1. Learn about time limits

I've filed a claim with the Small Claims Court online service. What happens next?
This question has an answer and 5 steps

1. Learn about time limits

There are a lot of rules you must follow when you sue someone in Small Claims Court. If you don't follow the rules or do things within specific time limits, the court may not deal with your claim, and you may have to pay money to the person you sued.

Some of these time limits are:



Must be done

Plaintiff files a Plaintiff's Claim

In most cases, within 2 years of when the plaintiff first learned about the problem

Plaintiff serves the defendant

Within 6 months of the claim being issued

Defendant files a Defence

Within 20 days of getting the Plaintiff's Claim

Plaintiff asks for a terms of payment hearing

Within 20 days of getting the Defence 

Get a settlement conference date

No later than 90 days after the defendant files a Defence

Plaintiff gives the defendant their evidence for trial

No later than 30 days before trial


The defendant has 20 days after you serve them to respond to your claim.

If you served them personally, the 20 days to defend starts right away. If you served them by registered mail or courier, the 20 days to defend starts on the fifth day after the document was mailed or verified by courier that it was delivered.

No response

If the defendant does not respond to your claim within 20 days, you can ask the court to note them in default. This means the court officially recognizes that they missed the deadline for responding. There is a fee of $89 to do this.

To note the defendant in default, fill out a Request to Clerk and file it with the court. Attach the Affidavit of Service to show the defendant was served with your Plaintiff's Claim. 

The court can then:

  • make a default judgment that orders the defendant to pay you the amount of your claim; or
  • arrange an assessment hearing for you to explain what the defendant owes you

After a defendant is noted in default, the Small Claims Court Registrar can also sign a default judgment. But they will only do this for a liquidated claim. These are claims where the amount owed can be easily proved. For example, the defendant might owe you an amount:

  • written in a contract
  • written on a bounced cheque
  • agreed to in a loan

If the Registrar does not sign your judgment or if you have a non-liquidated claim, you can ask for a default judgment for a non-liquidated claim.

If you don't note the defendant in default after the 20-day time limit passes, they still have time to respond to your claim.

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Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General
Reviewed: April 1, 2019

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