Consolidated Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding the Small Claims Court

March 16, 2020

Notice of amendments:

Effective October 28, 2020:

  • the Court is accepting requests for the following types of matters:
    • Motions to set aside a noting in default or a default judgment.
    • Assessment hearings where a request to clerk was filed prior to March 16, 2020.
    • Motions in writing where the motion was filed prior to March 16, 2020 for:
      • an assessment of damages; and
      • any other relief sought which does not require notice to other parties.
  • further instructions on email filings are provided.

Effective October 9, 2020:

  • The Court is lifting the date range limiting the previously scheduled settlement conferences it will hear remotely at the request of one party. See part II of the “Settlement Conferences” section for a full list of criteria.
  • There is information about the re-opening of Small Claims Court counter service. See the “Reopening of Counter Service in Small Claims Court” section.

Since the suspension of sittings of the Ontario Small Claims Court in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court has progressively expanded the matters that it will hear remotely.

The Small Claims Court will continue to monitor the situation and, as possible, will further expand the types of matters and hearings that will be heard during these extraordinary times.

Remote Hearing Platform and Etiquette

All hearings will be conducted over Zoom, a videoconferencing platform, unless a party indicates that they are unable to participate by Zoom. The Court will make the arrangements for Zoom and will advise the parties of the connection arrangements.

A device with a camera and a microphone, plus access to WiFi/an internet connection, will be required for participation by video conferencing.

Where a party is unable to participate by Zoom, the hearing will be conducted by use of a teleconference line.

Hearing participants should have an appropriate technical set-up and observe etiquette appropriate to the nature of remote hearings. Some guidance on these points can be found here on the Superior Court of Justice website.

Urgent Matters

The Small Claims Court will continue to hear urgent motions and urgent garnishment hearings during the COVID-19 emergency period. All urgent hearings will be heard by telephone or videoconference.

A judge will review each request and decide whether an urgent hearing will be scheduled. Urgent cases may include:

  1. Cases in which a judgment debtor has an outstanding warrant for arrest issued in relation to a Small Claims Court proceeding; or
  2. Time-sensitive cases that would result in immediate and serious financial hardship if there were no hearing.

Steps to Seek an Urgent Hearing

To request an urgent hearing, complete the request form available on the Superior Court of Justice website. Email your completed request form to: urgentsmallclaims@ontario.ca. Your email must comply with the requirements in the Email Filing section below.

If the judge approves your request for an urgent hearing, you will receive an email with the date of your hearing, details about how to attend by telephone or videoconference and an email address where you must send your court documents for the hearing.

If you require legal advice in preparing a request for an urgent hearing, you may seek assistance through Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline (1-855-255-7256).

Settlement Conferences

  1. Conferences on Consent of All Parties
    1. Criteria

The Small Claims Court will schedule a remote settlement conferences on the consent of all parties to an action if:

  1. Each defendant has filed a defence or was noted in default in the matter prior to March 16, 2020; and
  2. All parties agree to rely solely on the pleadings as filed and served.

The Court will consider any request that meets the above criteria, even if no settlement conference had been previously scheduled in the case.

    1. Steps for Scheduling

To request that the Court schedule a settlement conference on consent, one party must submit the request form  for consent settlement conferences, available on the Superior Court of Justice website, to the following email address:  smallclaims.settlementconferences@ontario.ca. Your email must comply with the requirements in the Email Filing section below.

No matter which party or representative completes the form, all parties must agree to the method of hearing indicated on the form. The form must be signed by all parties or their representatives in order to be considered.

  1. Conferences Requested by One Party
    1. Criteria

The Court will schedule a remote settlement conference at the request of only one party to an action if:

  1. The  requesting party provides a valid and current email address for the non-requesting party or parties;
  2. Each party can send and receive emails using the email addresses provided;
  3. Each defendant has filed a defence or has been noted in default in the action prior to March 16, 2020;
  4. All parties agree to rely solely on the pleadings as filed and served; and
  5. A settlement conference had previously been scheduled and then suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parties are encouraged to seek the consent of the other parties to the conference, where possible.

    1. Steps for Scheduling

A party requesting the Court to schedule a settlement conference must submit the appropriate request form, available on the Superior Court of Justice website, the following email address: smallclaims.settlementconferences@ontario.ca. Your email must comply with the requirements in the Email Filing section below.

Motions to Set Aside Noting in Default or Default Judgment

The Court is accepting requests to hear motions to set aside a noting in default or default judgment.

To make that request, please submit the request form to the following email address: smallclaims.motions@ontario.ca. Your email must comply with the requirements in the Email Filing section below.

Once they have verified that your request is complete, court staff will provide you with a date for the motion. You must then serve the notice of motion and supporting affidavit (Form 15A) in accordance with the Rules of the Small Claims Court and file them and proof of service by email to the following email address: smallclaims.motions@ontario.ca.

A responding party may serve a responding affidavit (Form 15B) in accordance with the Rules of the Small Claims Court and file it and proof of service by email to the following email address: smallclaims.motions@ontario.ca. The same is true for any supplementary affidavits from the moving party.

Motions in Writing

The Court is accepting requests to decide the following motions in writing if they were filed before March 16, 2020:

  • Motions in writing for an assessment of damages; and
  • Any other motion in writing that is without notice to any other party.

To make a request, please submit the request form to the following email address: smallclaims.motionsinwriting@ontario.ca. Your email must comply with the requirements in the Email Filing section below.

Please note that the claim and the previously filed notice of motion and supporting affidavit (Form 15A) must be attached to your email. If it is a motion in writing for an assessment of damages, the Affidavit(s) of Service of the claim must also be attached.

Requests to Clerk for an Assessment Hearing

The Court is accepting requests to process any request to clerk for an assessment hearing that was filed before March 16, 2020.

To make that request, please submit the request form to the following email address: smallclaims.assessments@ontario.ca. Your email must comply with the requirements in the Email Filing section below. Please note that the request will be accepted only if the following documents are also attached to your email: the claim, the Affidavit(s) of Service of the claim, the request to clerk and any documentation you intend to rely on at the requested assessment hearing.

Reopening of Counter Service in Small Claims Courts

The Ministry of the Attorney General advises that counter services at Small Claims Court locations continue to be offered from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m, until further notice.

Counsel/representatives and parties are discouraged from physically attending courthouses to file documents in person. The Court strongly encourages anyone wishing to file a Small Claims Court document to do so electronically. Plaintiff’s Claims can be filed through the Small Claims Court online filing service. Most other court documents can be filed via email in accordance with the Email Filing section below.

If you require legal advice to assist you in filing a claim, you may seek assistance through Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline (1-855-255-7256).

Unsworn Affidavits

Where a judge authorizes a party to email materials to the court for an urgent hearing and it is not possible to email a sworn affidavit, unsworn affidavits will be accepted on the condition that a sworn affidavit is provided prior to the hearing or the person is available at the hearing to swear or affirm of the affidavit.

Email Filing

If parties wish to file a claim in Small Claims Court, parties may do so online at: www.ontario.ca/page/file-small-claims-online/. Where a document may not be accepted online or by email, parties are encouraged to file by mail.

Effective October 28, 2020, the Small Claims Court will accept court filings by email at the email address for the court location set out at the following link: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/email-accounts-small-claims-court-locations/.

The Ministry of the Attorney General advises that most Small Claims Court documents may be filed by email (documents that require issuance will be digitally signed by court staff and emailed back to parties) except for Small Claims Court enforcement documents (i.e. Writ of Delivery, Writ of Seizure and Sale of Personal Property, Writ of Seizure and Sale of Land, Request to Renew Writ of Seizure and Sale, and Notice of Garnishment).

Format

Emailed filings must be submitted in PDF format.

To file by email a prescribed form (available at www.ontariocourtforms.on.ca) that must be signed, one may do either of the following:

  • Apply an electronic signature to a .DOC version of the form, convert the form to PDF then submit the PDF file; or
  • Print the form, sign it manually, scan it then submit it as a PDF.

Any photographs must be submitted in PDF format.

The request forms provided in this notice may be submitted in .DOC or .DOCX format.

Each email sent to the court, including attachments, must not exceed 35 MB.

Unless a matter is proceeding ex parte (i.e. without notice to responding parties), filed materials must indicate when and how service on responding parties was made (i.e. affidavit of service).

Communicating with Court Staff

The below direction should be followed when communicating by email with court staff:

  1. To ensure the email is received and processed by the appropriate court office, the subject line should include the following information:
    • LEVEL OF COURT (SCC)
    • TYPE OF MATTER (Small Claims Court)
    • FILE NUMBER (indicate NEW if no court file number exists)
    • TYPE OF DOCUMENT (e.g., Defence, Notice of Discontinued Claim, etc.)
  2. The body of the email should include the following information if applicable:
    1. court file number (if it is an existing file)
    2. short title of proceeding
    3. list of documents attached (note: attachments cannot exceed 35 MB)
    4. type of request (filing or hearing request)
    5. name, role (i.e. lawyer/representative, party, etc.,) and contact information (i.e. email address) of all parties.

Filing Fees

Where parties and representatives deliver materials by email, they undertake to file the same materials in paper format, and pay the requisite filing fee, at the court counter when regular court operations resume.

More Information

The Ontario Small Claims Court continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation. As circumstances permit, the Court will gradually resume regular operations and reschedule matters.

You may wish to also consult the Ministry of Health’s website at Ontario.ca/coronavirus for further information on how to protect yourself.

While the Ontario Small Claims Court is an important source of timely access to justice in Ontario, the health and safety of those who use and work in the Small Claims Court is our priority.

Thank you very much for your understanding and co-operation during this extraordinary time.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey B. Morawetz
Chief Justice
Superior Court of Justice

Revised: March 16, 2020; May 4, 2020; June 2, 2020; August 10, 2020; August 26, 2020; October 8, 2020; October 28, 2020.