How Do Small Claims Court Work In South Africa?

A small claims court is a special court that resolves disputes fast without spending excessive money on court cases. The rules are simplified in small claims court, and the hearing is informal.

Lawyers are not permitted in small claims court, as both parties involved would be the ones to represent themselves (plaintiff and defendant). The plaintiff is the person who files the claim able the defendant is the person or entity against whom the claim is lodged.

Small claims courts may be able to compel a defendant to do something if the action includes a monetary claim. For example, If you’re trying to report the payment of a broken window that got damaged when your neighbor’s children were playing football, the court will order a repair or payment for damages.

Other types of conflicts that may be handled in small claims court include:

  • Landlord and tenant issues
  • Car damages in traffic
  • Warranty claims against a store
  • Online scam
  • Loan: for example, you lent money to a friend who has refused to repay you.

Cases are considered in most small claims courts within 30–40 days of the plaintiff making their claim. However, they are never fixed for earlier than 20 days or later than 70 days. 

The majority of cases are heard during the week, however some courts also hold sessions in the evenings and on weekends.

Is Small Claims Court the Best Choice for You?

It’s critical to consider if bringing a case in small claims court is the best option to resolve your dispute before proceeding. Other dispute resolution approaches, such as mediation, can be used to resolve many disputes. 

However, this depends on how tough the case is or your choice of dealing with the offender.

For example, If you decide to pursue a small claims court case, you’ll be the one doing the work of the lawyer which include; preparing for the hearing, acquiring evidence, meeting with witnesses, and attending the hearing in person  are all part of this process.

But, if you consider all these stressful, then you can a lawyer and go for the normal courts case instead of a small court.

To enforce any decision, you may need to take action and spend money. While a small claims court ruling has legal standing, enforcing it might be difficult, if not impossible.

Also keep in mind that you will not be able to appeal if you file a small claims case. 

You give up the right to have your case re-heard by a different judge if you choose small claims court to resolve your issue. As a result, if you lose, the case is over for you. If you win, the defendant (the person or entity against whom you filed your claim) has the right to appeal the judge’s decision. In that case, the entire case will be reheard before a new judge.

Before You Choose to Go For Small Claim Court:

Have you attempted to resolve the conflict on your own?

Have you and the defendant attempted to settle the dispute amicably? Why not attempt suing if you haven’t done so before? At the very least, you should request the legal remedy you think the judge will grant you from the defendant.

Are you able to persuade the other party to resolve the conflict? If he or she owes you money, you can consider accepting less than the full amount if it is paid immediately. If you owe money, it might be worth paying a little more than you think you owe just to put an end to the conflict. If the issue goes to court and you are found guilty, your debt may be raised due to court costs and interest, and the verdict will be recorded on your credit report.

If the amount you owe is clear, but you can’t pay it all at once, offer to make monthly or weekly installments until the obligation is settled. (The judge can permit payment in weekly or monthly payments even after the case is determined.)

Have You Considered Mediation?

Mediation is an informal method of resolving conflicts. A mediator is one who assists the parties in reaching their own decision. 

Unlike a court Judge, a mediator does not make the decision. 

The best part of the mediation process is that it aims to repair the parties’ relationship. While only some disagreements can be settled through mediation (since both parties must agree on the outcome), see if yours is one of them. 

Because of the importance of the parties’ connections, disputes involving neighbors and family members are particularly well-suited to mediation.

Who is eligible to file or defend a claim?

Anyone can sue or be sued in small claims court, with a few exceptions. All parties must, in general, represent themselves. A person or a company can sue another person or a company. A company can also sue an individual or another company. An friend, on the other hand, cannot sue in small claims court on behalf of another person or business.

The two major eligibility to file a case in small court include;

  • You must be at least 18 years old or legally emancipated
  • You must be mentally competent to file or defend a lawsuit in small claims court. 

If a person is under the age of 18 and not legally emancipated, or has been found mentally incompetent by a court, he or she must be represented by parent or guardian. The representation for a minor is usually one of his or her parents.

Is it possible to have someone else represent you?

No. People involved in small claims suits must represent themselves. Attorneys and non-attorney representatives (such as debt collection agencies or insurance companies) are not permitted to represent you in small claims court as a general rule.



Small claims court is created to allow people bring relatively minor claims before a judge without having to spend money on lawyers or pay a law firm. 

This type of court is best for those who want a quick solution to a conflict or argument before it becomes a full-fledged lawsuit.