How to make a small claim

This page has information for people who want to make a small claim.

If you are making a small claim for up to $25,000 you can apply to have your matter heard through the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

If your matter involves claims between $25,001 and $250,000 you can apply to have it heard in the Local Court.

Or if you claim is above $250,000 it will be heard by the Supreme Court.

If you are owed money

Contact the person or company you are claiming against. They are also known as the defendant or debtor.

You should send a final reminder letter before taking legal action. This is called a letter of demand.

Your letter should state all of the following:

  • how much is owed
  • what it is for
  • when it should be paid - a reasonable period of time to be paid is within 28 days
  • if it isn’t paid by the due date you will take court action.

If you are claiming for poor goods or services

You should write a letter of demand if you are claiming for any of the following:

  • poor or incorrect services
  • faulty goods
  • dispute with a body corporate.

Your letter should state all of the following:

  • what the problem is
  • what you expect them to do to fix the problem
  • why you think they are responsible - eg: if there is a written or spoken contract between you
  • they have 14 days to pay or fix the problem or you will start court action.

Submit a statement of claim form.

You need to complete different forms depending on what the claim is for:

Debt or damages (247.7 kb)
Debt or damages (27.7 kb)
Motor vehicle (200.8 kb)
Motor vehicle (26.7 kb)
Goods returned or replaced (152.7 kb)
Goods returned or replaced (27.1 kb)

You must include your address and the address of the defendant.

If you don’t have the proper name or registered address of a business or company you can find it on the Australian Securities Investment Commission website.

You should then:

  • submit your claim form to the Local Court in person or by mail
  • pay the small claims fee – you can pay by cash, credit card, money order or cheque.

Give documents to the other person or organisation. This is known as serving documents on the defendant.

Documents you must serve

You must serve both:

How to serve the documents

The documents must be given to the defendant in person if they are either:

  • an individual
  • or a person trading as a business.

You can either:

  • give the documents yourself
  • arrange for someone else to do it on your behalf - eg: a bailiff or a friend.

If you are unsuccessful in serving the documents, you should contact the court for advice.

If the defendant is a company, they can be served by registered post to the registered office.

After you serve documents

Tell the court you have served the documents and the defendant has been given details about the claim.

You have 28 days from the date you served the documents to the defendant to:

1. Complete a declaration of service form - you can find this on the back of the statement of claim form.
2. Submit it to the court.

If a bailiff serves the documents, they must complete and submit the declaration of service form.

What the defendant can do

The defendant can do one of the following:

  • offer to pay the claim
  • admit or offer to pay part of the claim
  • decide to defend the claim

If the defendant decides to defend the claim, a pre-hearing conference will be organised. They can agree to settle the claim at this conference.

If you don't hear back from the defendant

If you don’t hear back from the defendant within 28 days, you can ask the court to decide what should happen without a court hearing.

This is called a default judgment.

You must complete the application for default judgment (70.5 kb).

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Last updated: 28 November 2017