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Planner
21-09-2006, 09:10 AM
Well I have recieved a date from the court for a hearing the 24th October, and hopefully the end of a sorry saga between myself and my ex-landlord over the return of £645 deposit which he is witholding. Ive never been to small claims before, and I think (if he turns up at all) he might turn up with a solicitor, so i am a little nervous. Any tips or advice from people who have been through the process?

Thanks

Surrey
21-09-2006, 09:24 AM
Well I have recieved a date from the court for a hearing the 24th October, and hopefully the end of a sorry saga between myself and my ex-landlord over the return of £645 deposit which he is witholding. Ive never been to small claims before, and I think (if he turns up at all) he might turn up with a solicitor, so i am a little nervous. Any tips or advice from people who have been through the process?

Thanks
Know the rules. The court knows the rules, your landlord might but his solicitor definitely WILL know the rules, so you need to arm yourself. If you go in there without doing some homework you've given half the battle to the other side before you start.

Go to http://www.dca.gov.uk/civil/procrules_fin/menus/rules.htm for the full set. They're long, boring and written in 'legalese' but with some time and effort you might feel better prepared.

Follow all instructions you receive from the court. If you don't understand what they mean, either phone the court office or ask someone who might understand (here would be a good place!) Keep an eye on the other side to make sure THEY follow the rules as well.

If you've been told to prepare a bundle of documents on which you are relying, do so. And make sure you send it to the right people, which is usually the court and the other side, and by the date specified. Include your AST and inventory and any other correspondence you have had. Make sure you also number your bundle properly, so you can refer to it in court.

Work out for yourself beforehand what you want to say, and what in your bundle backs up what you want to say. Write it down, with page references of either your bundle or the other side's.

Read through very carefully what the other side sends you. See if they have missed anything out, or put in anything that contradicts what you have said.

Be respectful to the judge, who should be addressed as 'Sir' or 'Ma'am' (I think, someone legal will correct this if I'm wrong.

And expect it to be like going to the dentist with no anaesthetic. Courts should be avoided wherever possible.

Do note that it is still possible to resolve the matter even at this late date. If you and your former landlord come to some agreement, let the court know.

Oh, and make sure you do turn up. If you aren't there, the other side automatically wins their case. (So it's unlikely your LL won't, he'll know what the score is).

And getting judgment isn't the end of it, you still have to get the money out of them (if you win). But you can take that fence when you come to it.

Planner
21-09-2006, 09:47 AM
Thats very helpful thanks. Unfortunatley there is no chance of it being resolved without the courts assistance. I will have a look at the link you have sent and arm myself!

MrShed
21-09-2006, 10:50 AM
Excellent advice there by Surrey. One thing I would add - keep your cool. Don't interrupt the other party when they say something that is a blatent lie, don't get angry, raise your voice etc. This happens very often, because people will go into court and bareface lie, and it obviously gets peoples backs up. But, all it will do is project yourself as being hotheaded, and wind the judge up. You will be given your chance to speak.

davidjohnbutton
21-09-2006, 10:54 AM
"If you arn't there, the other side automatically wins their case"

Sorry - not so. It obviously disadvantages the other side if they do not turn up at all and courts do expect that both plaintiffs and defendants turn up except where they have exceptional reasons not to like a small claim but a long way to travel, bereavement but to mention a couple.

If you attend and the other side don't - then the judge will still take all the evidence from you - written and oral and he will look at the defence or claim from the other side and will make an informed judgment. You will win or lose your case on the merits, not merely on attendance.

There are a few cases where you can "win" on the simple non-appearance of the other party, and those are basically limited to:

1. Applications made by a party who does not turn up or send in anything to support the application (i.e. warrant suspension/judgment set-aside)
2. Unopposed costs hearings where the other party seems not to be contesting the bill of costs by their non-appearance.

Courts do regard a party not appearing for a hearing as a bit of an insult except where they have sent in papers and asked the judge to hear it in their absence and are particularly peeved when someone makes an application and then shows no interest in attending to support it.