main image

San Bernardino Small Claims Court

Camila Lopez - San Bernardino - July 9, 2024

People Clerk helps you with your small claims court lawsuit.

Get Started


    Have a Small Claims Court Lawsuit in San Bernardino County or thinking of filing one? We have summarized the relevant information you need to know for when you go to the San Bernardino County Small Claims Court.

    In this article, learn about:

    • How to file a small claims lawsuit in San Bernardino County.

    • Common types of small claims lawsuits

    • What to expect during a small claims hearing.

    • 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.  

    Where is the San Bernardino Small Claims Court?

    While there are many courthouses in San Bernardino County, there are only three courthouses that process small claims lawsuits.

    Here are the addresses:

    Barstow District
    235 East Mountain View Street
    Barstow, CA 92311

    *Small Claims matters are filed and heard in the Barstow District for the following areas: Barstow, Calico, unincorporated areas of Yermo, Lenwood, Daggett, Fort Irwin, Hinkley, Trona, Baker, Kelso, Newberry Springs, Randsburg, Rosamond, incidents north of Wild wash Road on I-15 to state line, west of Kelbaker Road on I-40, San Bernardino County portion of Ridgecrest, Victorville, Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Helendale, Lucerne Valley, Oro Grande, Phelan, Pinon Hills, Oak Hills, Snowline, Wrightwood, S.B. County area of Mt. High, Big Bear Lake, Big Bear City, Fawnskin, Erwin Lake, Baldwin Lake, Sugerloaf, Lake Williams, Moonridge, North of Snow Valley on 330, Needles, Havasu Landing, Big River, Essex, Goffs, Earp, Parker Dam, Vidal Junction, everything east of Kelbaker Road and South of Nipton on I-40.

    Fontana District
    17780 Arrow Boulevard
    Fontana, CA 92335

    Areas served:

    Crestmore, Devore, Fontana, Rialto, unincorporated areas of Lytle Creek Canyon and Bloomington, Alta Loma, Chino, Chino Hills, Etiwanda, Guasti, Montclair, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, parts of Pomona, and unincorporated areas of Mt. Baldy, San Bernardino, Colton, Devore, Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, Bryn Mawr, Highland, Yucaipa, Redlands, Green Valley Lake, Skyforest, Crestline, Valley of Enchantment, Twin Peaks, Blue Jay, Lake Arrowhead, Arrowbear, Rim Forest, Running Springs, Cedar Glen, Cedar Pines Park, Crestforest, Lake Gregory, Areas of Lake Silverwood, Snow Valley, unincorporated areas of Angelus Oaks, Barton Flats, Forest Falls and Mentone.

    Joshua Tree District
    6527 White Feather Road
    Joshua Tree, CA 92252

    *Small Claims matters are filed and heard in the Barstow District for the following areas: Big River, Earp, Essex, Goffs, Havasu Landing, Needles, Parker Dam, Vidal Junctions, everything east of Kelbaker Road and south of Nipton to Interstate I-40.

    For more information click here.

    How do I contact the Small Claims Court Clerk?

    Need to contact the San Bernardino Small Claims Court Clerk? Here is how:

    Barstow District

    • (760) 718-3734

    • Phone hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 2:00 pm

    Fontana District

    • (909) 350-9322

    • Phone hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 2:00 pm

    Joshua Tree District

    • (760) 974-3047

    • Phone hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 2:00 pm

    Can I file my Small Claims Case in San Bernardino County?

    You can always sue an individual San Bernardino Small Claims Court if they live in San Bernardino County. You can always sue a company in San Bernardino Small Claims Court if their business is located in San Bernardino County. What can be tricky is figuring out in which San Bernardino Small Claims Court to file the lawsuit. Learn more here.

    You may be able to sue in San Bernardino County small claims in other situations. For example:

    • If you are suing about a car accident that occurred in San Bernardino County.

    • If you are suing about property damage to your house that occurred in San Bernardino County.

    • If you have an issue with your Landlord returning the security deposit and the rented unit was in San Bernardino County then you would be able to sue your landlord in San Bernardino County 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 San Bernardino small claims: Adelanto, Apple Valley, Barstow, Big Bear Lake, Chino, Chino Hills, Colton, Crestline, Fontana, Grand Terrace, Hesperia, Highland, Joshua Tree, Lake Arrowhead, Loma Linda, Lucerne Valley, Montclair, Needles, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, Running Springs, San Bernardino, Twentynine Palms, Upland, Victorville, Wrightwood, Yermo, Yucaipa, and Yucca Valley.

    What types of small claims lawsuits can be filed?

    As long as there isn't another court better suited to file the lawsuit, then the lawsuit can be filed in small claims. The most common types of small claims lawsuits in San Bernardino County Small Claims Court are:

    • Landlord/Tenant disputes over the security deposit.

    • Landlord/Tenant disputes over unpaid rent.

    • Roommate disputes.

    • Disputes over loans.

    • Contracts (written and verbal).

    • Auto accidents.

    • Disputes over auto repairs.

    • Disputes over remodeling or home repairs (disputes with contractors).

    • Damage caused to property.

    • Unpaid bills.

    Learn more: How to sue a company in a San Bernardino County Small Claims Court

    How long do I have to file a small claims case in San Bernardino 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.  

    • Read Common statutes of limitations for San Bernardino Small Claims Court.

    How much can I sue for in San Bernardino County Small Claims?

    This is also known as the "small claims court limits." In San Bernardino County Small Claims you can sue for the following maximum amounts:

    • An individual or sole proprietor can sue for $12,500 or less.

    • A corporation or LLC can sue for $6,250 or less.

    What are the San Bernardino County Small Claims Court Filing Fees?

    The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in San Bernardino 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.

    What are other costs for Small Claims Court?

    In most small claims cases, you can expect to pay:

    If you win, you can request that the losing party pay for your court fees and serving costs.

    San Bernardino Small Claims Court Hearings

    When will the Small Claims Hearing be?

    • Once a case is filed in San Bernardino 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 San Bernardino County. If the defendant resides outside of San Bernardino 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 small claims lawsuit and served the defendant. The next step is to start preparing for your Small Claims Court hearing in San Bernardino.

    • Research the law. If you are unsure about your case conduct your own research about the law 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 to explain their case. The judge will then ask the person being sued for their side of the story.

    • 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 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.

    Learn more: Watch a small claims hearing live! The Small Claims Hearing- San Bernardino

    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.

    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 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 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?

    • Attorneys are not allowed to represent parties at the initial hearing. If the defendant appeals the case, then attorneys are allowed to represent the parties at the appeal hearing.

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


    Camila Lopez

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Camila holds a law degree and is a certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

    Subscribe for Small Claims Tips