Guide to Bronx Small Claims Court

Claudia Diaz - New York - September 7, 2022

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Small claims courts were created so individuals and corporations could sue for smaller claims in an affordable, quick and efficient way. You can sue someone in a Bronx small claims court for up to $10,000. Those looking to sue in small claims do not need to be represented by a lawyer if they do not wish to, which also helps with the cost of a lawsuit. As a mediator, I mediated cases in Bronx county and saw parties come in with lawyers or without, this choice is really up to each individual and their particular circumstances. 

In Bronx small claims court you can only sue for money, which means that if you want the court to force the person you are suing to do something or return your property then this may be the wrong court for you. 

Ready to sue someone in Bronx small claims court? In this guide, we break down the steps of how to file a small claims lawsuit in Bronx county.

Bronx County Small Claims Courts Location

Bronx Small Claims (Bronx County Small Claims)
851 Grand Concourse 
Bronx, NY 10451

Small Claims Court Clerk Phone Number: (718) 618-2517

Small Claims Court Clerk Office: Room 105 

Hours of operation: Monday - Friday: 9 AM - 5 PM

Common Types of Bronx County Small Claims Lawsuits

We always get the question, can I sue someone in Bronx small claims court? The answer is yes as long as there isn't a better court to handle your lawsuit. For example, you can’t use Bronx small claims court to evict someone as there is a special court for evictions called Housing Court. 

Here are common types small claims lawsuits filed in Bronx County: 

  • Disputes between you and your roommate over rent or utility bills.

  • You lent someone money and now they refuse to pay you back.

  • You hired a service for your home, auto, or business and the provider breached the contract for services.

  • Your landlord refuses to return your security deposit. 

  • Your employer refuses to pay you for your work or fired you and you are suing for unpaid wages. 

  • You have a breach of contract case against a home contractor. 

  • You got into an automobile accident and your car was damaged. 

  • You hired a mechanic to repair your car and they did a terrible job.

  • A company sold you a product that broke and will not provide a refund.

How Much Can I Sue for in Bronx Small Claims?

This is also known as the "small claims court limits." In Bronx small claims, you can sue for a maximum of $10,000. 

Remember you cannot sue someone to force them to do something like fix any damage they might have committed against your property. For example, if while working on your car a mechanic damaged it, you can sue for the amount of money it will cost to fix your car (but not to force them to fix your car). 

What happens if I am owed more than what I can sue for in Bronx small claims?

You may want to consider filing your lawsuit in regular court. However, Bronx small claims is faster, quicker, and more affordable than filing your lawsuit in other types of courts. 

You also cannot file multiple smaller lawsuits to get around the claim limit. However, if you have multiple claims you may be able to file two different lawsuits, one for each claim. 

How Do I Calculate How Much to Sue for?

Calculating how much to sue for in small claims can be difficult. In general, taking someone to small claims isn't meant for you to come out winning more than what you are owed and you need to be able to prove to the judge how you calculated how much you are owed.

‍Here are some tips for calculating how much to sue for:

  • Use receipts. For example, if someone hit your car and you spent $3,000 getting your car fixed, you would be able to show the judge the receipt from the mechanic.

  • Use estimates. For example, if your tenant caused damage to the floors, you may have an estimate from a contractor estimating how much it will cost to fix the floors.

How Much Does it Cost to Sue in Bronx Small Claims Court?

If you are an individual suing another individual or business, then you will pay: 

  •  $15 if you are suing for $1000 or less, and 

  •  $20 if you are suing for more than $1000.

If you are a business suing an individual or business (these are known as commercial claims), then you will pay $25 plus postage. 

If you are low income and cannot afford to pay filing costs, you can apply for a waiver of your court fees: 

  • In order to file, you should call the court clerk’s office as the requirements vary from judge to judge. Generally, you will have to go in person to the courthouse to make a statement under oath.

  • Unfortunately, this type of waiver is called the Poor Person Relief, but don't let the name drive you away if it is something that you need to be able to bring your lawsuit.

Is it worth it to sue someone in Bronx Small Claims?

You should look at the idea of bringing someone to Bronx small claims court as a cost v. benefit analysis. Here is how some of our clients measure the cost v. benefit of going to small claims:

  • Cost. Spending $20 to get back $1,000 is very affordable.

  • How soon will you find out whether you won? Most small claims hearings in the Bronx are delayed, but as courts work through their backlog hearings are being scheduled faster. 

  • Time spent. This one can be tricky because our court system is outdated and very frustrating. You may have to go a few times to the court to file the lawsuit especially if you need more information or do it wrong. The good news is that with People Clerk, you can prepare and file your small claims lawsuit from home as we take care of the logistics. 

  • Justice. For some, it isn't about time or money. It is about making sure the other person understands that what they have done is wrong so that they don't continue to do the same to others.

Statute of Limitations & Bronx Small Claims

You may be wondering about the statute of limitations for small claims. In general, many statutes of limitations range between 3-6 years and are the same for a small claims lawsuit as for other types of lawsuits in Bronx county.

Here are some common questions about the statute of limitations:

  • What is the statute of limitations? It is a deadline set by the New York legislature that establishes how long you have to sue someone.

  • Does my hearing have to be before the statute of limitations? No, but your case has to be FILED before the statute of limitations.

  • Can I still file my small claims lawsuit if the statute of limitations already passed? You will still be able to file the lawsuit because it is not the clerk who decides whether the statute of limitations has passed. Said differently, only a judge can make a decision on whether the statute of limitations has actually passed. If the statute of limitations has passed, the judge will let you know at the hearing and will close your case.

  • How do I get more certainty about the statute of limitations? (1) consult a lawyer before suing in small claims, (2) review the New York City code, and (3) let the judge decide at the hearing.

Do not wait until the last minute to file your small claims lawsuit. Here is why:

  • If you file your lawsuit incorrectly and need to be able to refile your lawsuit, your second lawsuit may miss the statute of limitations.

  • You begin to lose your evidence the more you wait. Many small claims lawsuits have text messages as evidence and if you lose your phone and a backup you won't have access to those text messages.

  • You begin to lose credibility the more you wait. The judge will be curious to know why you waited so long to file your lawsuit if what you are saying is true.

What to do Before You File in Bronx Small Claims?

Here are some steps you can take before you file a Bronx small claims suit:

  1. Make sure you demand payment.

  2. Figure out where to file the lawsuit.

  3. Determine who needs to sue (the "claimants").

  4. Determine who you need to sue (the "defendants").

  5. Make sure to have the information you will need to prepare the small claims lawsuit

Demand Payment

Although it is not required in the Bronx, it is common practice for you to send a demand letter to the other party before you file your suit. 

How do I demand payment? You can demand payment verbally or in writing but it is advised you send a demand in writing to be taken more seriously and to use as evidence later. You can show a copy of the demand letter to the judge so they see you gave the other party an opportunity to resolve the dispute before escalating it to small claims court. 

If you have a commercial claim you may use the New York Court’s e-form if you wish. 

Figure out where to file the small claims lawsuit

The process of finding out where to file your small claims lawsuit can get complicated and one important thing to consider is that it is not really about which court is closest or most convenient to you in many situations. Before going to your nearest small claims court to file your small claims lawsuit, take some time to figure out which court has "authority" over the other party. This is known as "jurisdiction."

To sue someone in a small claims court, like Bronx small claims court, the other party must live, work or have an office in NYC. If you are suing a landlord, you can sue the landlord where the rented unit is located as long as the small claims lawsuit is regarding the rented unit. So you will likely need to sue in the NYC small claims court that is most convenient to the other party. 

Here is the relevant code section: “... provided that the defendant either resides, or has an office for the transaction of business or a regular employment within the city of New York, or where claimant is a tenant or lessee of real property owned by the defendant and the claim relates to such tenancy or lease, and such real property is situated within the city of New York” (New York City Civil Court Act (CCA) CHAPTER 693, ARTICLE 1801). 

Why can't all courts have authority over the other party? Because this is what your elected officials decided was fair. The logic is that it isn't fair for someone without a connection to New York City to be sued in New York City.  

What happens if I file in the wrong small claims court? You will likely still be able to file your lawsuit as this is a decision for the judge to make which means that you may not find out until the hearing that you filed your lawsuit in the wrong court. This means that they may close your case and you will have to refile in the right court. This is risky because if the statute of limitations has passed, then you won't be able to win even if you file in the right court the second time.

Determine who needs to sue (the “claimants”)

The person or business filing the lawsuit is normally called the claimant in Bronx small claims. Deciding who needs to be included in a lawsuit as a claimant is normally an easy determination. Ask yourself, who is owed money? Anyone who is owed money should be included in the lawsuit.

‍When in doubt, it is better to include everyone who potentially is owed money and let the judge decide at the hearing. If a judge doesn't think someone should be included in the lawsuit, they will take that person off the lawsuit at the hearing and leave everyone else as part of the lawsuit. Otherwise, a judge may have you refile the lawsuit.

Here are some common examples:

  • You and your roommate gave your landlord a $3,000 security deposit for your apartment in the South Bronx. You both moved out and your landlord has not returned the security deposit. Both you and your roommate are owed the money so the judge will want to make sure you both are part of the lawsuit.

  • You were driving your mom's car and another driver hit you while driving. It will cost $1,000 to fix the car. Your mom should be included in the lawsuit since she is the registered owner.

Determine who you need to sue (the “defendants”).

The person or business being sued is called the defendant. The best way to think about it is to consider who is responsible for what happened to me.

Here are some tips for determining who you need to sue:

  • When in doubt, sue everyone you think is responsible and let the judge decide at the hearing. You don't want the judge to close your lawsuit because even though they think you are right, you didn't sue the right person or business.

  • Security deposit lawsuits. The most common mistake we see is suing a property management company and not the landlord in security deposit cases. You want to make sure you sue the person or business listed on your lease or rental agreement as they are the one holding on to your security deposit plus anyone else you also think is responsible.

  • Car accident lawsuits. Don't forget to sue the driver that is responsible for hitting your car in addition to the owner of the car. 

Make sure to have the information you will need to prepare the small claims lawsuit

As you are getting ready to take someone to small claims, you want to make sure that you have the correct information for the person or business you are suing. 

Suing an individual in small claims:

  • You will need their full legal name and address where they live or work.

  • If you do not know the person’s full legal name and address you will need to find this information before suing them. Try looking on Google, or Linkedin, or consider having someone run a report called a "Skip Trace" that looks for their information on different databases.

Suing a business in small claims:

  • After reviewing thousands of small claims lawsuits, we know that suing a business in small claims is tricky. This is because most people don't spend the time figuring out the correct information to list on the small claims lawsuit.

  • You need to narrow down the business’s official legal name before suing them in small claims. What is an official legal name? This is the name the business has used to incorporate their business. The reality is that many businesses are not incorporated (they don't need to be) which means that you are suing an individual and not a business. For example, you asked ABC Housing, the managers of your rental unit, to replace your broken toilet. ABC Housing refuses to replace the toilet and you decide to sue them in small claims. You first need to determine whether ABC Housing is a corporation, LLC, or an individual using the name, ABC Housing.

  • Many businesses also do business using a name other than their official legal name. This is called a "dba" or a "fictitious business name” or trade name. 

  • Once you have determined the official legal name, you will be able to sue the correct business and serve the correct person on behalf of a business.

How to File a Small Claims Lawsuit in Bronx Small Claims Court

Here are the 4 steps to taking someone to small claims court in Bronx small claims:

  1. Prepare the lawsuit

  2. File the lawsuit

  3. Serve the lawsuit

  4. Prepare for the hearing

These steps are broken down below. 

Preparing Your Bronx Small Claims Lawsuit

If you are an individual, you will need to properly fill out a Statement of Claim (CIV-SC-50). 

If you are a business, you will need to properly fill out a Statement of Claim (CIV-SC-70). 

Once you prepare the forms, you will need to file them with the court. 

Filing Your Small Claims Lawsuit

You can submit the Bronx small claims forms in person or by mail. 

  • It is good practice to take 2 copies of the form properly filled out.

  • Make sure to take proper payment, the court accepts cash or money order.

In the Bronx, you currently don’t have the ability to file your case directly with the court online at this time. Check the New York courts website for any updates. 

How to Serve your Bronx Small Claims Lawsuit

Once you file your claim with the small claims court clerk, it is up to the clerk to notify the other party that they have been sued (this is called “serving”). The court will mail the lawsuit to the other party. 

If the mail comes back as undelivered, you will be able to serve the lawsuit using the sheriff or a registered process server. You will need to call the court to determine if your lawsuit has been served. 

How to Prepare for your Small Claims Hearing

To prepare for your Bronx small claims court hearing:

  • Research the law. It is good practice to read up on the law that supports your claim. At this stage, you can choose to consult an attorney if you would like.

  • Prepare your evidence. Make sure to collect and organize all potential evidence that can be used to support your claim; it is your responsibility to prove to the judge why and how much the other party owes you. This can include invoices, contracts, receipts, etc.

  • Prepare what you will say. The judge will first ask the person who filed the lawsuit to tell them why they are suing. The judge will then ask the person being sued why they don’t owe the person who sued them any money. 

  • Bring multiple copies of your evidence. You should bring at least three copies of your evidence. One copy for you, one copy for the judge, and one copy for the other party.

  • Know the procedures for the small claims court you filed in. Each county may have slightly different procedures you should be aware of before your hearing. 

People Clerk can help you organize your evidence for your Bronx small claims hearing.  

What accommodations can the court provide?

  • If you or a witness do not speak English well, you can tell the clerk when you file your lawsuit and they will assign an official interpreter to your case.

  • If you need accommodations for a disability, each court has different policies. To find out what can be done for you, make sure to call the court or the clerk and convey your needs, they will tell you what needs to be done in order to accommodate those needs.

Can I Have a Lawyer Represent me in Bronx small claims?

Yes, you are allowed to have a lawyer represent you in court. This decision is up to you to make, and although getting a lawyer seems like an obvious decision, it is important to note that legal fees can quickly add up. This shouldn’t discourage you from proceeding in small claims on your own. 

Also, remember that just as you have a choice to hire a lawyer so does the other party in the case. In the case that both parties decide to have a lawyer represent them, the judge can move the case from small claims to civil court.

Is Small Claims Court my only Option?

In the Bronx, your 2 major potential remedies outside of small claims are Online Dispute Resolution or Small Claims Mediation. 

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)

  • ODR is a free service offered in the city of New York by the court. 

  • It is a 24/7 service in which negotiation and conversation can happen between the parties in order to come to a mutual agreement without having to go to court.

Mediation

  • Mediation is a meeting between you, the other party, and a neutral person called a mediator. 

  • Mediation is an effort to see if the parties can come to a mutually agreeable solution or settlement. The settlement can be for the same amount of money being claimed and can involve other non-monetary agreements between the parties. 

  • Bronx small claims court usually host free mediations. In some instances, the court will send your case to mediation first to see if you can reach a settlement.

  • The mediator's role is to help you and the other party resolve your conflict. If you resolve your conflict, you do not need to go in front of the judge. 

  • You will still need to bring all your evidence to work through your conflict with the other party and the mediator. 

  • If you do not reach a settlement during mediation you may continue with your court hearing in front of a judge, participating in a mediation does not eliminate your right to a trial in front of a judge.  

Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia is a lawyer and certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts

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