The first option is to contest your claim. You have 20 days to do so, including weekends and public holidays. If the time expires, the court can issue a judgement against you without you getting to tell your side of the story.
The Ministry of Attorney General for Ontario’s website features a step-by-step guide of the process for contesting a claim. You’ll find detailed instructions on the website to help you get the job done easier, as well as links to the relevant forms to fill out for your defence. Among other things, you’ll be asked to explain your side of the story and why you think the person filing the suit against you is wrong. You’ll also explain why the judge should dismiss the small claim.
When you complete the forms, you will want to print them and have them delivered to the courthouse in which the claim was filed. Also include all documents that relate to the form like invoices, contracts, photos, demand letters, etc. You’re free to make a trip to the courthouse to deliver them in person or mail the files there.
To access this step-by-step guide for contesting a claim, click here.
Another way to help solve your small claim dispute is with the help from a mediator. With guidance from a neutral third party like a mediator, the parties may be able to come to an agreement and avoid going to court.
Since mediation is voluntary, both parties must agree to attend these sessions and try to work out a solution.
Sometimes, you can sue the person who sued you initially and claim money from them. However, that claim needs to be related to theirs, and it can’t top $35,000.
Let’s say you face a small claims suit from a contractor you didn’t pay for work they did at your home. You ended up hiring someone else because the initial contractor did a terrible job, and the new one had to redo it.
You can sue the first contractor for the amount you paid to the second one to redo the work.
It could so happen that your small claims suit could benefit from a third person or company to solve the matter in your favour. Say a person you sold the house to sues you for hidden defects. However, perhaps the defects were already there when you purchased the home. In this case, the former property owner can testify or be held responsible.
Another option to defend yourself is to accept that you owe a specific amount of the money that’s being claimed, but not all of it. You can only pay that portion, and the interest won’t accumulate on the paid amount.
Suppose an architect claims you owe them $6,000 in a small claims suit. You can accept owning $2,000, pay that amount, and dispute the rest. Once you pay the $2,000, they can pursue the claim for the rest of the money.
Most of the time, the case is heard at your judicial district – a courthouse near your home. But sometimes, the matter can be heard elsewhere. It can be in the place where you signed the contract or where the building or property in question is located.
If you’re sued as a consumer, a person under an insurance contract, or an employee, the case is typically filed in your nearest courthouse. If a claim involves an insurance contract, it’s also possible to have the hearing in the district of the incident.
If you’re being sued and taken to the wrong district, you can have the case transferred.
On some occasions, you may also be able to negotiate the matter face to face with the person filing the charge. If you reach an agreement, you can put it in writing and have it approved by the court. But this needs to be done within the 20-day time frame from the day you receive the claim.
Being charged with a small claims suit doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take the matter to court. There are ways to defend yourself and spare both you and your close ones from stress, expenses, and numerous courthouse trips. Put your worries aside and let Legalhood guide you through your small claims suit by simply clicking here.