Suing in a small claims court can seem daunting if you have never done it before. However, small claims courts were intended to be an affordable, efficient, and quick way for people to resolve their disputes. Thinking of filing a small claims court lawsuit in Nassau County? Read the article below to learn where to file your Nassau County small claims lawsuit, how to prepare for your small claims hearing, and more about the small claims process.
Common Types of Nassau County Small Claims Lawsuits
Wondering if you can bring a small claims lawsuit in Nassau County 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 Nassau County family courts.
Here are common types of small claims lawsuits filed in Nassau County small claims court:
You are a tenant that moved out of your Hempstead apartment and your landlord has not returned your security deposit.
You lent someone money and they won't pay you back.
Someone hit your car and now they won't pay for the damages to your car.
You paid a contractor to do work on your home in Long Beach but they never showed up.
A towing company towed your legally parked car and refuses to return your car and the belongings inside.
Your clients won't pay you for services you rendered.
Someone broke a contract they had with you.
Someone damaged your property and they won't pay to fix or replace the damages.
You gave someone a loan and they won’t pay back the loan amount.
You are a landlord and own a rental unit in Floral Park and your tenant refuses to pay rent.
In Nassau County, you cannot sue someone in any small claims court to force them to do something or return your property. You can only sue for monetary damages. For example, if you hired a contractor and the contractor breaks a contract they had with you, you can sue for the contract price but you cannot sue to make the contractor perform as promised under the contract.
Nassau County Small Claims Limits
The small claims “limits” determine how much you can sue for in Nassau County small claims.
There are three types of small claims courts in Nassau:
Town and Village Courts
The most important difference between these courts is the amount you can sue for.
In Nassau County district and city courts, the maximum you can sue for is $5,000.
In Nassau County 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 Nassau County small claims?
If the other party owes you more than the small claims limit you may want to consider filing your lawsuit in another court. However, Nassau County small claims court is more affordable, efficient, and faster than 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.
Nassau County Small Claim Court Locations
The three court locations listed below handle small claims:
Long Beach City Court
City Court Of Long Beach
One West Chester Street
Long Beach, New York 11561
Phone Number: (516) 442-8544
Glen Cove City Court
13 Glen Street
Glen Cove, New York 11542
Phone Number: (516) 403-2441
Nassau County District Court
99 Main Street
Hempstead, NY 11550
Phone Number: (516) 493-4200
Remember the maximum amount of money you can sue for in a Nassau district or city court is $5,000.
In addition to these three courthouses, there are dozens of town and village courts in Nassau Count that handle small claims. Use the New York court’s website to locate a specific town or village court. Remember, in Nassau town and village courts, the maximum amount you can sue for is $3,000.
How Do I Calculate How Much to Sue For?
Calculating how much to sue for can be a difficult task. Generally speaking, taking someone to small claims isn't meant for you to come out winning more than what you are owed. At the hearing, the judge will want to know how you calculated the amount you are suing for and will ask you to prove your calculations.
Here are some tips for calculating how much to sue for:
Use receipts. For example, if someone scratched the paint off your car door and a mechanic is charging you $1,500 for a new paint job, you can use the mechanic’s invoice at the hearing.
Use estimates. For example, if your tenant caused damage to the floors, you may need an estimate from a contractor estimating how much it will cost to fix the floors.
How Much Does it Cost to Sue in Nassau County Small Claims?
If you are an individual suing another individual or business, suing in one of the city or district courts 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 (corporation or LLC) suing an individual or business, the cost to file may be between $25- $32 depending on the courthouse you file in. These types of small claims lawsuits are known as commercial claims.
The cost to file in a Nassau County town or village court ranges from $10-$15 so check with the specific town or village court you wish to file in.
If you are low-income and cannot afford to pay filing costs, you can apply for a waiver of your court fees. In New York state this waiver is unfortunately named the Poor Person Relief, but don't allow the name to drive you away if it is something that you need.
To file for a Poor Person Relief waiver, you should call the court clerk’s office you are suing in.
Note that different judges require different proof to decide your fee waiver request. So, the court may ask you to submit additional items to prove you do not have the money to pay your court costs.
Is it Worth it to Sue Someone in Nassau County Small Claims?
Our clients usually use a cost v. benefit analysis when deciding if to sue someone in Nassau County small claims court.
Here is how some of our clients measure the cost v. benefit of going to small claims:
Cost. Spending $20 to get back $3,000 is very affordable.
How soon will you find out whether you won? After your small claims court hearing, you can expect to have a decision from the judge within a couple of days but it could take around 2 months.
Time spent. This one is tricky to calculate because our court system is outdated and 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 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 and Nassau Small Claims
Is there a deadline for when you can file a small claims lawsuit in Nassau County? Yes, there are deadlines called the statutes of limitations and can range between 3-6 years. The statute of limitations is the same for a small claims lawsuit than for other types of lawsuits in New York. For example, there will be a different statute of limitations that addresses property damage cases and personal injury cases.
Here are some common questions about the statute of limitations:
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 because it is not the clerk who decides whether the statute of limitations has passed. The judge is the only person who can decide whether the statute of limitations has 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 state code for your type of claim, (3) let the judge decide at the hearing.
It is not recommended that you wait until the last minute to file your Nassau County 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 Nassau County Small Claims?
Here are some steps you can take before you file a small claims suit:
Ask the other party to pay you back.
Decide where to file the lawsuit.
Determine who needs to sue (the "claimants").
Determine who you need to sue (the "defendants").
Make sure to have the information you will need to prepare the small claims lawsuit
Ask the other party to pay you back
If you are an individual filing a lawsuit, you are not required to send a demand letter before filing. You can ask the other party to pay you back over the phone or in writing. When you ask the other party to pay you back in writing, this is called a demand letter.
Here are two reasons why you should send a demand letter:
When you send a demand letter you are taken more seriously by the other party.
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 Nassau County 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 the lawsuit and have a notary certify that you sent a demand letter.
Figure out in which court to file your Nassau County small claims lawsuit
Ultimately, it 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 sue someone in Nassau County city or district courts, the other party must live, work or have an office in Nassau County. So you will likely need to sue in the Nassau County small claims court that is most convenient to the other party. However, if you are suing a landlord, you can sue the landlord where the rented unit is located as long as the small claims lawsuit concerns the rented unit.
Here is the relevant code for Nassau County District Court “...to the party complained against (1) at his residence, if he resides within a district of the court in the county, and his residence is known to the claimant, or (2) at his office or place of regular employment within such a district if he does not reside therein or his residence within such a district is not known to the claimant, or (3) where claimant is or was a tenant or lessee of real property owned by the defendant and the claim relates to such tenancy or lease…” (Uniform District Court Act (UDC) Chapter 565, Article 18).
Here is the relevant code for Nassau City Courts “...the defendant either resides, or has an office for the transaction of business or a regular employment within the county, or where the claimant is or was 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 county.” Uniform City Court Act (UCT) Chapter 497, Article 18.
Here is the relevant code for Nassau County town or village courts, “...defendant either resides, or has an office for the transaction of business or a regular employment within the municipality where the court is located, or where claimant is or was 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 municipality where the court is located.” Uniform Justice Court Act (UJC) Chapter 898, Article 18.
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 Nassau County to be sued in Nassau County.
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 they may close your case and you will have to refile it 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 Nassau County 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 just moved out of a rental unit in Glen Cove. When you both moved in you had to pay a $2,000 deposit. Your landlord refuses to return 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 $1,500 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. Ask yourself, 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 Nassau small claims court, you want to make sure that you have the correct information for the person or business you are suing.
Suing an individual in Nassau County small claims:
You will need their full legal name and their Nassau 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 Nassau County small claims:
We know suing a business in small claims court can be tricky. Why is this the case? Because most people don't spend the time figuring out the correct information to list on their Nassau County small claims lawsuit.
You need to narrow down a business’s official legal name before suing them in Nassau County 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 paid ABC Landscapers to landscape your front lawn in Long Beach. ABC Landscapers never came to landscape your front lawn so you decide to sue them in Nassau County small claims. You first need to determine whether ABC Landscapers is a corporation, LLC, or an individual using the name ABC Landscapers.
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 Nassau County Small Claims Court
Here are the 4 steps to taking someone to small claims court in Nassau County:
Prepare the lawsuit
File the lawsuit
Serve the lawsuit
Prepare for the hearing
We break down each one of these steps below.
Preparing your Nassau County small claims lawsuit
If you are suing an individual in Nassau County District Court, you will need to properly fill out a Small Claims Complaint Form.
In Nassau County, claimants (the person filing) must have a corporation in New York state to file a commercial claim against a business or individual. You will need to fill out a Commercial Claims Complaint Form. For example, you are ABC Corporation, a New York corporation, and you want to sue a business based on a commercial transaction.
If you are suing an individual in Glen Cove City Court, you will need to use the Glen Cove Complaint Form.
If you are suing an individual in Long Beach City Court, you can use the Nassau County District Court Small Claims Complaint Form.
Once you prepare the forms, you will need to file them with the court.
Filing your small claims lawsuit
You can submit the Nassau County small claims forms 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.
In Nassau County, you currently cannot file your case online.
How to serve your Nassau County 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 Nassau County 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. For example, if you are a small business owner suing a client for past due invoices make sure to bring the invoices to the hearing.
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.
People Clerk can help you organize your evidence for your Nassau County 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 Nassau County Small Claims?
Yes. You are allowed to have a lawyer assist you and 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 court on your own.
As a side note, just like you have the choice to hire a lawyer, the other party in your case does as well. 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 Nassau County, the other option you have outside of small claims is mediation.
What is mediation and how does the process work?
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.
Nassau County has a community dispute resolution center that offers mediations for free. For example, the Long Island Dispute Resolution Center operates out of Hempstead, NY.
The mediator's role is to help you and the other party resolve your conflict. If you resolve your conflict, you don’t 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.
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