Is Small Claims Court for me?

Last Reviewed: June, 2021 Reviewed by: JES Contributors

In British Columbia, most disputes involving debt, damages, personal property, contracts, and other agreements worth between $5,001 and $35,000 are heard in Small Claims Court. This is a division of BC’s Provincial Court. Small Claims Court is designed to be easier for you to represent yourself. 

When can you use Small Claims Court?

Before you start a lawsuit, you need to make sure you are taking it to the right level of court. You need to consider both:

  1. The value of the claim, and
  2. The type of claim
  1. Value of the Claim

Small Claims Court can usually only take cases where the amount claimed or the value of the property/contract in dispute is between $5,001 and $35,000 not including fees and court-ordered interest. If it is less than $5,001, you will likely have to go to the Civil Resolution Tribunal (the CRT). If it is more than $35,000, you may decide to go to the Supreme Court

Is small claims court for me

Exceptions: 

  • Claims over $35,000

If your claim is for more than $35,000, you can still make a claim in Small Claims Court, but you have to give up (abandon) the amount of the claim that is over $35,000. You can’t go on and make a second claim for the amount you abandoned.


For example, if your lawsuit is for $40,000.00 and if you wanted your case to be in Small Claims Court, you would have to reduce the amount of the claim by $5,000.00. The claim amount must be within the $35,000.00 Small Claims Court limit. You would then not be able to start another claim in Small Claims Court for the $5,000.00 you abandoned. 

  • Claims under $5001

Most claims under $5,001 are heard by the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal. Small Claims Court will deal with claims for less than $5,001 if:

  • The CRT refuses to resolve the claim
  • The matter is exempt from the CRT
  • A Notice Of Objection to a CRT decision is filed
  • A CRT order is being enforced. Go to Claims Started in CRT for more information

 

  1. Type of Claim

BC Small Claims Court deals with a wide range of civil law disputes, but there are some exceptions. Here are types of claims you can sue for in Small Claims Court:

types of claim in bc small claims court
  • Debt: Did you loan someone money but they haven’t paid all or part of it back?
  • Damages: Did someone trespass or cause you or your property injury?
  • Recover Personal Property: Did you lend someone a tool but they never gave it back?
  • Breach of Contract: Did someone fail to hold up their end of a contract? 

Oppose a Claim to Property: Do you need a court order that will stop someone from suing you for your property?

Claims NOT Accepted 

Regardless of the value of the claim you cannot sue for the following in Small Claims Court, even if the value of the claim is between $5,001 and $35,000 (unless an exception noted above applies):

Claim Type Where to Go
Motor vehicle injury accident benefit claims

Civil Resolution Tribunal if under $50,000

Supreme Court if over $50,000

Motor vehicle minor injury determinations and fault and damages

See Updates on Civil Resolution Tribunal's Motor Vehicle Injury Jurisdiction

Defamation (libel or slander)

Supreme Court

Malicious prosecution

Supreme Court

Suing the Government

Supreme Court or Federal Court

Builders Liens and other matters that can only be heard in Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Landlord and tenant matters i.e. matters covered by the Residential Tenancy Act

Residential Tenancy Branch

Matters under the responsibility of the Civil Resolution Tribunal such as strata issues

Civil Resolution Tribunal

Matters under the responsibility of other administrative tribunals such as Work Safe BC or the Human Rights Tribunal

Human Rights Tribunal

Work Safe BC

KEY TERMS

Builder’s liens protect contractors and subcontractors by allowing them to file a “lien” on the property they have worked on if they have not been paid for their work. It can help the builder get paid what they are owed as the property cannot be sold while the lien is in place. Builder’s liens must be filed in Supreme Court

Learn More

Small Claims Matters  from the BC Provincial Court

Choosing the Proper Forum for Small Claims from Clicklaw

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