Following a consultation launched by the Judiciary in August 2015, the Legislative Council passed a resolution on 27 June 2018 approving the proposed increases to the jurisdiction of the District Court and Small Claims Tribunal. The changes are slated to take effect from 3 December 2018. The last increase in the District Court’s jurisdiction was in 2003 while the Small Claims Tribunal has not seen an increase since 1999.
The general civil jurisdiction and equity jurisdiction of the District Court in matters not involving land has been increased from HK$1,000,000 to HK$3,000,000.
In matters involving recovery of land or in respect of title to an interest in land, the District Court can now hear cases where the lower of the rateable value or annual value of the land does not exceed HK$320,000, up from HK$240,000.
As for the District Court’s equity jurisdiction in respect of land cases, this has been increased from HK$3,000,000 to HK$7,000,000.
This move should shift a portion of the Court of First Instance’s case load to the District Court, somewhat relieving the CFI’s burden as well as lowering legal costs for parties.
The Small Claims Tribunal’s jurisdiction has also been increased, from HK$50,000 to HK$75,000. This will improve accessibility to the courts of parties whose disputes are on the lower end of the financial scale and who would not be able to justify the higher legal costs generally associated with bringing actions in the District Court or High Court.
To reflect these changes, the Small Claims Tribunal (Fees) Rules will also be amended in respect of the fee payable for filing a claim in the Small Claims Tribunal. The relevant amounts are:
- For claims not exceeding HK$5,000 the fee will be HK$20;
- For claims exceeding HK$5,000 but not exceeding HK$25,000 the fee will be HK$40;
- For claims exceeding HK$25,000 but not exceeding HK$50,000 the fee will be HK$70; and
- For claims exceeding HK$50,000 but not exceeding HK75,000 the fee will be HK$120.