Small Claims Court provides an avenue for anyone who may have a legitimate claim against another person. A landlord, tenant or any other party may bring a claim to be heard by a Judge provided the amount is under $5,000. (Some state will allow a maximum of $6,000. Some states will cap the amount at $2,500. Your court will tell you the amount). Cases involving landlord/tenant are mostly disputes involving tenant’ failure to pay the required rent, for damages to the rental caused by the tenant or for return of the security deposit. There are statues of limitations which a small claims case would be subject too, it is best to act quickly if you have a compliant. The time frame will be different for each offense, so do not wait to get this matter into court. It is best to pursue a tenant-landlord case when the evidence is fresh and it is easier to locate witnesses if needed.
Some reasons a Landlord may file a complaint in Small Claims Court:
- The tenant has failed to pay rent.
- The tenant and/or his guest have preformed continuous, disorderly conduct.
- The tenant has willfully destroyed or damaged the property.
- The tenant is always late with the rent
- The tenant continues to violate rules and regulations, as outlined in the lease, after receiving written notice to comply.
- The tenant has been convicted for a drug offense.
- Some reasons a tenant may file a complaint in Small Claims Court:
- The tenant has complaints because of faulty workmanship
- The tenant has performed work for the landlord without compensation as agreed
- The tenant has not received his Security Deposit return after vacating.
- The tenant has paid his rent as agreed, but utilities were turned off due to landlords’ failure.
- The tenant has been locked out of his rental and the landlord will not give him/her access.
- The tenant complains that the landlord constantly trespasses without proper notice.
Landlords must give the tenant written notice to stop the particular offense and a tenant continues to repeat violatio
ns, may a landlord bring an action in Small Claims Court against the tenant to have the tenant evicted. Complain
ts for nonpayment of rent always require a notice to the tenant terminating the tenancy CONTRACTS & FORMS. As procedures in Small Claims Court are simpler than in other courts, tenan
ts or landlords usually file and present their cases themselves. This procedure is relatively quick and inexpensive.
If you are
unsure or do not have any experience with this procedure, it may be best to hire an attorney to advise and assist you.
- Provide a good contract or lease to prove your complaint is valid and was co
ntractually agreed upon between
yourself and the tenant.
- Bring any written communications such as letters or emails to document your case. Many property management companies never delete any tenant or contractor emails.
- It’s always a good idea to provide a tenant with a move in inspection form where the tenant can document a
ny damages that existed at the move in.
- Digital photos provide excellent documentation. Inexpensive digital cameras make a good investment
and can help a judge visualize the problem.
- A move out ins
pection done by tenant-landlord to document any damages to the unit before and after the tenant has moved and digital photos of any damages prior to move in inspection.
- In court, a tenant or landlord will be asked to recount their side of the events that took place.
- The tenant and landlord should each take time to prepare thei
r presentation ahead of time, especially if the tenant or landlord are uncomfortable speaking in front of people.
- The tenant or landlord should organize their documentation into a timeline. This will assist them with their preparation. It will also help greatly to explain to the court the order of events and present a clear picture.
- Be sure to have all documents with you on your way to the courthouse. Agreements, leases, receipts, letters and no
es. Review them for completeness.