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Step 4: prepare for court

This advice applies to England

You’ll have to prepare a few things before you actually go to court. Make sure you complete everything at the right times so it won’t affect your chances of winning or having to pay extra costs.

The court will send you a ‘directions questionnaire’ to fill in - they’ll use this to decide how to deal with the case.

If you want a specialist to give evidence at court for you, you’ll need to make this clear in the directions questionnaire - this is known as ‘expert evidence’. For example, you might want to use expert evidence if you have a disability and the defendant thinks you don’t. This could be a doctor or other medical professional.

You should use the questionnaire to tell the court:

  • any dates that you, your expert or your witnesses can’t go to court
  • how many witnesses you have

When the court has decided what directions to give they’ll write to both sides with instructions on what they need to do - this is called a ‘directions order’.

Check which ‘track’ your case is on

The court will put your case on one of 3 routes (called ‘tracks’) based on how much it’s worth and how complicated it is - if it’s less complicated, the process will be less formal. The directions order will tell you which ‘track’ the case has to be placed on.

It’s important to know which track the case has been placed on because this affects what court rules you need to follow and what costs you might have to pay.

Your case could be put on the:

  • small claims track - usually for cases that aren’t very complicated and are worth no more than £10,000 (but not harassment or unlawful eviction cases)
  • fast track - usually for claims worth more than £10,000 and no more than £25,000 which can be dealt with in a day, although complex ones can go on the multi-track
  • multi-track - usually for more complex cases which are worth more than £25,000 or which will take more than 1 day

If your case is on the small claims track, you won’t usually have to pay the defendant’s legal costs if you lose - and they won’t have to pay yours if you win. You might still be able to get the court fees back though. 

The rules on costs in the small claims track are in Civil Procedure Rules, rule 27.14.

It won’t be a small claim if you’ve claimed:

  • harassment against your landlord or

  • unlawful eviction

This is in Civil Procedure Rules, rule 26.7(4).

The small claims track is not the normal track for claims that include a claim for damages for personal injury if the value of that part of the claim is more than £1,000. This is in Civil Procedure Rules, rule 26.6(1)(a).

If your case is allocated to the fast track or multi-track, unlike in the small claims track, generally the party who loses is ordered to pay the winning party’s legal costs (not just the court fee they incurred). The full list of factors that the court takes into account when deciding to which track to allocate a case is in Civil Procedure Rules, rule 26.8.

If your case is allocated to the multi-track you should get legal advice from a housing specialist or solicitor. The rules of procedure are more complex and the potential costs are higher.

Read more about the small claims track, fast track and the multi-track on GOV.UK.

The rules that you have to follow during your case depend on which track your case has been allocated to - there’s a ‘civil procedure rule’ and a ‘practice direction’ for each one. It’s a good idea to read them on GOV.UK so that you know what you’re expected to do:

Asking for what you need if you have a directions hearing

Sometimes the ‘directions’ are dealt with at a court hearing instead. There’ll usually be a first hearing for this - the case itself might be dealt with in later hearings. You’ll still need to give information about your witnesses but can also ask for things like:

  • enough time to get statements from your witnesses - say how many days you think it will take
  • enough time to prepare for court after getting your landlord’s witness statements - give the number of days
  • your landlord’s notes and records about you - this might help you to understand why they’re treating you unfairly
  • any policies your landlord might have that are relevant to the situation, for example their policy on supporting disabled tenants
  • a specialist to give evidence at court for you, for example a doctor to help you prove you’re disabled if your landlord thinks you’re not - this is known as ‘expert evidence’

The court will normally expect you to use ‘standard directions’. The rules about the directions depend on which track your case has been allocated to.

If your case is on the small claims track the rules on directions are in Practice Direction 27 and you should use the small claims track standard directions in Appendix B on GOV.UK.

If your case is on the fast-track the rules on directions are in Practice Direction 28 and you should use the fast track standard directions in the Appendix on GOV.UK.

If your case is allocated to the multi-track, you’ll be expected to send in draft directions to the court or agree them with the other side. You can find the rules on directions for multi track cases are in Practice Direction 29. You can find examples of ‘multi track standard directions’ on GOV.UK.

Follow the court’s instructions - ‘directions’

The court will send you instructions telling you when and how you need to send evidence. These instructions are called ‘directions’. They could ask you to go to a hearing to decide these instead.

When you get the directions order check the dates and make sure you meet any deadlines.

If you’re trying to reach a settlement, you can apply to the court to pause the legal process and to change the deadlines for your directions - this would give you extra time to negotiate. Both sides should agree to do this.

If you want to do this, fill in the N244 claim form from GOV.UK and send it back to the court as soon as you can. You’ll normally need to pay a fee of £255 to make the application. If you’re applying with the agreement of the other side (the legal term for this is ‘by consent’) the fee will be £100. If you are on a low income you might be able to get help with the fees. 

If your claim is on the small claims track, the court might pause the claim itself without you having to make an application (the legal term of this is ‘stay the claim’) to allow both sides to settle, or it could offer mediation if both sides agree.

Examples of directions

If you’re not sure what to write, you can see an example of directions [ 78 kb]. If you can’t access the document you can see this version, but this doesn’t show the formatting the court uses. If you don’t use the format given in the court rules, your case could be affected negatively. You can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re worried about formatting your document.

This example deals with a claim by someone who says his landlord failed to make reasonable adjustments to his property and harassed him because of his disability. His landlord doesn’t agree that he has a disability and so the court has said there needs to be a single joint expert.

As it’s a small claims track case, the court has limited the fee for the expert. If you require more detailed advice and guidance, you can get more help.

If you’re acting as a client’s legal representative you should refer to them as ‘the Claimant’ in the claim form instead of using the first person.

The facts may not suit your specific situation. Do not copy them in case they don’t apply to you.

Prepare a witness statement

You’ll need to provide a written witness statement for every person who will give evidence to the court, including yourself - the directions will tell you when you need to send these.

Writing your witness statement can take a long time so make sure you start it early.  

Before writing your statement, make sure you understand and focus on:

  • what incidents you say were discrimination - there may be more than one
  • what type of discrimination each was - like direct, indirect or a failure to make reasonable adjustments
  • what needs to be proved for each type of discrimination
  • which facts the other side admits and which they disagree with

You should include all of the facts of your case - include everything you put in your claim form and any added detail. It’s usually best to explain the facts in date order.  

If you have other claims as well as discrimination, you could deal with those separately. For example, explain how you were harassed and then explain how your landlord didn’t do the repairs they should have done within a reasonable time.  

You should attach any relevant documents to the statement too if you refer to them in your witness statement. If you don’t have copies, you need to explain why you don’t in your statement.

If you’re referring to documents in your witness statement, give each one a number - the legal term for this is an ‘exhibit’. Put your initials on the document. For example, if your name is Karen Church you could mark your first exhibit as ‘ KC1’ and then the next one as ‘KC2’. Use the initials and numbers when you refer to the documents in your witness statement.

Don’t be tempted to exaggerate the facts of your case or your claims - this won’t help your case and the court might not believe you. If you say something that’s not true in your witness statement you could be found in ‘contempt of court’ unless you honestly believed it was true.

Explain any big inconsistencies between your statement and that of the other side or your own witnesses. This means that you have an opportunity to put your version forward rather than waiting for the court or other side to highlight the inconsistencies.

Follow the guidance on completing a witness statement on GOV.UK.

Prepare your witnesses

If someone witnessed the discrimination or has information that supports your case, ask them to write a separate statement for you. They should follow the same guidance as you. They’ll need to sign the statement too.

Ask your witness to come to court to give evidence in person - make sure they know the court dates. If they don’t attend, the court won’t give as much weight to their evidence - it’s called ‘hearsay evidence’.

If you know that your witness can’t attend, you can use their statement as evidence but will need to serve a ‘hearsay notice’ when you send their statement saying why they can’t attend. If you don’t do this, their evidence will have even less weight attached to it. The rules about this are in Civil Procedure Rule 33 on GOV.UK.

Example of a witness statement

If you’re not sure what to write, you can see an example of a witness statement [ 100 kb]. If you can’t access the document you can see this version, but this doesn’t show the formatting the court uses. If you don’t use the format given in the court rules, your case could be affected negatively. You can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re worried about formatting your document.

This is an example of a witness statement in a direct discrimination case. If you need more detailed advice and guidance, you can get more help

Don't just copy it - the facts might not suit your specific situation.

Check if you need expert medical evidence

If your landlord, property manager or controller disagrees with any of the parts of your case about your disability, the court might tell you that your own medical evidence is not enough.

You’ll need to go to an independent medical expert to get a ‘joint expert report’. You might need a joint expert report to:

  • prove you’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010
  • show how your disability affects you
  • explain how a reasonable adjustment would stop you being disadvantaged by your disability
  • show that because of your disability you’re at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people
  • the impact the discrimination has had on you
  • suggest other ways your landlord could have dealt with the problem that would discriminate against you less

This is the strongest sort of evidence because it will be written by an independent specialist, but it can cost hundreds of pounds.

You’ll probably need to make an appointment to see the medical expert.

You’ll need to make sure you comply with any directions from the court about the kind of joint expert report they want you to get. The court might order you to:

  • make sure the request for the report asks specific questions or covers specific issues, for example about the impact of your disability
  • agree with your landlord on the wording of the letter to the expert and how you’ll ask any follow-up questions
  • agree who will provide the report
  • agree who will pay the fees, or how they will be shared - they’re usually shared equally unless the court says otherwise
  • make sure the report is sent to the court by a particular date
  • make sure that the report is sent to your landlord at the same time it’s sent to you

Make sure the expert is aware their report will be used as evidence in court. They’ll need to include a statement saying they understand their duty to the court and have complied with the court rules in Civil Procedure Rules Part 35 and Practice Direction 35. You should ask them to put this statement in the report and sign it:

I confirm that I have made clear which facts and matters referred to in this report are within my own knowledge and which are not. Those that are within my own knowledge I confirm to be true. The opinions I have expressed represent my true and complete professional opinions on the matters to which they refer.

You can read the rules on joint experts in Civil Procedure Rules Part 35 and Practice Direction 35 on GOV.UK.

If the claim is in the small claims track only some of the usual rules on experts apply. This is in Civil Procedure Rules, rule 27.2.

Show all the evidence you have

The court might tell you to show specific documents to the other side - this could include evidence that helps your case and evidence that doesn’t. The legal term for this is ‘disclosure’.

The court will normally tell you in its directions when you need to disclose them. 

You’ll need to tell the other side about the documents that exist or have ever existed.

A ‘document’ is any form of recorded information - not just something written on paper. It could be an email, a picture, a text message or a video.

You’ll be expected to search your records and disclose anything relevant to the case to the other side even if it doesn’t help your case. Read more about the documents you need to disclose on GOV.UK.

You don’t have to include certain documents. These are called ‘privileged’ and could include things like letters written by your solicitor giving you legal advice on the case. The directions will tell you what to do. Read more in Civil Procedure Rule 31

The rules on disclosure aren’t as strict if your case is on the small claims track. Read more in Civil Procedure Rule 27.

Make a ‘trial bundle’

You need to put together a ringbinder with all the documents relating to the case - this is called a ‘bundle’. Only put in documents which are relevant to your claim - like the relevant sections of the Equality Act 2010 rather than the whole Act.

You should include all of the documents that you’re relying on and and also those from the other side. If the defendant has solicitors acting for them, the court might order them to prepare the bundle.

Arrange the documents into sections - first your claim form, particulars of claim and the defence the court papers, then your witness statement and then any other documents like your letter before action and any other witness statements you have.

Put them in date order and write the page number at the top right hand corner of each page. Don’t put the numbers on until you’re sure your bundle is complete.

You should also write an index page to put at the front of the binder and write ‘Index’ at the top. Write the case name, the name of the court and the case number on the index page and then list all the documents in the binder and their page number.

Send a copy of the index and any documents you haven’t yet sent to the other side and ask them to agree to the bundle. Once they’ve agreed it, you need to send a copy of the trial bundle to the court and keep a copy for yourself. The directions will tell you when you need to do this.

If your case isn’t on the small claims track there are extra rules that you need to comply with when making your trial bundle - read more in Practice Direction 39 para 3.1 on GOV.UK

Example of a bundle index [ 52 kb]

If you can’t view the example and you’re not sure what to put on your bundle index you can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

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