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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Magistrates Court Civil Claims


The Magistrates Court in Western Australia can deal with certain civil claims up to a certain amount under the Magistrates Court (Civil Proceedings) Act 2004. These are claims over debts or damages, goods or services, residential tenancies and the recovery or real estate. Almost all civil matters are resolved without the need for a trial.

General claim

A general claim can be made for debts or damages up to $75,000. If the amount being claimed is $10,000 or less, and the claimant elects not to have the matter dealt with as a minor case, the claimant must pay all of their own legal costs unless the court rules otherwise.

Minor case claim

A minor case claim can be made for debts or damages up to $10,000. A lawyer cannot represent either party unless all parties and the magistrate agree. Proceedings are held in private and are less formal than for a general claim, with an aim to help parties come to an agreement and avoid a trial. When a party states its intention to defend the claim, the case is automatically listed for a status conference, where the court will try to bring about a settlement.

The claimant must pay all of their own legal costs unless the court rules otherwise.

Consumer/trader claim

A consumer or a trader can make a claim about the sale, supply or hire of goods or services up to $75,000. A claim can be made about:

  • performance of work or provision of services;
  • payment or relief from payment;
  • return or replacement of goods.

A consumer is a person who has hired or bought goods or services for private use; a consumer cannot be a business. A trader is a person who carries on a business that supplies goods or provides services, or who holds themselves out as a trader.

A court can order the:

  • performance of work;
  • payment of a sum of money;
  • return of goods;
  • provision of services;
  • relief from payment of a sum of money;
  • replacement of goods.

Residential tenancy claim

An owner or a tenant who is a party to a residential tenancy agreement can make a claim to enforce conditions or for money under the agreement up to $10,000. Examples include applications for orders to:

  • terminate a tenancy agreement;
  • recover unpaid rent;
  • recover money to pay for property damage or unpaid utility bills;
  • return a bond;
  • have repairs completed by the property owner;
  • have a tenant reimbursed for repairs completed.

Recovery or real estate claim

A property owner can make a claim to recover possession of their property, which is not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 1987, valued up to $75,000. Examples include the return of commercial property or the removal of people illegally occupying property.

Process

The process for making a civil claim in the Magistrates Court is generally made up of the following steps:

  • A party (claimant) lodges a claim with the court;
  • A copy of the claim is served on the other party (the defendant);
  • The defendant has 14 days (of 21 days if outside of the state) to decide whether to admit the claim and pay; admit part of the claim and pay that part of it; ignore the claim; or defend the claim.
  • If the claim is ignored, the claimant can apply for a judgment.
  • If the claim is defended, a conference will be listed within 14 days of the defendant giving notice.

The conference is a type of mediation that gathers both parties in a bid to reach a settlement. If there is no settlement, further conferences can be ordered or the case can proceed to a trial before a magistrate.

A court has the power to strike out all or part of a claim if the claim is:

  • outside the court’s jurisdiction;
  • not based on reasonable grounds;
  • designed to harass or annoy, or to cause delay or detriment, or is otherwise wrongful;
  • an abuse of process;
  • frivolous, vexatious, scandalous or improper.

A court also has the power to make a judgement without a trial if it is satisfied one of the parties to the claim does not have a reasonable prospect of success.

Enforcing a judgment

If a court order is not complied with, a party can apply for an enforcement order. An application must be made within 12 years of the judgment.

If a party has not paid a debt as ordered by a court, a creditor can apply to recover money via:

  • a time for payment order;
  • an instalment order;
  • an earnings appropriation order (payment from earnings);
  • a debt appropriation order (money owed to the debtor to be paid directly to a creditor);
  • a property order (seizure and sale);
  • appointment of a receiver.

If an order is disobeyed, the debtor may be found guilty of contempt of court and fined or imprisoned.

Appealing a judgment

A magistrate’s decision in a case that is not a minor case can be appealed to the District Court within 21 days of the decision.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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