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Have a Small Claims Court Lawsuit in Alameda County or thinking of filing one?
In this article, learn about:
How to file a small claims lawsuit.
Common types of small claims lawsuits.
What to expect during a small claims hearing in Alameda.
The maximum amount you can sue for.
How much going to small claims costs.
Fun fact, lawyers are not allowed at the initial small claims hearing! This is to even the playing field so that each party has an equal chance of obtaining justice.
Alameda Small Claims Quick Facts
Virtual hearings are available but you must request permission from the judge.
Hearings are scheduled within 30-75 days.
Individuals can sue for $10,000; Corporations/LLCs can sue for $5,000
* Court filing fees and serving costs are $0 when you qualify for a court fee waiver.
Steps to an Alameda County Small Claims Lawsuit
Demand payment from the other party before suing.
Prepare the lawsuit using Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court.
File the lawsuit with the court.
Serve the lawsuit on the party you sued.
File the Proof of Service.
Prepare your evidence.
Request to attend the hearing virtually or attend the hearing in person.
People Clerk can help you file and serve your lawsuit plus prepare your evidence for the hearing saving you time and stress.
Where are the small claims courts in Alameda County?
While there are many courthouses in Alameda County, there are only two courthouses that conduct small claims hearings.
Here are the addresses:
Hayward Hall of Justice
24405 Amador Street
Hayward, CA 94544
Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse
661 Washington Street
Oakland, CA 94607
How do I contact the Small Claims Court Clerk?
Need to contact the Alameda Small Claims Court Clerk? Here is how:
Phone hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 am to 3:00 pm.
Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Free Small Claims Advisors
The Alameda court also provides free small claims advisors.
Phone: (510) 272-1393, Monday- Thursday, 2 pm - 4 pm.
LiveChat: Monday - Thursday: 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM.
Can I file my Small Claims Case in Alameda County?
You can always sue an individual Alameda Small Claims Court if they live in Alameda County. You can always sue a company in Alameda Small Claims Court if their business is located in Alameda County.
You may be able to sue in Alameda Small Claims in other situations. For example:
If you are suing about a car accident that occurred in Alameda.
If you are suing about a security deposit and the leased premises are located in Alameda.
If you are suing about damage to your house and your house is in Alameda.
If you have an issue with your landlord returning the security deposit and the rented unit was in Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward or anywhere in Alameda County then you would be able to sue your landlord in Alameda Small Claims Court (you would also be able to sue your landlord in the small claims court in the county where they live).
If the defendant lives in the following cities/towns/communities then you can sue in Alameda small claims: Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, Union City, Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, Fairview, San Lorenzo, and Sunol.
What types of small claims lawsuits can be filed?
So long as there isn't another court better suited to hear the case, then the lawsuit can be filed in small claims. The most common types of small claims cases in Alameda Small Claims Court are:
Landlord/Tenant disputes over the security deposit.
Landlord/Tenant disputes over unpaid rent.
Disputes over loans.
Contracts (written and verbal).
Disputes over auto repairs.
Disputes over remodeling or home repairs (disputes with contractors).
Damage caused to property.
How long do I have to file a small claims case in Alameda County?
Do not wait to file your small claims court lawsuit! After an incident occurs, you only have a set period of time to file your lawsuit. Think of this as a deadline (called the statute of limitations). Once the deadline is reached, you cannot file your small claims lawsuit.
Review common statutes of limitations for Alameda Small Claims Court.
How much can I sue for in Alameda County Small Claims?
This is also known as the "small claims court limits." In Alameda County Small Claims you can sue for the following maximum amounts:
$10,000 if you are suing as an individual
$5,000 if you are suing on behalf of a Corporation or LLC
What are the Alameda County Small Claims Court Filing Fees?
The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in Alameda County depends on how much you are suing for. You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit. If cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees. Learn more about fee waivers.
What are other costs for Small Claims Court?
In most small claims cases, you can expect to pay:
Filing fees (see above) $30- $75
Serving Costs can range from $0-$125 per person you sue.
If you win, you can request that the losing party pay for your court fees and serving costs.
Alameda Small Claims Court Hearings
When will the Small Claims Hearing be?
Once a case is filed in Alameda Small Claims Court, the hearing will be scheduled within 30- 70 days.
You must serve the small claims lawsuit on the defendant at least 15 days before the hearing if the defendant lives or resides within Alameda County. If the defendant resides outside of Alameda County, you must serve them at least 20 days before the hearing.
Make sure to file "Proof of Service" at least 5 days before the hearing.
How to prepare for a Small Claims Court Hearing?
You have filed your case and notified the person you sued. The next step is to start preparing for your Small Claims Court hearing.
Research the law. If you are unsure about you the laws involving your lawsuit (aka why you should win your lawsuit), consult an attorney, or conduct your own research about the law (a quick Google search goes a long way).
Prepare your evidence. Invoices, contracts, receipts, etc. You want to have your evidence organized with titles, dates, and why that piece of evidence is important. All your evidence should be geared towards showing the judge why you should win.
Prepare what to say. During the hearing, the judge will ask you why you are suing. If you are being sued, you will be asked why you don't owe the other party money.
Get your receipts for costs ready. For example, your filing fees and any process server costs. Make sure to let the judge know that you would like to be reimbursed for these costs.
Print enough copies of all your evidence. You will need at least three copies (one for you, one for the judge, one for the other side).
What happens on the hearing date?
Give yourself plenty of time.
You do not want to be late for your hearing. Give yourself plenty of time for parking and navigating the courthouse.
Once You Walk into the Courthouse...
Once you walk in, the first thing you will see is airport-like security. You will need to put your belongings through the metal detector. You can bring in laptops and cellphones, unlike some courthouses.
If you are at the Hayward Hall of Justice, go to the courtroom located in Department 519.
If you are at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse, go to the courtroom located in Department 106.
Once you arrive at the courtroom, locate your case on the paper schedule outside the courtroom door.
Outside of each courtroom, there will be a printed list of the cases that have hearings on that day.
You want to locate your case on the schedule. If you don't see your case listed, but you have received notice that your case will be heard that day, you may want to try and speak to the sheriff or clerk in the courtroom. If you are unable to speak to them, go to the small claims court clerk to verify.
Make sure to use that waiting time to organize your evidence or go to the restroom.
Once the courtroom is opened, the court clerk, sheriff, and judge will go through what to expect. You will be sitting in a room with other people who have filed small claims cases. You will get to watch the cases before yours. Make sure you are in the courtroom when your case is called!
Small Claims Mediation
Some small claims courts offer free mediation.
What is mediation? Mediation is a meeting between both the plaintiff (the person suing) and the defendant (the person being sued) conducted by a neutral third-party (a mediator). The parties will meet with a mediator, discuss their case, and try to reach a mutually beneficial solution. Both parties must agree to mediation and it cannot be forced on them.
When will mediation occur? The court clerk, judge, or sheriff will announce if there are mediators available that day. Usually, the judge will tell the audience that if you opt for mediation, you can try to mediate the case while other hearings are being conducted. If you finish the mediation early, then you get to "skip the line" and your case is processed faster.
If both parties show up:
Right before the hearing, the judge will ask the parties to show each other the evidence that they have brought with them.
The Judge will ask the person who is suing why they are suing.
Then the person who is being sued will get to present their side of the story.
The hearing will last around 15 minutes.
The judge will ask the parties to show the judge the evidence they brought with them. Sometimes the judge will keep the evidence other times you will get the evidence right back.
Very rarely will a judge tell the parties their decision immediately after the hearing? Instead, the judge will tell the parties that the decision will be mailed to them (usually takes a few weeks to two months or so).
If only you show up but the person you sued does not show up:
You still have to prove to the judge why you should win.
If only the defendant shows up:
The judge will close the lawsuit
Are attorneys allowed in small claims court?
Attorneys are not allowed to represent you or the person you sued at the initial hearing.
If the person you sued appeals (meaning they lost and want the judge to decide again) then attorneys are allowed to represent the parties at the appeal hearing.
Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila holds a juris doctor degree and is a certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.