Article by : Durban Attorney: Fawzia Khan
Anyone who is owed money or has a claim against someone else of R15 000,00 or less, provided the person is not a “juristic person” (such as Companies, Close Corporations and Associations), can approach the Small Claims Court for relief. No claim may be instituted in the Small Claims Court if it’s an action against the State, municipality or local government. No legal representation is needed. The benefit of using the Small Claims Court is that legal costs are curtailed. If the claim is more than R15 000,00 then you can abandon the part of the claim to bring it in line with the small claim court’s monetary jurisdiction.
If you are owed money and want to use the Small Claims Court, the Department of Justice recommends the following steps:-
Contact the person with whom you have a dispute in person, in writing or telephonically and ask them to settle your claim. If the person owing your money has not paid the claim in 14 days, go to the small claims court with:
• a copy of the letter of demand.
• any contract or agreement between you and the person which proves the claim
• a post slip or any other document that proves that the letter of demand was handed to the person.
• The person’s personal and contact details.
The clerk of the court will prepare a summons which will force the person to come to court at the set date. The summons will be delivered by you or the sheriff of the court. Please always remember the date and time during which your case will be heard.
On the day of the court hearing, you must bring proof that the summons was delivered to the person you are claiming from. The court procedure is informal and not complicated. You will be expected to tell your story and answer questions from the commissioner of the small claims court. If the person who, for example; owes you money refuses to pay, they should then be sent a letter of demand which indicates all the facts and the specific amount you are claiming. The letter must be delivered in person or by registered mail. Once the person receives the letter, they are given 14 days within which to settle your claim. If judgment is given in your favour, the person must pay the money immediately and will be issued a receipt. If they are not able to pay, the court will investigate their financial position and determine a payment plan. If the person does not settle the dispute as agreed, the matter will be referred to the magistrate’s court.
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