The Small Claims Division of the Court of Quebec (often called “small claims court”) is a court where you represent yourself (that is, without a lawyer). The court uses simplified rules, to make it as easy as possible to represent yourself. The maximum amount you can claim is $15,000, not including interest.
Claims of $15,000 or less
You can file a claim for $15,000 or less in small claims court for damage caused to you by a person or company.
Here are a few examples of cases that can be heard in small claims court:
- You discovered a hidden defect in your new home, and you want to sue the seller for the cost of the repairs.
- You bought a television, but it’s not working. The store you bought it from is refusing to repair it or refund you.
- You lent money to someone, and they’re refusing to pay you back.
- A neighbour damaged your fence and is refusing to pay for repairs.
- You want to cancel your purchase of a used trailer because there are hidden defects.
- You want to end a service contract.
If the damage was more than $15,000, you can choose to claim a smaller amount. This will allow you to submit your file to small claims court, where you don’t need a lawyer and you can take advantage of the simplified rules. For example, if the cost of repairing a hidden defect is $21,000, you can choose to claim just $15,000.
Small claims court doesn’t hear all claims
Even if the amount you wish to claim is $15,000 or less, some types of cases don’t qualify:
- If your claim involves the lease of an apartment, you must go to the Tribunal administratif du logement (TAL, formerly Régie du logement or rental board).
- If your claim is for support payments, you must go to the Superior Court.
- If you want to file a claim based on defamation (false statements made about you, harming your reputation), you must go to the Court of Quebec.
You must represent yourself
In small claims court, you must represent yourself. This means you will appear on your own before the judge. A lawyer can help you prepare your case but can’t speak to the judge for you.
If you’re unable to act on your own behalf, someone close to you can represent you. For example, if you’re sick, a tutor, curator, mandatary, spouse or family member can represent you.
However, you can’t have another person represent you just because you don’t know much about the law or because you’re not comfortable speaking in public.
A company must be represented by an officer or employee
In small claims court, a company must be represented by an officer or an employee who works for that company exclusively. The representative can’t be a lawyer, even if they work exclusively for the company.
However, if you are being sued by a lawyer, or their firm, for unpaid legal fees, then a lawyer can represent the firm in small claims court.
A company (no matter what the size) can always defend itself in small claims court. However, a company can only file a claim in small claims court if it had 10 employees or less during the 12 months before the date of the claim.
You can file your claim online
You can file your claim online using the website of Justice Québec by clicking on “Access to the On-Line Application Form.” You must then register, if this is your first case in small claims court.
Mediation is free
You can take part in one or more free mediation sessions offered by the government. You can get up to three free hours. These hours can be used for work with a mediator during a session with you, or for work the mediator does to prepare outside the session.
Mediation lets you invite the other party to negotiate and try to reach an agreement, avoiding the need for a trial. You can decide to go to mediation at any time, even on the day of the trial.
Either party can suggest mediation to the other. However, both parties must agree to take part. If you agree to mediation, the court will let the other party know.
To learn how to participate in mediation
- Contact the office of the Court of Quebec at the courthouse where your case will be heard.
- Watch Éducaloi’s video: Mediation in Small Claims Court.
A Helping Hand
The people working at the office of the small claims court can provide you with some assistance, free of charge. They can’t give you legal advice, such as an opinion on your chances of success. But they can help you understand the rules and procedures involved in small claims cases.
Don’t hesitate to ask for their assistance!