Small Claims COurt FAQs

Preparing your Small Claims Court Claim

When writing your Small Claims Court it is important to follow these simple rules:

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep to the facts.
  • Number your paragraphs
  • No need to recite the evidence you will rely upon
  • Use dates and be specific wherever possible
  • Explain what lead up to the event, what happened to cause the conflict, Why the other side owes you money, explain attempts to obtain payment, and how do you calculate the amount owing.

Serving your Small Claims Court Claim

If you received judgment in your favour (successful), you may be entitled to recover some costs.

If you served the document by mail or courier and wish to recover the costs, you must provide the court office with a receipt showing what you paid.

If someone was hired to serve the document on your behalf, you must provide the court office with a detailed invoice or statement detailing the amount paid to have the document served. A maximum of $60 per person to be served can be claimed regardless of the amount paid or number of attempts made to serve the document, unless the court orders otherwise under Rule 19.01(3).

The court office will accept a defence for filing as long as the plaintiff has not noted the defendant in default. If the defendant has been noted in default, the Rules provide that the party cannot file a defence or take any other step in the proceeding. The party will need to make a motion to set aside the noting of default, without leave of the court or the plaintiff’s consent.

The answer is YES. A plaintiff can file a motion to request an order to extend the time for service. You must explain to the judge why you were not able to serve the claim within the six months period.

The answer is no, if personal service is not required under the Rules. Most often service of documents are sent by mail or by courier, dropping it off at an office, or having someone serve on your behalf.

At times distance may make it inconvenient or impossible for an individual to serve their own documents. It may be an awkward or potentially confrontational situation which may make it uncomfortable. If sending the documents by mail or by courier is not allowed under the Rules, there are professional process servers who will serve the document for you, for a fee. Contact Precision Paralegal if you are looking for a process server.

You may also ask a friend to do it for you. If you have a friend in another town where the other party is located, you may be able to mail it to a friend there and have them serve it for you.

Note: An Affidavit of Service will have to be filed with the court that is signed and sworn or affirmed by the person who served the document

Rule 8 for Service must be followed when serving Small Claims Court documents. In some cases it is the clerk of the court who will serve documents by mail. However, most cases it is the party’s responsibility to serve their own documents on the other parties. The rules below outline how specific documents are to be served.

Default Judgment

8.01 (4) A default judgment (Form 11B) shall be served by the clerk, by mail or by fax, on all parties named in the claim.

(4.1) Despite subrule (4), if a plaintiff’s claim was issued electronically under rule 7.04, the clerk may serve the default judgment on the plaintiff by email to the email address provided by the plaintiff for the purpose, if these rules permit it.

Assessment Order

(5) An order made on a motion in writing for an assessment of damages under subrule 11.03(2) shall be served by the clerk to the moving party if the party provides a stamped, self-addressed envelope with the notice of motion and supporting affidavit.

Settlement Conference Order

(6) An order made at a settlement conference shall be served by the clerk by mail or by fax on all parties that did not attend the settlement conference.

Summons to Witness

(7) A summons to witness (Form 18A) shall be served personally by the party who requires the presence of the witness, or by the party’s representative, at least ten days before the trial date; at the time of service attendance money calculated in accordance with the regulations made under the Administration of Justice Act shall be paid or tendered to the witness.

Notice of Garnishment

(8) A notice of garnishment (Form 20E) shall be served by the creditor,

(a) together with a sworn affidavit for enforcement request (Form 20P), on the debtor, by mail, by courier, personally as provided in rule 8.02 or by an alternative to personal service as provided in rule 8.03; and

(b) together with a garnishee’s statement (Form 20F), on the garnishee, by mail, by courier, personally as provided in rule 8.02 or by an alternative to personal service as provided in rule 8.03.

Notice of Garnishment Hearing

(9) A notice of garnishment hearing (Form 20Q) shall be served by the person requesting the hearing on the creditor, debtor, garnishee, co-owner of debt, if any, and any other interested persons by mail, by courier, personally as provided in rule 8.02 or by an alternative to personal service as provided in rule 8.03.

Notice of Examination

(10) A notice of examination (Form 20H) shall be served by the creditor on the debtor or person to be examined personally as provided in rule 8.02 or by an alternative to personal service as provided in rule 8.03.

To fill out an Affidavit of Service Form 8A, follow the instructions on the form. You must describe:

  • The name of the person who served the document (e.g. you or a representative or friend) and where they are from;
  • The name of the person who was served;
  • When the document was served (day, month and year);where the document was served (e.g. house number, apartment number, street name, city, and province);
  • What document was served (e.g. a claim, defence, or notice of motion); and
  • The method of service (e.g. by personal service, service at place of residence, service by registered mail, courier, regular letter-mail, or fax).

If you served the documents, then you must swear or affirm that the information in your affidavit of service is true. If you had another person serve the documents, then that person must fill out the affidavit of service and swear or affirm that the information in the affidavit is true.

The affidavit must be signed in front of a person authorized to take oaths and affirmations (i.e. a commissioner for taking affidavits). The commissioner will ask the person making the affidavit to swear or affirm that the information in the affidavit is true, will ask that person to sign the affidavit, and will sign the affidavit as sworn or affirmed. Do not sign the affidavit before going to the commissioner.

Note: It is a criminal offence to swear or affirm an affidavit you know is false.

If you are serving the claim yourself on a business:

  • Do you have a corporate search? If not, you will want this prior to issuing and/or serving your claim. See our video on “suing a business” or “what is a corporate search”
  • it must be hand-delivered to the company and left with the person in charge at the time of your attendance.
  • If there is only one person in attendance at the time of service, they are assumed to be in charge
  • You need to obtain the name and position of the person you leave it with
  • You need to take note of the date and time you serve it.
  • If the company is no longer at the registered head office address, and you have attempted to serve the claim there, you can send it by regular mail to the address, and to the address of all directors outlined on the corporate profile report

If you are serving the claim yourself on an individual:

  • obtain the name of the individual in the household that you are giving the claim to, if not the party you are serving – if they don’t provide it to you, that’s ok.
  • No signatures are required when serving a claim on your own
  • Take note of the date and time of the service
  • Do not leave it with someone who appears to be under the age of 16
  • If serving them at work, you must hand-deliver it to the person you are suing. You cannot leave it with anyone else at the place of work.
  • You cannot leave the claim in a mailbox or at the front door.
  • Someone must be home to accept service. If they choose not to accept service you can leave it at their feet, but only after confirming the individual lives at the address with the party, you are serving.

A defence is your response to the claim. The Rules provide for several types of service of a defence. How you serve the defence, and on whom, depends on what type of plaintiff is suing you (whether the plaintiff is a person or a company). The rules state: “8.01(14) The following documents may be served by mail, by courier, by fax, personally as provided in rule 8.02 or by an alternative to personal service as provided in rule 8.03, unless the court orders otherwise: 1. A defence. 2. Any other document not referred to in subrules (1) to (13).”

The onus in on the individual to ensure the court and the other parties in the matter have an updated and proper address in order to serve documents on the party. If the individual’s address changes, they must serve written notice of the change on the court and other parties within seven days after the change takes place. Detailed notes should be kept as to when and how the individual served their new address on each party in the matter and the court. Also, be prepared for court, they may require an Affidavit of Service in the near future regarding service.

If the court or other parties are not advised by the change of address, they are entitled to serve documents at the old address, which means you will not be fully informed about the current status and relevant information in your matter. Orders may be made without your knowledge and in your absence.

Once your claim is issued, you have a very specific time period to serve the claim. In Ontario you have 6 months to serve your claim, and in AB you have 1 year. If you cannot serve your claim within this time frame you will need to file a motion or application to extend the time for service.

The court office will accept a defence for filing as long as the plaintiff has not noted the defendant in default. If the defendant has been noted in default, the Rules provide that the party cannot file a defence or take any other step in the proceeding. The party will need to make a motion to set aside the noting of default, without leave of the court or the plaintiff’s consent.

A plaintiff’s claim and defendant’s claim must be served on the defendant within six months after the date the claim is issued by the court. If there is more than one defendant in the case, all defendants must be served within this time frame.

If a party did not receive a document that was supposed to have been served on them under Rule 8, or was received after the specified time frame allowed under the Rules, the party can bring a motion to the court for the order they need in the circumstances.

For example: Where a defendant does not receive the claim but receives a default judgment from the court, they may wish to bring a motion to set aside the default judgment and an extension to file a defence. If a defendant receives a notice of motion less than 7 days before a hearing date, they may request an adjournment in order for them to have more time to prepare.

You may find yourself unable to serve your claim because the party has moved and you cannot find a forwarding address. You might be under the impression that the party knows you are trying to serve the claim and is avoiding you. In either case, you may file a motion to seek an order for substituted service under Rule 8.04.

The Rule States: “8.04 If it is shown that it is impractical to effect prompt service of a claim personally or by an alternative to personal service, the court may allow substituted service”. The method ordered by the court is substituted for the method(s) of service allowed for that particular document and on that particular party in the Rules.

If the person you are looking to sue normally lives in Ontario but is away, for instance, they took up a job in Montreal, you can serve the claim on the person in Montreal just as you would if they were residing in Ontario.

If the person lives or carries on business outside of Ontario, you could serve your claim on the person outside of Ontario just as you would if they lived or carried on business in Ontario. If you request it, the court may award additional costs to you to cover any extra expense involved in serving the claim outside Ontario.

If you find yourself unable to serve a document by means of personal service, you may choose an “alternative to personal service.” This means that you are choosing another method of service for instance, serving at a place of residence: permitted by the following rules.

Rule 8 States:

Alternatives to personal service

8.03 (1) If a document is to be served by an alternative to personal service, service shall be made in accordance with subrule (2), (3) or (5); in the case of a plaintiff’s claim or defendant’s claim served on an individual, service may also be made in accordance with subrule (7).

At Place of Residence

(2) If an attempt is made to effect personal service at an individual’s place of residence and for any reason personal service cannot be effected, the document may be served by,

(a) leaving a copy in a sealed envelope addressed to the individual at the place of residence with anyone who appears to be an adult member of the same household; and

(b) on the same day or the following day, mailing or sending by courier another copy of the document to the individual at the place of residence.


(3) If the head office or principal place of business of a corporation or, in the case of an extra-provincial corporation, the attorney for service in Ontario cannot be found at the last address recorded with the Ministry of Government Services, service may be made on the corporation

(a) by mailing or sending by courier a copy of the document to the corporation or to the attorney for service in Ontario, as the case may be, at that address and

(b) by mailing or sending by courier a copy of the document to each director of the corporation as recorded with the Ministry of Government Services, at the director’s address as recorded with that Ministry.

To serve a document by means of personal service, refers to you, or someone acting on your behalf, will hand the document to the party (for example, the defendant(s)). The person serving the document must first be satisfied that the person being handed the document is in fact the party. If the party refuses to take the document, you can drop it on the floor at their feet. The person who serves the document would note this in his or her affidavit of service because it is a related detail.

The judge will decide what kind of substituted service will be permitted. Types of substituted service you might request are:

  • Leaving the claim with a relative of the defendant;
  • Mailing the claim to the address of the defendant’s employer; or
  • Posting the claim on the door of a particular residence or other place

Before asking for an order for substituted service, several tries should be made to serve the document by the method or methods provided by the Rules. Be prepared to give details of how you tried to serve the claim, what happened and why the method of service you are asking for will succeed.

If the court makes an order allowing substituted service, you must serve on the party the following:

  • A copy of the order;
  • The notice of motion and supporting affidavit; and
  • The claim.

Note: An order made by a judge in Small Claims Court is generally set out in an endorsement record. An endorsement record is the official document that records the judgment or court order.

The individual making service will provide the party with a copy of the document(s). If more than one party is being served, then each party much be served with their own copy of the document(s). For instance, if you have named two defendants on a claim who share the same address, you must send a copy of the document(s) to each party in separate addressed, sealed envelopes. Remember, once the other party has been served, an Affidavit of Service must be completed for each party served with a document.

It is recommended to attempt to serve the document at varying times of the day and on weekends. This is important if the legal documents do not get served and as you will need to prepare and file an Affidavit of Attempted Service. In the affidavit the court will want to know that you have tried at appropriate times of the day.

Depending on who you are serving changes the personal service requirements in Ontario Small Claims court.

The Rules State:

Personal Service

8.02 If a document is to be served personally, service shall be made,


(a) on an individual, other than a person under disability, by leaving a copy of the document with him or her;


(b) on a municipal corporation, by leaving a copy of the document with the chair, mayor, warden or reeve of the municipality, with the clerk or deputy clerk of the municipality or with a lawyer for the municipality;


(c) on any other corporation, by leaving a copy of the document with

  1. an officer, a director or another person authorized to act on behalf of the corporation, or
  2. a person at any place of business of the corporation who appears to be in control or management of the place of business;

Board or Commission

(d) on a board or commission, by leaving a copy of the document with a member or officer of the board or commission;

Person Outside Ontario Carrying on Business in Ontario

(e) on a person outside Ontario who carries on business in Ontario, by leaving a copy of the document with anyone carrying on business in Ontario for the person;

Crown in Right of Canada

(f) on Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada, in accordance with subsection 23(2) of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act (Canada);

Crown in Right of Ontario

(g) on Her Majesty the Queen in right of Ontario, in accordance with section 10 of the Proceedings Against the Crown Act;


(h) on an absentee, by leaving a copy of the document with the absentee’s committee, if one has been appointed or, if not, with the Public Guardian and Trustee;


(i) on a minor, by leaving a copy of the document with the minor and, if the minor resides with a parent or other person having his or her care or lawful custody, by leaving another copy of the document with the parent or other person;

Small Claims Court Cost & Fees

While some legal costs can be recovered in Small Claims Court, the amounts awarded to successful parties are significantly limited by the Rules of the Small Claims Court and the Courts of Justice Act.

In cases where the parties reach a settlement out of court, your paralegal may agree, as part of the settlement with the other party(ies,) to include some amount in the agreement to cover some of the legal expenses of the litigation.

In matters that proceed to trial, the Rules of the Small Claims Court (in conjunction with section 29 of the Courts of Justice Act) provides that a successful party may recover expenses associated with legal representation fees (i.e. your paralegal fees) for up to 15% of the amount being claimed in the action. That means that if the action seeks an award of $20,000, the successful party may be awarded up to $3,000 in legal fees. Generally, a successful self-represented party will not be awarded more than $500 for the inconvenience and expense associated with the action.

Parties may be able to recover amounts in excess of this 15% rule for their legal fees in cases where a successful party made an offer to settle, that was not accepted by the opposing side, and the party obtains a judgment that is as favourable, or better than the offer. The cost consequences associated with this failure to accept an offer cannot amount to more than twice the costs that would be awarded to the successful party.

Disbursements (other costs associated with the litigation) are recoverable in addition to the legal fees, though there are also some limitations provided in Rule 19 of the Rules of the Small Claims Court. For example, a party will not normally be awarded more than $60 for the costs to effecting service (per defendant). The amounts of disbursements associated with preparing a Plaintiff’s Claim or Defendant’s Claim shall not exceed $100. Examples of other costs that may be recovered in addition to your paralegals’ fees are expert fees, copying costs, and reasonable expenses for travel and accommodation.

The Rules of the Small Claims Court also provides that a penalty may be awarded against a party which has unreasonably complicated or prolonged the action, though this type of award is rare.

Small Claims Court Defences

The Defendant has 20 days within service of the claim to respond. There are several ways a Defendant can respond to a Plaintiff’s Claim. The defendant may:

  • Agree to pay all of your claim in full or by way of payments;
  • Oppose all or part of the claim;
  • Make a claim against you and/or another party, called a Defendant’s Claim.

The defendant may file a Defence disputing all or part of your claim. The Defendant may also file a Defence admitting to the full claim, at which time they must also make a proposal on how they will pay the amount to you.

If the Plaintiff’s Claim is disputed in all or part, the Small Claims Court then sets a date for a settlement conference. If the Plaintiff’s Claim is not disputed, and a payment proposal is outlined, the Plaintiff has 20 days to dispute the terms of payment, by requesting that a Terms of Payment hearing be scheduled. If a Terms of Payment hearing is not requested within this timeline, the Plaintiff is deemed to have accepted the offer outlined in the Defence.

Small Claims Court Judgment

If the defendant does not file a Defence within the specified time limits, or contact you to resolve the claim, you can file a Request to Clerk form to note the Defendant in default for failing to file a Defence.  This will prevent the Defendant(s) from filing a Defence after the timeline has expired without first bringing a motion for the courts permission to do so.

If the claim is for a liquidated debt (unpaid invoice, loan agreement, etc.) you may also request the clerk of the court to issue a Default Judgment.  You must complete the form yourself.

If your claim is for damages or an non-liquidated debt (damage to property, injury, etc.) then you can either file a motion in writing to request judgment or request an Assessment hearing so that a judge can decide on the appropriate amount of the judgment and any associated costs you are requesting.

Small Claims Court Limitation Dates

If you are in negotiations with the opposing party and are approaching your limitation date, you may want to secure your right to proceed with legal by issuing a claim. You do not need to serve it if you reach an agreement with the opposing party. You may also want to protect your limitation period by issuing a claim against the opposing party even if you cannot confirm their address for service or know they cannot pay the debt at the moment, but will likely be in a position to pay in the future.

A Limitation date is a limit on how long you can wait before making a claim. 

The basic rule in calculating your Limitation Period is 2 years from the date of the event or default. However, some actions require a more in-depth look at the calculation of the limitation period start and end date. If you have a simple unpaid debt, you can usually rely on the date of the last payment or date of an invoice, to calculate the start of the limitation clock, however, in some cases it may start earlier, or can be extended.

If the claim is regarding an event or damages outside of a simple unpaid debt, the limitation period generally starts from the date of the event, or the date you became aware you may have suffered damages. This can be subjective in some cases and you may want to research the issue of limitations further.

When the limitation period is a question you need to be answered, it is best to contact a paralegal to assist you in determining the date of the limitations.

Load More

Free Claim Review

Not sure if you have a valid claim? Let one of our experienced team members review your matter for free and determine whether you have a valid claim and provide you with our recommendation on what to do next, pricing, and timelines.