In Ontario, the Small Claims Court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice and handles a variety of civil disputes with limited financial stakes – the Court has civil jurisdiction over monetary claims up to $35,000.
10 most common reasons for Ontario Small Claims Courts
Some of the most common reasons for cases brought before Ontario Small Claims Courts include:
This includes cases where individuals or businesses are seeking to collect money owed to them, such as unpaid loans, unpaid rent, goods or services sold and delivered that weren’t paid for, NSF (non-sufficient funds) cheques, or unpaid invoices.
Disputes over property damage, such as damage caused by a tenant, neighbor, or a contractor, are commonly brought to Small Claims Courts.
Breach of contract
Cases involving the violation of a written or oral contract, such as a failure to deliver goods or services as promised. Particularly, many home renovation contracts end up in Small Claims Court.
Small Claims Courts handle consumer complaints such as faulty products, poor services, or deceptive business practices.
Minor personal injuries
Small Claims Court can hear cases involving minor personal injuries, such as slip and fall accidents, where the amount claimed is within the court’s jurisdiction.
Some employment-related disputes, such as unpaid wages or wrongful dismissal claims involving small amounts of money, can be heard in Small Claims Court.
Cases where individuals seek compensation for injuries or damages caused by the negligence of another party may be brought to Small Claims Court if the amount claimed is within the court’s jurisdiction.
Disputes over property ownership, boundary issues, or property rights can be resolved in Small Claims Court if the monetary value is within the court’s limits.
There are two different types of tenancies – residential and commercial. Consequently, there are different laws and different institutions dealing with all rental matters. You cannot resolve commercial tenancy conflicts in the Landlord and Tenant Board. You have to file a claim in the Small Claims Court. Current information on renting commercial properties in Ontario can be found on the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website – https://www.ontario.ca/page/renting-commercial-property-ontario
Unpaid rent (residential tenancy)
If your tenant is still living in your rental unit, you will have to proceed to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to obtain an order of eviction and an order for the arrears of rent. If your tenant is no longer living in your rental unit, then the Residential Tenancies Act no longer applies. Rule 60 of the Rules of Civil Procedure deals with the enforcement of orders in civil matters before the Superior Court of Justice. However, in order to file this application, you will have to find out the debtor’s new residential address to be able to serve them.
It’s always advisable to consult with a legal professional or refer to the most up-to-date information provided by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General to understand the current limits and procedures.
What kind of claims Ontario Small Claims Courts do not accept?
While Ontario Small Claims Courts handle a wide range of civil disputes, there are certain types of claims that they do not accept. Some common examples of cases that are generally not heard in Ontario Small Claims Courts include:
Residential tenancy disputes
Conflicts between landlords and tenants are an unfortunate reality of everyday life. In Ontario, the Landlord and Tenant Board has exclusive jurisdiction over almost all residential landlord and tenant disputes and only some of them end up in the Small Claims Court. The vast majority of those “some” cases that end up in Small Claims Court are about unpaid rent from the tenant who is no longer living in your rental unit.
Family law matters
Small Claims Courts do not deal with divorce, child custody, child support, or spousal support issues. These fall under the jurisdiction of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice – Family Division.
Serious personal injury claims
Cases involving severe injuries or significant damages typically exceed the monetary limits of Small Claims Courts. Such cases are typically handled by higher courts, such as the Ontario Superior Court of Justice – Civil Division.
Defamation and libel cases
Claims related to defamation, libel, or slander are not within the jurisdiction of Small Claims Courts. These types of cases are generally heard in higher courts.
Complex commercial disputes
Small Claims Courts are designed to handle straightforward and relatively simple matters. Complex commercial disputes, such as intricate business transactions or multi-party disputes, may be more appropriately addressed in higher courts.
Small Claims Courts do not have jurisdiction over criminal cases. Criminal offenses fall under the jurisdiction of criminal courts and are handled by the Ontario Court of Justice or the Superior Court of Justice – Criminal Division.
Bankruptcy and insolvency cases
Matters related to bankruptcy, insolvency, or debt restructuring are not within the purview of Small Claims Courts. These issues are typically addressed through specialized bankruptcy and insolvency courts.
Cases involving constitutional challenges or issues that require interpretation of constitutional law are generally not dealt with by Small Claims Courts. These cases are typically heard in higher courts with constitutional jurisdiction.
It’s important to consult with a legal professional or refer to the most up-to-date information provided by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General to understand the specific limitations and exclusions of Ontario Small Claims Courts.
By Carlos Perdomo