Small Claims Cases

The BC government has announced changes in the law, to take effect June 1, 2017, that will affect Small Claims cases, especially those involving these amounts:

• From $0 to $5000
• From $5000 to $10,000 in Vancouver and Richmond only
• From $25,000 to $35,000

The information on this page describes current procedures that will continue until May 31, 2017.

For law and procedures that take effect June 1, 2017, see Important changes to Small Claims Court.

If you are considering filing a claim it may be helpful to consult a lawyer about the effect of these changes on your case.

Generally
The Small Claims Act gives the Provincial Court authority to decide cases when people (or other legal entities such as companies or societies) sue one another for up to $25,000 in claims for:

  • debt
  • damage
  • recovery of personal property, and
  • specific performance of agreements.

The Court does not have the power to grant remedies affecting

  • an interest in land
  • personal property security
  • bankruptcies
  • trademarks
  • wills and estates
  • libel and slander
  • malicious prosecution
  • residential tenancy (though Residential Tenancy Branch orders may be enforced in Provincial Court), and
  • almost all builders' lien matters.

In addition, the federal government cannot be sued in Provincial Court.

Preparation and Procedures
Procedures in Small Claims Court are designed to be simple so that people can feel comfortable proceeding without a lawyer if they do not wish, or are not able, to hire one. Those procedures are set out in the Small Claims Rules.

For an alternative to court, try the secure online negotiation service offered at Small Claims BC. If you can’t settle your claim that way you can still go to court. Small Claims BC also provides information on court rules, forms, processes, and procedures with help through live online chat for several hours on weekdays.

The B.C. Ministry of Justice Small Claims website also offers guidance on all aspects of Small Claims Court, from filing claims and replies and serving documents to collecting once you have a judgment. The site offers procedural guides as well as Small Claims Court forms . You can register and file documents electronically for a fee at Efile Small Claims documents.

You begin Small Claims court appearances by attending a settlement conference with a judge. If you can settle your dispute there you need not return to court. If you are not able to settle, you may be required to attend a Trial Preparation Settlement Conference. If you haven’t settled you will then be given a date for a trial, where another judge will hear you and the other party and any relevant witnesses you bring to court, and make a decision.

Pre-trial procedures are different in the Vancouver and Richmond courthouses. The table below provides an outline of Small Claims Court processes in various locations.

Vancouver Richmond All Other Locations
Summary Trial
(for financial debt)
Simplified Trial
(up to $5000)
Simplified Trial
(up to $5000)
Mediation (Optional)
($10,000 - $25,000)
(at parties' expense)
Mediation (Optional)
($10,000 - $25,000)
(at parties' expense)
Mediation (Optional)
($10,000 - $25,000)
(at parties' expense)
Judicial Settlement Conference Judicial Settlement Conference Judicial Settlement Conference
Pre-Trial Conference
(at judge's discretion)
Pre-Trial Conference
(at judge's discretion)
Pre-Trial Conference
(at judge's discretion)
Trial Trial Trial


Presenting a case in Small Claims Court does require preparation, including gathering and organizing evidence. For information on preparing for court see Getting Ready for Court and the links provided at Resources for Small Claims Cases. Understanding a Small Claims Court Trial, Preparing for Small Claims Court, and Organizing documents for Small Claims Court have been prepared by judges to help people get ready for settlement conferences and trials.