistance in the preparation of your claim

    • Representation by an attorney or advocate is not allowed. You may, however, at your own cost obtain prior advice from an attorney
    • Legal assistants and clerks of the small claims courts will assist you free of charge

    Interpreters

    • Any of the official languages of South Africa may be used in the court
    • Arrangements for an interpreter must be made with the clerk of the court beforehand if evidence is to be given in a language with which one of the parties is not sufficiently conversant

    How to institute a claim

    Steps preceding the institution of a claim

    • Contact the opposing party (the person against whom you are instituting legal proceedings) in person, by telephone or in writing, and request him to satisfy your claim
    • If the opposing party does not comply with your request, address a written demand to him (setting out the particulars of the facts on which the claim is based, and the amount of the claim) affording him a minimum of 14 days from the date of receipt of your written demand to satisfy your claim
    • Deliver the demand by hand or by registered post to the opposing party (the person against whom you are instituting a claim)
    • After a lapse of a period of 14 days, report in person to the clerk of the court with your proof that the demand was delivered to the opposing party

    What to take along to the clerk of the court?

    • Your written demand and the proof (e.g., post office slip) that it was delivered
    • Any contract, document or other proof upon which your claim is based or that has regard thereto
    • The full name and address (home and business addresses, if available) and telephone number of the opposing party

    What are the duties of the clerk of the court?

    • He and the legal assistant will examine your documents and assist you in drawing up a simple summons
    • He will inform you of a date and time for the hearing of the case
    • He will issue the summons and hand it to you

    What do you do with the summons?

    • You can serve the summons on the opposing party in person. (Try to obtain an acknowledgement of receipt)
    • You can hand the summons, together with the sheriff’s service fees, to the sheriff in whose district the opposing party resides for service on the opposing party

    What do you do then?

    • Where the sheriff has undertaken the service, you must obtain prior to the date of hearing a copy of his written proof that he has done so
    • Keep the contract, document or other proof upon which your claim is based, at hand
    • Inform your witnesses of the date and time the case will be heard and arrange for them to be present in court at the appointed date and time

    Possible steps by the opposing party after receipt of the summons

    • He may comply with the applicant’s claim
    • He may deliver a written statement, containing the nature of his defence and particulars of the grounds on which it is based, to the clerk of the court and send a copy thereof to the applicant
    • He may institute a counterclaim by delivering a written statement which contains the same particulars as those required for a summons to the clerk of the court
    • If a plea or a counterclaim is instituted, the court proceedings must still be attended

    What do you do if the opposing party has satisfied your claim in the meantime?

    • Supply him with a written receipt
    • Inform the clerk of the court immediately that your claim has been satisfied and that you will no longer proceed with the case

    What do you do on the appointed date and time of the hearing?

    • You must appear in court in person
    • Ensure that you have with you all the documents upon which your claim is based
    • Ensure that all your witnesses are present
    • Ensure that you have the written proof that the summons was served on the opposing party

    The hearing

    • The court procedures are informal and simple
    • No advocate or attorney may appear on your behalf
    • The commissioner of the court will request you to state your case. State the facts as concisely as possible
    • Answer the questions of the commissioner and submit your exhibits
    • No cross-examination between the parties is allowed. With the commissioner’s permission you may.

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