It is unfortunate that something so obvious and direct can be a source of headaches and stress for many. The nature of a business is that one offers their goods or service, and the other person pays the agreed price. But as simple as that sounds, many choose to devise their own rules to the disadvantage of the supplier.
If you are an SME owner, you must have been here at least once. Not getting paid on time or at all does not only affect your business but your health as well. The high levels of stress, anxiety, or in extreme cases, depression may end up costing you more than the profits you expect. It is even worse when the survival of your business depends on receiving what you are owed.
To add salt to the injury, without good representation, pursuing legal action has been another source of more stress and anxiety. The backlog of cases in courts in Kenya is on a high. Especially without enough money for legal fees needed to have a professional dedicated to your lawsuit. It may be years before you get justice. Years you don’t have.
The Small Claims Court is established by the Small Claims Act 2016. It is a subordinate court in the court system structure in Kenya under Article 169 (1) of the Constitution. This was a superb initiative to counter the legal problems SME owners face and the common Mwananchi by extension.
The goal is to enhance the ease of doing business in Kenya by reducing the backlog of cases and resolving disputes through simple, inexpensive, and expeditious procedures, thus enhancing access to justice.
Jurisdiction of the court
Section 12(1) of the Small Claims Court Act provides that the court has jurisdiction to hear civil claims relating to:-
- a) A contract of sale and supply of goods or services
- b) A contract relating to money held and received
- c) Liability in tort
- d) Compensation for personal injuries
- e) Set-off and counterclaim under any contract.
The Small Claims Court is, however, limited in jurisdiction. Limits which work more to your advantage, that not. One, they can only preside over money matters not exceeding Kenya Shillings One Million (Kshs.1 000,000), excluding interests and costs. These are more likely to consume less time before getting a ruling. Second, as provided by Section 11(2) of the Small Claim Court Act, they have local limits. But thanks to the efforts of the Judiciary Service Commission, in the able hands of Chief justice Martha Koome, we will have one in every county. So far, we have operational courts in counties such as Kajiado, Nyeri, Kiambu, Eldoret, to name but a few.
The court is presided by an adjudicator, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, with at least three years of experience.
Reasons to file at the Small Claims Court
- a) Simplified Court procedures – The court does not follow the civil procedure rules that drag matters longer.
- b) The filing fees are affordable – New civil or commercial claims range from Kshs. 200 – 1000 depending on the value of the claim. There are no fees for subsequent documents, e.g., affidavits.
- c) Expeditious determination of your claim – Once your Claim is registered, if your debtor does not respond in 16 days, you can seek a summary judgment from the court. Also, the court is required to hear and determine a matter within 60 days after filing.
- d) Fair Proceedings – The proceedings are fair and transparent, just like any other court. Despite dealing with small claims, the administration of justice is impeccable.
- e) E-case management – innovations like e-filing, virtual court attendances, and e-services have made the procedures at the court effective.
We will not lie to you. You do not need a lawyer for this process. All you have to do is make sure you have all the documents to back your claim, and then you can proceed to download the small claims court pdf format form.
If you have ever gone for a long hike or mountain climbing, you know that even if you have all maps and know precisely the route, you should follow. You can never replace the convenience of having a guide who is well familiar with the territory. If you can afford one, do not hesitate.
Being an SME ourselves, we understand the struggle of running a business and how any interruption of the cash flow may be the difference between breaking-even and breaking down. We hope the information above is helpful and will guide you in taking legal action.
The above information is a generalization and may not be helpful on its own for some cases. For any questions, clarification, or specialized inquiries, contact us on our hotline or leave a comment, and you will get a response as soon as possible.