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Guide to Houston Small Claims Court

Claudia Diaz - Texas Small Claims - July 21, 2023

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    Thinking of filing a small claims lawsuit in Houston, Texas, but don’t know how to? It may feel intimidating, but just know that small claims courts were designed to be the “People’s Court.” These courts were designed to be cost-efficient and user-friendly so that individuals could take charge and resolve these disputes on their own. In this article, we explain the small claims process, what you can do before filing a small claims lawsuit, and everything you need to know to help you file a small claims lawsuit. 

    Did you know People Clerk can help you with Houston small claims? Learn more.

    Houston Small Claims Quick Facts

    How much can I sue for in Houston? 

    $20,000 (including attorney’s fees)

    How much does it cost to file a small claims lawsuit? 

    $0-$54 (free if you qualify for a court fee waiver)

    How much does it cost to serve a small claims lawsuit? 

    $0- $125 (free if you qualify for a court fee waiver)

    Can a lawyer represent me? 

    Yes, you can either represent yourself or have a lawyer represent you. 

    How can I attend my hearing? 

    In-person, or virtually in some courts. 

    Is there a deadline by when I have to file my small claims lawsuit? 

    The statute of limitations are deadlines that let you know by when you need to file a small claims lawsuit.

    What are Common Types of Small Claims Lawsuits? 

    There are many reasons why people choose to sue someone in small claims. Some common small claims lawsuits you can find in Houston include:

    • Your landlord in Houston is illegally keeping your security deposit.

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

    • You purchased a product from a company that arrives broken, and the company will not provide a refund.

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

    • You own a small business in Houston, and a customer refuses to pay their outstanding invoices

    • A towing company illegally tows your car in downtown Houston. 

    • You provided plumbing services to a homeowner, but the homeowner refuses to pay you for the service you provided.

    • You hired a mechanic to repair some damages to your car, and they did a bad job.

    Houston Small Claims Court Locations

    Houston is located in Harris County, Texas. If you want to file a Houston small claims lawsuit, you may be able to file it in any of the Harris County locations listed below (some of which are in Houston). To help you determine the appropriate courthouse for your case, consult this map provided by Harris County. You can also contact one of the courts listed below to verify you are filing in the correct court. 

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 1, Place 1

    7300 N Shepherd, Rm 138

    Houston, TX 77091

    Contact Number: 713-274-0695

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 1, Place 2

    1302 Preston, 1st Floor

    Houston, TX 77002

    Contact Number: 713-274-0600

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 2, Place 1

    10851 Scarsdale, Suite 500

    Houston, TX 77089

    Contact Number: 281-481-9630

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 2, Place 2

    101 S. Richey, Suite B

    Pasadena, TX 77506

    Contact Number: 713-274-6100

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 3, Place 1

    14350 Wallisville Road

    Houston, TX 77049

    Contact Number: 713-274-0770

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 3, Place 2

    701 W. Baker Road, Suite 101

    Baytown, TX 77521

    Contact Number: 713-274-0900

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 4, Place 1

    6831 Cypresswood Drive, Suite 4

    Spring, TX 77379

    Contact Number: 713-274-6550

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 4, Place 2

    7900 Will Clayton Parkway

    Humble, TX 77338

    Contact Number: 713-274-2450

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 5, Place 1

    6000 Chimney Rock, Suite 102

    Houston, TX 77081

    Contact Number: 713-661-2276

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 5, Place 2

    16715 Clay Road, Suite 4

    Houston, TX 77084

    Contact Number: 713-274-0840

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 6, Place 1

    333 Lockwood St, 1st Floor 

    Houston, TX 77011

    Contact Number: 713-274-3985

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 6, Place 2

    1001 SSGT Macario Garcia Dr.

    Houston, TX 77011

    Contact Number: 713-274-8774

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 7, Place 1

    5737 Cullen Boulevard

    Houston, TX 77021

    Contact Number: 713-274-1499

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 7, Place 2

    5300 Griggs Road, 2nd Floor

    Houston, TX 77021

    Contact Number: 713-274-0700

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 8, Place 1

    7330 Spencer Highway

    Pasadena, TX 77505

    Contact Number: 281-479-6900

    Justice of the Peace – Precinct 8, Place 2

    16603 Buccaneer Ln, 2nd Floor

    Houston, TX 77062

    Contact Number: 281-488-8780

    How Much Can You Sue for in Small Claims Court?

    In Texas, the small claims limit is set at $20,000, which is the maximum amount you can sue for. 

    It is also important to know that in the Texas Justice Courts, you are allowed to ask for more than just the damages. According to Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 500.3, people suing for small claims matters are also able to recover: 

    • civil penalties

    • personal property, and 

    • other relief allowed by law.

    For example, if your ex-boyfriend took your car and refuses to return it, you can file a small claims lawsuit against them to recover your car

    How Do I Calculate How Much to Sue for?

    Deciding how much you can sue for can be confusing. In general, you should be awarded what you are owed and potentially court costs and attorney fees. Ultimately, it is up to the judge to decide how much should be awarded for damages. 

    Since the judge will decide, it is important to break down and explain how you calculated the amount of money you are asking for. 

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

    • Use receipts to show how much you were charged. For example, if your car was illegally towed, having a receipt from the tow lot can show the judge why you are owed that amount of money back. 

    • Estimates from other companies or professionals can help you figure out how much money it will cost to fix your damages. For example, if your car got towed and, in the process, received damages, an estimate from a car mechanic will show the judge why you are requesting that specific amount. 

    Costs and Fees for Small Claims Court in Houston

    The current small claims filing fee is $54. Confirm the filing fees for your court by calling before you file, as the fee may change.  

    What if you cannot afford to pay your filing fees? 

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

    • Call the court where you are filing your lawsuit and ask for an Affidavit of Inability to Pay Costs or a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs

    Small Claims Court Deadlines in Houston

    The small claims deadlines, also known as the statute of limitations, are important to know. If you don’t file your lawsuit within this deadline, you may be unable to continue pursuing your case in court. Below are some deadlines that are relevant to small claims court. 

    What cases have a two-year statute of limitations?

    • Property Theft 

    • Property Damage

    What cases have a four-year statute of limitations?

    • Fraud

    • Breach of Contract

    Remember, laws are constantly changing and updating, confirm any deadlines by reviewing the appropriate Texas laws. If you have any specific questions about when to file your case, consider consulting with an attorney. 

    Don’t wait until the last minute to file your Houston small claims lawsuit. Why? 

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

    2. 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.

    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 a Houston Small Claims Court?

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

    1. Consider sending a demand letter. 

    2. Decide where to file the lawsuit.

    3. Determine who needs to sue.

    4. Determine who you need to sue.

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

    6. Consider hiring a lawyer. 

    Consider Sending a Demand Letter

    It is often a good idea to send a demand letter before taking your case to small claims court. Although it may not be necessary for all types of cases, some Texas cases do require a demand letter to be sent. Sending a demand letter can help you resolve your dispute without having to go to court. By sending a demand letter, you let the other party know that they have a final opportunity to settle the dispute before you file a lawsuit. This approach can save you time and money in the future. 

    Here are some other reasons to send a demand letter:

    • A demand letter signals to the other party that you are serious about the dispute and willing to take action to resolve the problem. 

    • The judge in your case may ask you at your small claims hearing if you sent the other party a demand letter. By sending a written demand letter, there is a record of your attempt to settle that you can demonstrate to the judge.

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter? Check out our demand letter tool.

    Decide Where to File the Lawsuit

    To file your small claims lawsuit in Houston, it's important to choose the right Justice Court location within Harris County, the county Houston is located in. This means filing in the correct Harris County precinct

    To sue an individual: 

    To sue a business: 

    • You can sue where the event you are suing about happened;

    • You can sue where the corporation, association, or company has an agency or representative; or

    • You can sue where the principal office (headquarters) of the corporation, association, or company is located.

    See Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chptr 15, Subchapter E Sec. 15.002 and 15.094

    If you can’t file your lawsuit in Texas, you may want to review our 50 State Guide to Small Claims to select another state to sue in. 

    Determine Who Needs to Sue

    The person, or business filing the lawsuit is usually referred to as the plaintiff in Texas small claims court. 

    Deciding who needs to be included in the lawsuit shouldn’t be a hard 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. 

    Determine Who You Need to Sue

    The person or business being sued is called the defendant

    Ask yourself, who is responsible for what happened to me or who owes me money?

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

    • Security deposit lawsuits. When dealing with a security deposit case, it's essential to avoid common mistakes like suing the property management company instead of the landlord. To ensure a successful lawsuit, make sure you sue the person or business listed as your landlord on your lease or rental agreement. They are the ones holding your security deposit. If you believe others are also responsible, you can include them in the lawsuit too.

    • Car accident lawsuits. You want to make sure to include the driver of the car that is responsible for hitting your car as well as the registered owner of the car (if it is not the same person). For example, I observed a small claims case where a judge asked the party suing for property damage from a car accident why they hadn’t included the owner of the car (the only defendant was the driver).

    Please note, if you don't sue the people or businesses responsible for your damages, you may need to file your case again with the right individuals or businesses.

    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 ensure 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 an address where they can be notified (“served”) of the lawsuit once it has been filed. For example, this can be the address where the individual lives.  

    • What happens if I don't have an address associated with the person I am suing? 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:

    • Spend the time to figure out the correct business information to list on your Houston small claims lawsuit.

    • You may want to narrow down a 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 its business. The reality is that many businesses are not incorporated (they may not have to be), which means that you are suing an individual and not a business. For example, you paid Ace Mechanics to repair your car.  Ace Mechanics does a terrible job, so you decide to file a small claims lawsuit against them in a Harris Justice Court. You first need to determine whether  Ace Mechanics is a corporation, partnership, LLC, or an individual using the name Ace Mechanics.

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

    • Search for a business's assumed name and legal information on the Texas Secretary of State website. 

    • 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. This is important because you want to be able to collect any money judgments from the correct business. 

    Consider Consulting With an Attorney 

    In Houston, you can choose to represent yourself or have an attorney represent you in small claims court. Small claims courts were specifically established to allow individuals to present their cases without needing to hire an attorney. This is because the nature of small claims cases often makes it impractical and expensive to hire an attorney. For instance, if you are suing for a $1,500 security deposit, a lawyer will likely charge $250 per hour, and it would take them at least 3-5 hours to handle your case, resulting in a cost of $750-$1,250 to hire their services.

    If you would like to consult with an attorney, there are resources that can help make this search simpler:  

    • State Bar of Texas. Using the State Bar of Texas website, you can find a lawyer that can help you with your specific needs. Aside from representation, the State Bar website can provide legal information and other resources you might find helpful.

    • Houston Bar Association. The Houston Bar Association (HBA) can be another great resource to help you in your small claims case, even if you choose to self-represent. Aside from having legal information and support, the HBA handles the Houston Lawyer Referral Service (HLRS). The HLRS provides qualified and pre-screened Houston lawyers that can help you with your small claims case. To contact the HLRS, you can call (713)237-9429, or email for more information at [email protected] 

    Filing a Small Claims Case in Houston

    Generally, there are 4 steps to taking someone to small claims court in Houston:

    1. Prepare the lawsuit.

    2. File the lawsuit.

    3. Serve the lawsuit.

    4. Wait for the other party’s Answer.

    We break down each one of these steps below.

    Did you know People Clerk can help you with Houston small claims? Learn more.

    Step 1: Prepare the Lawsuit

    To prepare your Houston small claims lawsuit, you will need to fill out the correct forms provided by the court. Usually, the forms you need to fill out will consist of a Small Claims Petition form but may also include other forms as each precinct has its own requirements.  

    Step 2: File the Lawsuit

    Most Houston precincts allow you to file your small claims lawsuit through the following methods: 

    • In-person. You can go to the court you wish to file your small claims lawsuit and file the forms with a court clerk in person. 

    • Online. Some Houston precincts allow e-filing or electronic filing.

    • By mail. Some courts will allow you to mail in your forms and payment to the courthouse location. 

    Also, make sure to double-check how the court accepts payments of filing fees. Most Texas small claims courts accept cash, credit cards, or money orders, but they may not take other forms of payment (and methods for payment may vary depending on how you are filing your case).

    Step 3: Serve the Lawsuit

    Once you have filed your small claims lawsuit, the court will generate a citation (an official court paper that states when the hearing will be) that you will have to use to notify the other party that they have been sued. This process of notifying the other party that they have been sued is called serving or service of process

    Who can serve the lawsuit? 

    • Not you. You cannot serve the lawsuit papers yourself. 

    • A process server. A process server is an individual licensed to serve your lawsuit documents. They are experts at serving court documents. 

    • The sheriff or constable. Generally, the court will generate the citation and provide the sheriff or constable in the county with that citation to serve the other party. The fees for this type of service can be found on the courts’ websites. It can get complicated to use the sheriff or constable if you are serving a business or individual that is outside the county you are suing in.  

    Step 4: The Other Party’s Answer

    Once the other party has been served, they will have to file an Answer with the court 14 days after they were served. An Answer is the defendant’s written response, denying or accepting the claims you made in the small claims lawsuit. 

    You will receive a copy of the other party’s answer. Make sure to review it in detail once you receive it. 

    Optional Step: Discovery

    In Texas Justice Court, you are allowed to request documents or information from the other party before your hearing. This is referred to as discovery. See Texas Rules of Civil Procedures Rule 500.9.

    • Discovery helps you prepare for the hearing so that you can prove your case. 

    • More likely than not, you won’t need to request discovery because you will be able to review the other parties' evidence before the judge gets to see it (generally, there are no surprises, as you see in movies). 

    • So, while discovery is an option, it isn’t something most people rely on in small claims. 

    How to Win Your Small Claims Case in Houston

    The key to winning your small claims lawsuit is in your preparation. Some of the things you may want to consider when preparing your case before the hearing are the following:

    • Research the law. If you are not sure or confident about your case, conducting research about the law can help bolster your case and build confidence. If you think your case deals with a complicated matter, or you just want more reassurance, you can always consult an attorney for more information. 

    • Prepare your evidence.  Having all your evidence ready and organized is crucial to winning your small claims lawsuit. Your evidence can include invoices, contracts, receipts, etc. For example, if you own a small art framing business and you provided services to your client, but they refuse to pay their outstanding invoices, make sure to bring said invoices to the hearing. People Clerk can help you organize your evidence into a judge-friendly packet. 

    • Prepare what to say. The hearing will go by quickly. Knowing what you want to say and how it proves your case will make a major impact on the outcome. 

    • Mark the date. It is crucial to get to your hearing on time. You should consider marking the date, time, and location of the hearing on your personal calendar. 

    • Print enough copies of your evidence. You will likely need at least three copies of your evidence (one for you, one for the judge, and one for the other side).

    Make sure to check out our article on 5 Mistakes to Avoid During a Small Claims Hearing.

    Is Small Claims Court My Only Option?

    Besides filing a small claims lawsuit, there are other options for how to handle your dispute. These options include: 

    1. Filing a complaint with a state or other government agency.

    2. Participating in a mediation. 

    File a Consumer Complaint With a Government Agency

    In Texas, there are a couple of government agencies that allow consumers to file complaints against businesses and individuals. Below we have included some of the main government agencies that handle complaints.

    • Texas Attorney General. The Texas Attorney General is the top legal officer in Texas with various divisions. One of the divisions inside the Office of the Texas Attorney General is the Consumer Protection Division. They handle complaints against businesses that are engaging in unfair or unlawful business practices within the state. Learn how to file a consumer complaint with the Texas Attorney General here.

    • Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, known as the TDLR, is a government agency in Texas that gives out licenses and monitors business practices in Texas. For example, you can file a complaint using the TDLR against an electrician, a barber, licensed breeders, etc. Go here for a comprehensive list of programs licensed and regulated by TDLR. To submit a complaint, use the link here

    • Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner. The Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (“OCCC”) regulates the credit industry and educates consumers and creditors in Texas. Some of the businesses regulated by the OCCC are finance companies, pawnshops, payday lenders, and retailers who provide financing for their goods (including motor vehicle and manufactured home dealers). The OCCC also assists consumers with complaints against these businesses if they have experienced fraud, deceptive business practices, misrepresentation, etc. To submit a complaint with the OCCC, call the consumer assistance helpline at 800-538-1579 or submit a complaint online.


    Mediation is available in most Texas Justice Courts as a form of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation is used to help parties come to a mutually agreeable solution or settlement. It provides the parties with the opportunity to communicate with each other while the mediator facilitates the conversation. 

    How does the mediation process work? 

    • The mediator is not there to make a decision on your case. You and the other party can come to a settlement only if you both wish to. 

    • The settlement can be for the same amount of money being claimed and can involve other non-monetary agreements between the parties (like payment plans). 

    • Most Texas counties have Alternative Dispute Resolution centers that offer mediation for Justice Court cases like small claims cases. For example, Harris County has a Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) in Houston. This DRC can help you schedule and facilitate mediations in Houston.

    • You can bring in any evidence you have to the mediation. This is so the mediator can understand your case better, and the other party can see why you brought a case against them and why they owe you money. 

    • If you reach a settlement agreement, you don’t need to go in front of the judge. 

    • If you do not reach a settlement during mediation, don’t worry! You can continue with your court hearing in front of a judge.

    Did you know People Clerk can help you with Houston small claims? Learn more.


    Claudia Diaz

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia holds a J.D. degree and is a 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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