Guide to Long Island Small Claims Court

Claudia Diaz - New York - October 14, 2022

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On Long Island, there are multiple courthouses that handle small claims. This is because Long Island encompasses Nassau and Suffolk counties. In this article, learn where to file your Long Island small claims lawsuit, how much it will cost, and much more about the Long Island small claims process.

Common Types of Long Island Small Claims Lawsuits

Wondering if you can bring a small claims lawsuit in Long Island small claims court? You can bring a small claims lawsuit if there isn’t a better court to handle your lawsuit. For example, issues with spousal support are handled in Family Courts whereas evictions are handled in Housing Courts.  

Here are common types of small claims lawsuits filed in Long Island small claims court:

  • You are a tenant that moved out of your Floral Park apartment and your landlord has not returned your security deposit.

  • You lent your neighbor money and they won't pay you back.

  • A mechanic damaged your car and refuses to pay for the damages.  

  • You paid a contractor to build an addition to your house in Riverhead but they never showed up.

  • A towing company towed your legally parked car and refuses to return your car and the belongings inside. 

  • You own a small business in Port Jefferson and your customer refuses to pay outstanding invoices. 

  • Someone broke a contract they had with you. 

  • You gave someone a loan and they won’t pay back the loan amount. 

  • You are a landlord and own a rental unit in Garden City and your tenant refuses to pay rent. 

In Long Island small claims, you cannot sue someone in any small claims court to force them to do something or return your property. You can only sue for money. For example, if you hired a landscaper to work on your backyard garden but they never show up, you cannot sue to make them work on your garden. However, you can sue the landscaper for breaking the contract. 

Long Island Small Claims Limits

The small claims “limits” determine how much you can sue for in Long Island small claims courts.

There are three types of courts that handle small claims on Long Island:

  • District Courts

  • City Courts

  • Town and Village Courts 

The most important difference between these courts is the amount you can sue for.

  • In district and city courts, the maximum you can sue for is $5,000.

  • In town and village courts, the maximum amount you can sue for is $3,000

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

There are other courts that handle lawsuits for more than $5,000 on Long Island. Consider filing your lawsuit in another court if you are suing for more than the small claims limit. However, Long Island small claims courts are uniquely designed to be user-friendly and low-cost. 

Also, it is important to note, you 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. 

Long Island Small Claim Court Locations

On Long Island, there are several courthouses that handle small claims court. Below are the courthouse locations and additional information. 

Nassau County Locations

Long Beach City Court 

City Court Of Long Beach

One West Chester Street

Long Beach, New York 11561

Phone Number: (516) 442-8544

Website
Glen Cove City Court 

13 Glen Street

Glen Cove, New York 11542

Phone Number: (516) 403-2441

Fax: 516-403-2457

Website 
Nassau County District Court 

99 Main Street

Hempstead, NY 11550

Phone Number: (516) 493-4200

Website 

Suffolk County Locations 

Suffolk County District Court, 1st District Court, *NIGHT COURT

3105 Veterans Memorial Highway

Ronkonkoma, NY 11779

(631) 208-5775

Website

Suffolk County District Court, 2nd District Court

30 East Hoffman Avenue

Lindenhurst, NY 11757

(631) 208-5775

Website
Suffolk County District Court, 3rd District Court

1850 New York Avenue

Huntington Station, NY 11746

(631) 208-5775

Website
Suffolk County District Court, 4th District Court 

Veterans Memorial Highway

North County Complex Building 158

Hauppauge, NY 11788

(631) 208-5775

Website

Suffolk County District Court, 5th District Court

3105 Veterans Memorial Highway

Ronkonkoma, NY 11779

(631) 208-5775

Website

Suffolk County District Court, 6th District Court

150 West Main Street

Patchogue, NY 11772

(631) 208-5775

Website

On Long Island, there are also dozens of town and village courts that handle small claims; use the New York court’s website to locate a specific town or village court. Remember, the small claims limits in town and village courts is $3,000. While in district and city courts the small claims limit is $5,000. 

How Much Does it Cost to Sue in Long Island Small Claims?

In small claims courts on Long Island, there are different filing fees depending on whether you are an individual filing or if you are a business (corporation or LLC). 

If you are an individual suing in a city court or district court 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 the cost to file may be either $25 or $32 plus postage, depending on what type of courthouse you file in. These types of lawsuits are known as commercial claims.

The cost to file in a Long Island town or village court ranges from $10-$15, review with the specific town or village court you wish to file in. 

If you are low-income and cannot afford to pay filing costs, the state of New York has a waiver, unfortunately, this waiver is called Poor Person Relief. To apply for this waiver call the court clerk in the specific courthouse you are filing your lawsuit in. Application procedures vary as some judges require different proof to decide on your request. 

Is it Worth it to Sue Someone in Long Island Small Claims?

If you are having trouble deciding whether or not to sue someone in small claims courts in Long Island consider looking at the costs v. the benefits. 

Here are some tips to 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? After your small claims court hearing, the judge may give a decision within a couple of days but it could take around 2 months. Time is money, the best outcome after winning in court is having your money judgment in hand. 

  • Time spent. It is not easy to calculate how much time you will spend on the whole small claims lawsuit process 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 the time or the money. It is about making sure others do not get harmed the same way they did. 

Statute of Limitations and Long Island Small Claims 

Is there a deadline to sue someone in Long Island small claims? Yes, this deadline is called the statute of limitations. The deadlines range between 3-6 years and are the same for a small claims lawsuit as for other types of lawsuits in New York. For example, suing someone for property damage and suing someone for money owed have two different statute of limitations. 

We wrote an entire article on the New York Statute of Limitations if you have doubts about when you can sue. 

Here are common statute of limitations questions our clients ask us: 

  • 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 your lawsuit, the judge is the only person who will make a decision if it is too late to pursue your lawsuit. If it is too late, 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 state code for your type of claim, or (3) let the judge decide at the hearing.

Here is why you should not wait to file your Long Island small claims lawsuit. 

  1. If you make a mistake, you may need to refile your lawsuit again and your second lawsuit may miss the statute of limitations.

  2. You will start to lose your evidence the more you wait. 

  3. 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 Long Island Small Claims?

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

  1. Ask the other party to pay you back.  

  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.

Ask the other party to pay you back 

In Long Island, if you are an individual filing a lawsuit, you are not required to ask the other party to pay you back before filing your lawsuit. However, it is recommended you do so anyway as you may settle without having to file a lawsuit. An effective way of asking for your money back is by sending a demand letter. 

Here are at least two good reasons why you should ask for your money back in the form of a demand letter: 

  1. When you send your demand letter you are taken more seriously by the other party than if you were to verbally ask them to pay you back.

  2. You will also be able to include a copy of your demand letter as part of your evidence to show the judge that you gave the other party an opportunity to resolve the dispute before escalating it to small claims court. 

If you are a corporation suing in a Long Island small claims court there are special rules you need to be aware of:

  • You are required to mail a demand letter 10 days before filing. 

  • Include a copy of your demand letter with your complaint form and have a notary certify that you sent the demand letter. 

Figure out in which court to file your Long Island small claims lawsuit 

Unfortunately, filing isn't 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 learn about filing a small claims lawsuit in the different counties on Long Island use our guides below: 

Sometimes when people search Long Island small claims they mean Brooklyn or Queens. Fortunately, we have linked our guides for both of those counties as well!

Determine who needs to sue (the “claimants”)

In Long Island small claims, the claimant is normally the person or business filing the lawsuit. Deciding who to include as a claimant in the lawsuit is not a hard determination. Consider who is owed money. Anyone who is owed money should be included in the lawsuit.

When in doubt, 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 roommates moved out of a rental unit in Glen Cove. When all of you moved in you had to pay a $2,000 security deposit. Now that you and your roommates are moving out your landlord refuses to return the security deposit. Since you and your roommates are being denied your security deposit the judge will want to make sure you are all part of the lawsuit.

  • You were driving your sister’s car and another driver hits you from behind. It will cost $1,000 to fix the car. Your sister should be included in the lawsuit since she is the registered owner.

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

In Long Island small claims, the defendant is the person or business being sued. To figure out who is the defendant simply ask yourself, who is responsible for what happened to me?

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

  • If you are not sure who to include, 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. Do not make the common mistake of suing a property management company and not the landlord in a security deposit dispute. You want to make sure you sue the person or business listed on your lease or rental agreement as they are the ones 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 prepare your Long Island small claims lawsuit, make sure that you have the correct information for the person or business you are suing.

Suing an individual in Long Island small claims:

  • You will need their full legal name and their home, office, or work address.

  • What happens if I don't have the address of the person I am suing? You will need to find this information before suing them. Use Google, Linkedin, or consider having someone run a report called a "Skip Trace" that looks for their information on different databases.

Suing a business in Long Island small claims:

  • Suing a business in small claims court can be complicated. Why? Because people don't spend the time figuring out the correct information to list on their Long Island small claims lawsuit.

  • You need to narrow down a business’s official legal name before suing them in Long Island small claims. The official legal name is the name the business used to incorporate their business. The reality is that many businesses are not incorporated (they don't need to be), which means you are suing an individual and not a business. For example, you paid ABC Plumbers to fix your water pipes. ABC Plumbers never shows up to do the work so you decide to sue them in a Long Island small claims court. You first need to determine whether ABC Plumbers is a corporation, LLC, or an individual using the name ABC Plumbers.

  • 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 Long Island Small Claims Court

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

  1. Prepare the lawsuit

  2. File the lawsuit

  3. Serve the lawsuit

  4. Prepare for the hearing

We break down each one of these steps below.

Preparing your Long Island small claims lawsuit 

Below are all the forms for the various small claims courthouse locations on Long Island. 

Suing in Suffolk County

  • If you are an individual suing in any of the Suffolk County District Courts, you will need to properly fill out the Suffolk County District Court Complaint Form.

  • If you are a business suing in any of the Suffolk County District Courts, you will need to properly fill out the same form as above but make sure to follow the correct commercial claim instructions in the link above

Suing in Nassau County

Filing your small claims lawsuit

All of the Long Island small claims courthouses allow you to submit your claim in person or by mail. 

  • It is good practice to take 2 copies of the form properly filled out but don’t sign them until you are in front of the court clerk. 

  • Make sure to take proper payment, the court accepts cash or money order. Nassau County also accepts credit cards in the courthouse.

How to prepare for your small claims hearing

To prepare for your Long Island small claims court hearing:

  • Research the law. Research the law surrounding your claim to better assist you in presenting your case. At this stage, some of our clients consider consulting with an attorney.

  • Prepare your evidence. Make sure to collect and organize all potential evidence that can be used to support your claim. At the hearing, it will be your responsibility to prove to the judge why and how much the other party owes you. Evidence can include invoices, contracts, receipts, correspondences between you and the other party, etc. For example, if you contracted in writing with a landscaper to landscape your Long Beach home, make sure to include the contract as part of your evidence. 

  • Prepare to present your case in court. At the hearing, 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. Make sure you are ready to answer these questions at the hearing. 

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.

Author

Claudia Diaz

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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