Starting on June 1, 2017, there are two big changes coming to B.C.'s Small Claims Court:

1. With only a few exceptions, all civil actions for claims of up to $5,000 will be dealt with by the Civil Resolution Tribunal, rather than the Small Claims Court; and

2. The Small Claims Court monetary limit will be increased to allow for claims up to $35,000.

What is the Civil Resolution Tribunal?

The Civil Resolution Tribunal ("CRT") is Canada's first online tribunal for resolving strata and small claims disputes, including claims for bodily injury and property damage. The CRT aims to encourage a collaborative, problem-solving approach to dispute resolution by providing litigants with plain language legal information in an online forum with close case management. Cases at the CRT proceed in three phases: (1) negotiation directly between the parties; (2) facilitation with a trained CRT facilitator who will work towards helping the parties resolve their claim or prepare for adjudication; and (3) adjudication where a tribunal member will make a decision that can be enforced like an order of the Provincial Court.

How do you commence a claim with the Civil Resolution Tribunal?

Visit the CRT website at www.civilresolutionbc.ca. There you'll find a link to an online portal to complete an Application for Dispute Resolution and pay the $125 fee. After that, the CRT will send you back a Dispute Notice to serve on the respondent(s). Once the respondent(s) complete a Dispute Response Form, the negotiation phase will begin.

Who can bring a claim at the Civil Resolution Tribunal?

The general rule is that parties are to represent themselves at the CRT. Only in exceptional circumstances and with permission of the CRT may a party be represented by a lawyer. However, the CRT Rules allow for parties with insurance coverage to be represented by their insurer. This means that insurers could pursue subrogated claims at the CRT from offices anywhere in Canada, without having to trouble their insured.

Why is the Small Claims Monetary Limit Increase Significant?

Actions brought in Small Claims Court are generally cheaper and the mandatory settlement conference rules usually bring the parties before a judge within six months of filing a claim. While what occurs at a settlement conference is without prejudice and off the record, feedback from the court is highly effective at resolving actions. The monetary increase will allow insurers to take advantage of the benefits offered by the Small Claims Court for a larger number of claims.