Going to Court… But Which One?

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Court of Québec, Superior Court, municipal court, Tribunal administratif du logement (rental board of Quebec)… It can be a headache to navigate the legal system in Quebec. Whether you’re being sued or filing a lawsuit against someone, do you know which court to go to? Let us help. 

Courts and administrative tribunals: is there a difference? 

While these terms are often used interchangeably, they don’t refer to the same thing!  

Courts deal with a wide variety of cases, from divorce applications and conflicts between businesses to criminal prosecutions. There are four main types of court in Quebec: municipal courts, the Court of Québec, the Superior Court of Québec and the Court of Appeal of Quebec. The law sets rules on the types of cases each court has the power to decide on. The appropriate court for you depends on your conflict and, in certain cases, the amount of money you’re requesting or that is requested from you. 

Each type of court has several physical locations in the province. For example, the Court of Québec has buildings in Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke and many other cities. So, after determining which type of court to go to, you’ll also need to make sure that you’re in the right “judicial district.” 

Administrative tribunals are more specialized. Generally, they handle conflicts between individuals and government agencies.  

Each administrative tribunal has its own fields of competence. For example, the Tribunal administratif du Québec (Quebec administrative tribunal) hears cases related to social benefits, health insurance programs or pension plans. The Tribunal administratif du logement deals with conflicts between landlords and tenants of residential units.  

Just like courts, administrative tribunals also generally have several physical locations across Quebec, so make sure you go to the one that can hear your case. 

You’re accused of a crime 

When you’re accused of a crime, you receive a document that summons you to court. That document will also indicate what court you must go to.  In general, you’ll have to go to the Criminal and Penal Division of the Court of Québec or to the municipal court.  

Following your first appearance in court, the crime you are accused of will determine where the process will continue. For example, if you are accused of theft or fraud, your case will continue in front of the Court of Québec. If you are accused of murder, for example, your case will continue before the Superior Court. For other crimes, you typically get to choose between these two courts.  

You want to contest a fine or a ticket 

You’ll have to go to the municipal court.  

Municipal courts mainly hear cases related to road safety or municipal by-laws or regulations. For example, you would go to the municipal court if a police officer suspended your driver’s licence and you wished to contest that decision. You would also go to the municipal court to challenge a fine for being in a park after closing hours. 

You want to ask someone or a company to pay you money 

You’re suing a neighbour because they cut the cedar hedge between your properties without your consent? You want to be compensated for the hidden defects you found in your new home? 

In both of these situations, you would file a “civil lawsuit.” 

The appropriate court for your lawsuit will depend on the amount you’re requesting: 

  • Less than $15,000: Small Claims Division of the Court of Québec  
  • Between $15,000 and $85,000: Civil Division of the Court of Québec 
  • Between $85,000 and $100,000: Choice of the Civil Division of the Court of Québec or the Superior Court 
  • More than $100,000: Superior Court 

You have family or relationship problems 

The Superior Court hears most cases related to family law, like applications for divorce or separation, questions of alimony or child support and questions of parenting time of children. 

However, all adoption requests must be filed at the Civil Division of the Court of Québec. The same goes for applications that are related to the adoption, such as parenting time. Youth protection cases are also handled by the Court of Québec, but by its Youth Division. 

Have you tried speaking to the other party? Whether in an informal conversation or during a session of mediation, everyone must at least consider resolving their conflict amicably.

Useful resources
Five Reasons to Try to Reach an Agreement and Avoid Going to Court
Finding a Mediator
Mediation: Getting Help to Avoid a Trial 

You’re in conflict with your landlord or tenant 

The Tribunal administratif du logement is generally the one to hear conflicts between landlords and tenants. It deals with applications related to a residential lease, as long as the amount requested does not exceed $100,000. 

For example, if you experience neighbourhood annoyances because of another tenant and your landlord doesn’t fix the situation, you could apply to the Tribunal administratif du logement for compensation. 

Similarly, if you’re the owner of a rental unit and your tenant is more than three weeks late in paying their rent, you can bring the matter before the Tribunal administratif du logement. 

Partnership with the ministère de la Justice du Québec

This content was produced with the financial support of the Government of Quebec.

Visit their website.