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Guide to Los Angeles Small Claims Court

Camila Lopez - Los Angeles - December 19, 2022

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Thinking of filing a Small Claims Court Lawsuit in Los Angeles County?

In this article, learn about:

  • How to file a small claims lawsuit in Los Angeles.

  • Common types of small claims lawsuits

  • What to expect during a small claims hearing.

  • How much going to small claims costs.

Los Angeles Small Claims Quick Facts

Filing Fees

$0- $75

Serving Costs

$0- $125 

Virtual Hearings

Free to attend the hearing virtually. No judge approval is required.

Hearing Dates

Hearings are scheduled within 30-75 days.

* Court filing fees and serving costs are $0 when you qualify for a court fee waiver.

Steps to a Los Angeles Small Claims Lawsuit

  1. Locate which small claims court your lawsuit should be filed in, who you should sue, and how much to sue for.

  2. Prepare the lawsuit using Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court.

  3. File the lawsuit with the court.

  4. Serve the lawsuit on the party you sued.

  5. File the Proof of Service.

  6. Send your evidence to the court and the other party before the hearing.

  7. Sign up for a virtual hearing or attend the hearing in person.

People Clerk can help you file, serve, and prepare your evidence for your Los Angeles small claims lawsuit saving you time and stress.

Can I file my Small Claims Lawsuit in Los Angeles County?

You can always sue an individual in Los Angeles Small Claims Court if they live in Los Angeles County. You can always sue a company in Los Angeles Small Claims Court if the business is located in Los Angeles County.

You may be able to sue in LA Small Claims in other situations. For example:

  • If you are suing about a car accident that occurred in LA.

  • If you are suing about a security deposit and the leased premises are located in LA.

  • If you are suing about damage to your house that occurred in LA.

What types of small claims cases 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 LA Small Claims Court are:

  • Landlord/Tenant disputes over the security deposit.

  • Landlord/Tenant disputes over early termination of the lease.

  • Unpaid rent.

  • Roommate disputes.

  • Disputes over loans.

  • Contracts (written and oral).

  • Auto accidents.

  • Disputes over auto repairs.

  • Disputes over remodeling or home repairs.

  • Damage caused to property.

  • Unpaid bills.

Read More: How to sue a company in Los Angeles County Small Claims Court

How long do I have to File a Small Claims case in LA 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 win your small claims case. ‍

How much can I sue for in Los Angeles County Small Claims?

This is also known as the small claims limit. In Los Angeles Small Claims:

  • An individual or sole proprietor can sue for $10,000 or less.

  • A corporation or LLC can sue for $5,000 or less.

What are the Los Angeles Small Claims Court Filing Fees?

The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in Los Angeles depends on how much you are suing for:

  • If you are suing for $1,500 or less, then your filing fee is $30.

  • If you are suing for more than $1,500 but less than or equal to $5,000, then your filing fee is $50.

  • If you are suing for more than $5,000 but less than or equal to $10,000, then your filing fee is $75.

If you are low-income, you can apply for a court fee waiver. If the court approves your request to waive your court fees, you pay $0.

What are other costs for Small Claims Court?

In addition to court filing fees, you may also have serving costs. Serving is the act of delivering the lawsuit to the person or business you sued. You cannot serve your own lawsuit.

There are several ways your lawsuit can be served:

  • $0- Friend or Family member

  • $40- Los Angeles Sheriff ($0 if you qualify for a court fee waiver)

  • Up to $125- Process Server (an individual licensed to serve legal documents).

If you win your case, you can request that the losing party pay for "reasonable costs."

Los Angeles Small Claims Court Hearings

When will the Small Claims Hearing be?

  • Once a case is filed in Los Angeles Small Claims Court, the hearing will be scheduled within 30- 75 days.

  • You must serve the small claims lawsuit on the individual or business you sued at least 15 days before the hearing if they live or reside within Los Angeles County. If they live outside of Los Angeles 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?

  • Research the law. If you are unsure about your case, conduct research about the relevant laws that apply to your case or consult an attorney.

  • 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 are correct.

  • Prepare what to say. During the hearing, the judge will ask the person suing why they are suing. The judge will then ask the other party for their side of the story.

  • Get your receipts for costs ready. For example, your filing fees and any serving costs. Make sure to let the judge know that you would like to be reimbursed for 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).

Don't forget that Los Angeles small claims courts require you to mail your evidence to the court and the other party before the hearing! Learn more here.

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, you will first see airport-like security. You will need to put your belongings through the metal detector.

  • You can bring in laptops and cell phones, unlike some courthouses.

Once you arrive at the small claims 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 they opt for mediation, they 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.‍

The Hearing

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 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 the plaintiff shows up:

  • The plaintiff (the person who is suing) has to still prove their case. The plaintiff will have to tell the judge why they are suing and provide enough evidence.

If only the defendant shows up:

Are attorneys allowed in small claims court?

  • You will not be able to hire a lawyer to represent you at the initial small claims court hearing.

  • If the defendant appeals the case, then attorneys are allowed to represent the parties at the appeal hearing.

Los Angeles Small Claims Courts

While there are many courthouses in LA, only a few conduct small claims court hearings.

To search in which Los Angeles small claims court you can file your case, use the Los Angeles County Small Claims Court Locator. Here is a list of the 11 LA courthouses that conduct small claims hearings:

Bellflower Courthouse
10025 East Flower Street
Bellflower, CA 90706

Phone Number: (562) 345-3396

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Office is located on the 2nd floor.

Small Claims Clerk's Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/lc

Chatsworth Courthouse
9425 Penfield Ave.
Chatsworth, CA 91311

Phone Number: (818) 407-2200

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Office is located on the 1st Floor, Room 1200

Small Claims hearings are held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8:30 a.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/cha

Compton Courthouse
200 West Compton Blvd.
Compton, CA 90220

Phone Number: (310) 761-8657

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Office is located on the 9th Floor in Room 902

Small Claims Clerk's Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m - 3:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/com

George Deukmejian Courthouse (Long Beach)
275 Magnolia
Long Beach, CA 90802

Phone Number: (562) 256-2315 and (562) 256-2316

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Office is located on the 1st Floor

Small Claims Clerk's Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m - 3:30 p.m.

Small Claims Court Night Hearings Available on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 4:30 pm.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/lb

Inglewood Courthouse
One Regent Street
Inglewood, CA 90301

Phone Number: (310) 419-1396

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/ing

Michael D. Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse
42011 4th Street West
Lancaster, CA 93534

Phone Number: (661) 483-5797

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Office is located on the 1st Floor

Small Claims Clerk's Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m - 3:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/atp

Pasadena Courthouse
300 East Walnut St.
Pasadena, CA 91101

Phone Number: (626) 396- 3397

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Office is located on the 1st Floor in Room 102

Small Claims Clerk's Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m - 3:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/pas

Santa Monica Courthouse
1725 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Phone Number: (310) 255-1963

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Office is located on the 2nd Floor in Room 224

Small Claims Clerk's Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m - 3:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/sm

Stanley Mosk Courthouse (Downtown Los Angeles)
111 North Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Phone Number: (213) 830-0803

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Office is located on the 1st Floor in Room 113

Small Claims Clerk's Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m - 3:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/la

Van Nuys Courthouse East
6230 Sylmar Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91401

Phone Number: (818) 901-4798

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m - 3:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/nw


West Covina Courthouse
1427 West Covina Parkway
West Covina, CA 91790

Phone Number: (626) 430-2596

Clerk's Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk's Office is located on the 1st Floor in Room 107

Small Claims Clerk's Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m - 3:30 p.m.

Website: http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/cit

Access your Small Claims Lawsuit Files Online

Did you know you can view and download filed documents for your Small Claims Court case in LA County online? Documents you, the other party, or the court files, will appear in the online case docket.

The online case docket consists of a list of "events" in the case. Each time you, the other party, or the court files a document, a new event is created. You are able to access the small claims court case docket for free. If you need to download a document filed in the case, the court charges a fee. You can find a list of fees here.

Read More: How to Access Your Los Angeles Small Claims Court Files Online

Translators and Los Angeles County Small Claims Court

Did you know that you can request a free interpreter/translator for your Los Angeles County Small Claims Court case? Whether you are the person who is suing, the person being sued, or need an interpreter for your witness, Los Angeles County Small Claims Courts offer interpreters free of charge. Learn how to request a translator here.

Read More: How to request a free translator in Los Angeles County Small Claims Court

Author

Camila Lopez

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.

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