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

Notice of amendments:

  • Effective April 12, 2021:
    • The Small Claims Court will stop using request forms under this notice. Hearings can be requested using the processes explained in this notice.
    • The processes for requesting urgent matters has changed. Please see section 3 for more information.
    • Section 12 (Public and Media Access to Small Claims Court Remote Hearings) is added.
  • Effective March 15, 2021:
    • Section 3 (Urgent Matters) is amended to state filing requirements more clearly.
    • The Court is accepting requests to schedule settlement conferences under section 4 (Settlement Conferences) no matter when defendants filed defences or were noted in default.
    • The Court is accepting requests for any motion on notice to other parties, under section 5 (Motions on Notice to Other Parties).
    • Section 7.1 further clarifies that an assessment hearing will not be scheduled unless all applicable fees are paid and a request is submitted in accordance with this Notice.
  • Effective February 23, 2021, section 8 (Trial Continuations) is added, and subsequent sections are re-numbered.
  • Effective January 26, 2021, this notice is amended to provide for use of the Small Claims Court Submissions Online portal.

Parties are encouraged to use the Small Claims Court E-Filing Service portal or the Small Claims Court Submissions Online portal to file forms and documents online without going to court, where possible. For more information on filing documents online, please see section 11 (Filing) below.

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.

Important: Please note that hearings will only be scheduled if a request for a hearing is submitted in accordance with the instructions below.

1. Assistance with Small Claims Court Matters

If you require legal advice on a Small Claims Court issue, you may seek assistance through Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline (1-855-255-7256).

2. 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 (e.g. smartphone, tablet, laptop), 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 may 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.

3. Urgent Matters

The Small Claims Court will continue to hear urgent matters during the COVID-19 emergency period. These will be heard by telephone or videoconference. Urgent matters 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.

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

To request an urgent hearing, you must obtain a date for the hearing from court staff. To do this, please contact the email address for the Small Claims Court location where the action is based. Your email must comply with the requirements in section 11.5 (Communicating with Court Staff by Email) below.

Once you have obtained a date for the hearing from court staff, you must follow the steps set out in sections 5.2, 5.3 and 5.4 of this notice.

All documents to be filed for the urgent hearing shall be filed in accordance with section 11 (Filing) below.

4. Settlement Conferences

The Small Claims Court is no longer accepting request forms to schedule settlement conferences under this Notice as of Monday, April 12, 2021. Court staff will process request forms received before this date.

As of Monday, April 12, 2021, the Court will schedule a settlement conference in an action after the first defence is filed.

If the first defence in your action was filed with the Court before April 12, 2021, and no request form was submitted before that date, then court staff will be contacting the parties and representatives individually to collect email addresses where one has not already been provided.

Due to high volume, it may take some time before court staff contact you about your settlement conference, even if all parties and representatives have already provided email addresses.

You do not need to take any action to ​have a settlement conference scheduled until you are contacted by court staff.

For information on how to file materials, please see section 11 (Filing) of this Notice.

5. Motions on Notice to Other Parties

The Court is accepting requests to decide motions on notice. Examples of these motions include: motions to set aside a noting in default or a default judgment, motions to strike out or amend a document and motions for a consolidation order.

Steps to seek a motion on notice

To seek a motion on notice, you must:

  1. obtain a motion date from the Court;
  2. serve all responding parties with the notice of motion and supporting affidavit, as well as instructions for responding parties;
  3. file the notice of motion and supporting affidavit with the Court; and
  4. if you wish to respond to any responding affidavits, serve and file any supplementary affidavits.

5.1 Obtain a motion date from the Court

To obtain a date for the hearing of a motion on notice, please contact the email address for the Small Claims Court location where the action was brought. Please advise court staff whether you are seeking a hearing by videoconference or teleconference. Your email must comply with the requirements in section 11 (Filing) below.

Court staff will provide you with a date for the motion, the details for the hearing and a document with instructions for responding parties.

If your motion is urgent, please indicate this in your email to court staff.

5.2 Serve responding parties

You must then serve:

  • the notice of motion and supporting affidavit (Form 15A), providing the hearing date and details, in accordance with the Rules of the Small Claims Court; and
  • the document with instructions for responding parties.

5.3 File your materials

You must then file the notice of motion and supporting affidavit, and proof of service, in accordance with section 11 (Filing) below.

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, in accordance with section 11 (Filing) below.If a responding party is filing a responding affidavit less than five days before the motion date, then they should file it as described in section 11 (Filing) below.

5.4 Serve and file any supplementary affidavits

In response to a responding affidavit, the moving party may:

  • serve a supplementary affidavit (Form 15B) in accordance with the Rules of the Small Claims Court; and
  • file it, and proof of service, in accordance with section 11 (Filing) below.

If a moving party is filing a supplementary affidavit less than five days before the motion date, then they should file it as described in section 11 (Filing) below.

6. Motions in Writing without Notice

Motions in writing without notice to any other party include motions in writing for an assessment of damages, for substituted service, for validation of prior service and for other relief.

If your motion in writing was filed with the Court before April 12, 2021, and no request form was submitted before that date, then court staff will be contacting you (or your representative, if you have one) to collect a contact email address where one has not already been provided. Due to high volume, it may take some time before court staff contact you or your representative about your motion in writing, even if an email address was already provided.

To request a motion in writing without notice on or April 12, 2021, you must file the following in accordance with section 11 (Filing) below:

  • notice of motion and supporting affidavits with the Court.
  • If your motion is for an assessment of damages, you must also file the Affidavit(s) of Service of the claim.
  • If the claim has not already been filed, then you must file it as well.

7. Requests to Clerk for an Assessment Hearing

If your request to clerk was filed with the Court before April 12, 2021, and no request form was submitted before that date, then court staff will be contacting you (or your representative, if you have one) to collect a contact email address where one has not already been provided. Due to high volume, it may take some time before court staff contact you or your representative about your assessment hearing, even if an email address was already provided.

For requests to clerk for assessment hearings that are submitted on or after April 12, 2021, the Court will schedule an assessment hearing only if the following materials have been filed:

  • the claim;
  • the Affidavit(s) of Service of the claim;
  • the request to clerk (Form 9B); and
  • any documentation that you intend to rely on at the assessment hearing.

For information on how to file materials, please see section 11 (Filing) below.

8. Trial Continuations

The Court is rescheduling dates in Small Claims Court trials that ​had been started but were interrupted when in-person operations were suspended in March 2020.

These trial continuations will be by videoconference.

Court staff are contacting parties and representatives individually regarding scheduled dates and arrangements​ for these trials.

Due to high volume, it may take some time before court staff contact you about your trial continuation.

You do not need to take any action to ​reschedule your trial until you are contacted by court staff.

9. Reopening of Counter Service in Small Claims Court

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. Court documents can be filed in accordance with section 11 (Filing) 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).

10. 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.

11. Filing

11.1 Plaintiff’s claims

Most plaintiff’s claims can be filed online through the Small Claims Court E-Filing Service portal. You can learn more about the portal at: www.ontario.ca/page/file-small-claims-online/.

Please note that, as of March 1, 2021, this portal is ONLY available for plaintiffs to file a plaintiff’s claim or an amended plaintiff’s claim where the claim has not already been served on the defendant(s). Because updates to this portal are in progress, no other documents can be filed or issued through this portal until further notice.

The document naming convention protocol in section 11.4 (Naming Documents) does not apply to documents filed through this portal. Instead, the following requirements apply:

  • File names may only contain letters and numbers. A file name and its extension (e.g. “.pdf” or “.jpg”) combined must be 30 characters or less.
  • The document name must indicate the following information:
    • Document type (e.g. “plaintiff’s claim” or “PC”);
    • Name of the party submitting the document, and
    • Date on which the document was created or signed, in the format DDMMMYYYY (e.g. 13MAR2021).

Below are sample document names:

  • PC Johnson 13MAR2021.pdf
  • SchedA Acme 13MAR2021.jpg

11.2 Other documents

The Ministry of the Attorney General advises that most other Small Claims Court documents can be filed through the Small Claims Court Submissions Online portal. You can learn more about the portal at: www.ontario.ca/page/file-small-claims-online. You cannot submit a plaintiff’s claim through this portal unless you have, or wish to apply for, a fee waiver certificate. Please see the portal for a list of documents that can be filed there.

Documents must be named in accordance with section 11.4 (Naming Documents) below, and must be in searchable PDF format. The portal will only accept documents smaller than 10 MB.

Note: You cannot submit documents using Small Claims Court Submissions Online:

  • for a court date that is five business days away or fewer (for example, if your court date is on Tuesday, February 9, you cannot submit documents online after Monday, February 1); or
  • if you are legally required to submit documents by a deadline that is five business days away or fewer.

If your court date or submission deadline is five days or fewer away, the Small Claims Court will accept the documents by e-mail at the specific e-mail addresses indicated on the Email Accounts for Small Claims Court Locations page. See sections 11.3, 11.4 and 11.5 (Email Filing Format, Naming Documents and Communicating with Court Staff by Email) below for more information on email filing requirements.

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

Where a document may not be accepted online or by email, parties are encouraged to file by mail. In-person attendance at a courthouse is strongly discouraged unless it is absolutely necessary.

11.3 Email Filing Format

Emailed filings must be submitted in searchable PDF format, ensuring each document is a separate attachment.

To file by email a prescribed form (available at www.ontariocourtforms.on.ca) that must be signed, you 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.

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).

11.4 Naming Documents

NOTE: This section does not apply to plaintiff’s claims or amended plaintiff’s claims that are filed through the Small Claims Court E-Filing Service Portal. Please see section 11.1 for information on naming those documents.

When documents are submitted to the Small Claims Court in electronic format, the document name must indicate the following information:

  • Document type;
  • Type of party or person submitting the document (e.g. plaintiff, defendant, moving party, litigation guardian);
  • Name of the party submitting the document (including initials if the name is not unique to the case); and
  • Date on which the document was created or signed, in the format DD-MMM-YYYY (e.g. 12-JAN-2021).

Below are sample document names:

Notice of Motion – Moving Party – Acme Inc. – 13-MAR-2021

Settlement Conference Request Form – Plaintiff – A. Smith – 21-NOV-2021

Consent to Act as Litigation Guardian – Litigation Guardian – B. Williams – 12-JAN-2021

Affidavit – Responding Party – XYZ Ltd. – 5-MAY-2021

11.5 Communicating with Court Staff by Email

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

I. 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.)

II. The body of the email should include the following information if applicable:

  • court file number (if it is an existing file)
  • short title of proceeding
  • list of documents attached (note: attachments cannot exceed 35 MB)
  • type of request (filing or hearing request)
  • name, role (i.e. lawyer/representative, party, etc.,) and contact information (i.e. email address) of all parties.

11.6 Filing Fees

Parties and representatives filing documents using the Small Claims Court E-Filing Service or the Small Claims Court Submissions Online portals can pay the applicable filing fees through those portals.

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.

12. Public and Media Access to Small Claims Court Remote Hearings

Any member of the media or the public who wishes to hear/observe a remote proceeding may email their request to the Small Claims Court location in advance of the hearing (email addresses for each location can be found here). The person requesting access should advise of the hearing they wish to hear/observe, and their contact information. Every effort will be made to provide the requestor with information on how they may hear/observe the proceeding.

Certain proceedings are closed to the media and public by legislation or court order.

Section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act restricts the recording of court hearings.

13. 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; November 30, 2020; January 11, 2021; January 14, 2021; January 26, 2021; February 23, 2021; March 15, 2021; April 12, 2021.