How to Reply a Claim
In BC’s Small Claims Court, all cases start with someone making a claim – which is done by completing a standard court form called the Notice of Claim. Once the Notice of Claim form is completed, the claimant will register it with the court and then provide the defendant with a copy. This is called filing a claim and serving documents. This is how all Small Claims Court lawsuits are started. If you have received a Small Claims Court Notice of Claim, you are being sued. In most cases, you have 14 days to file your reply with the court or to settle the case. This page describes what you should do if you are being sued.
How should I decide how to reply to a claim?
The first thing you need to decide is whether or not you want to oppose the claim. If you do oppose it, you may also decide to make a counterclaim against the claimant (see below). Or, if you do not oppose the claim, you should make arrangements with the claimant to make payment (see Settlement Options). It is important not to ignore the claim because if you do nothing, the claimant can get a default judgment against you.
How much time do I have to file my reply?
You have 14 days to file a reply if you are in BC and 30 days to reply if you were outside of BC when you received the Notice of Claim.
How do I reply to a claim?
There are four simple steps:
Step 1: Complete the BC Small Claims Reply to a Claim form (all copies).
Step 2: File the claim with the court registry at the suitable courthouse.
Step 3: Pay the court fees.
Before you complete the Reply to a Claim form, you can get help from these online resources:
- Replying to a Claim Guide from the BC Ministry of Justice.
- What To Do If You Are Sued In Small Claims Court - factsheet from The Law Centre
- Court Forms Video Tutorial shows you on how to fill out court forms
- Replying to a Claim Checklist helps ensure you reply to a claim properly.
What about court fees?
There are fees associated with filing court forms and these are listed in Schedule A of the Small Claims Court Rules. Court registry staff will tell you what fees are due when you file your forms.
What if I agree to pay part or all of the claim?
If you agree to pay part or all of the claim, the claimant may:
- Withdraw the claim upon receiving payment – or an agreeable payment schedule
- File a consent order
- File a payment order
- Where a payment order has been made, the claimant may seek a payment hearing, where the defendant agrees to pay the claim, but the claimant disagrees with how the defendant plans to make payments
- Continue the claim for the full amount, where the defendant only admits to part of the claim
To learn more, see the “What Happens Next” section of Making a Claim.
Can I make a counterclaim?
When the defendant in a claim decides to sue the claimant, this is called a counterclaim. Defendants in Small Claims Court can counterclaim up to $35,000 – if it is more, this is a matter for the Supreme Court. There is a section on the Reply to a Claim form to make a counterclaim.
Provide information to describe your claim against the claimant. What is your claim? Why? How much? After you serve the Reply to a Claim with the counterclaim, the claimant will need to provide you with a reply. The claim and counterclaim will be handled by the court at the same time.
What if I think someone else should pay?
If you think there is someone other than you who should pay all or a portion of the claim, you can make a third party claim. For example, you would make a third party claim if you are being sued for doing a roof that leaks but you think the leak is because the shingles were faulty.
To make a third party claim, you must:
- Complete a Third Party Notice form
- File it at the court registry and pay the filing fee
Serve the third party with these documents:
- A copy of the Third Party Notice
- A copy of the Notice of Claim
- A copy of your Reply
- A blank Reply form
How do I serve documents?
Getting paperwork in the lawsuit from one person to another is called “serving documents.” The Ministry of Justice guide Serving Documents explains the rules for service of documents and will answer questions you may have about how you serve the Reply to the Notice of Claim and other documents. In addition, you can read The Law Centre Factsheet: Serving Documents. Use the Serving Documents Checklist to ensure you serve your documents correctly.
How do I prove service?
You can prove that you have served the document by filing a Certificate of Service. It is a good idea to read the Serving Documents guide before you start so that you know the rules that need to be followed in order for the court to know that the defendant has received the documents.
What court forms do I need?
In order to move your case forward in Small Claims Court, you will need to use standard court forms. There is a complete list of Small Claims forms under the Court Forms tab on this website. The forms are grouped under six categories:
How do I file court forms?
There are several ways to file a Small Claims Court form. You can:
- File it online using a digital signature and paying the filing fees online.
- File the printed forms at the court registry and pay the filing fees in person.
- Mail the printed forms to the courthouse, along with a cheque payable to the Minister of Finance to pay the filing fees.
Once your Reply is filed, the court registry will deliver (serve) the documents to each of the other parties within 21 days.