California Small Claims Court Filing Fees
Updated: Jun 5
How much does it cost to file a small claims court case? On average, you will spend around $30- $75 in court fees for your small claims court case. If you win your case, you can request that the defendant reimburse you for your court fees. 💰
Small Claims Court in General
In California, small claims court was set up as a quick and efficient forum to resolve disputes.
Small Claims Court Limits. An individual or sole proprietor can sue for $10,000 or less and a corporation or LLC can sue for $5,000 or less.
Types of Cases that can be filed in Small Claims. 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 California 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, and unpaid bills.
How long does the process take? Most small claims cases take 2-3 months from start to finish. The typical small claims court case takes three steps: (1) File the Lawsuit, (2) Serve the lawsuit, and (3) Attend the Hearing.
What is a small claims court hearing like? Small claims hearings are meant to be quick and informal. They last around 15 minutes and each party gets to tell the judge their side of the story and present evidence.
Fee To File a Case
To file a small claims court lawsuit in California you must prepare Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court (SC-100). The amount you will pay to file the lawsuit depends on how much you claim the Defendant owes you.
If you are owed $1,500 or less, then your filing fee is $30.
If you are owed more than $1,500 but less than or equal to $5,000, then your filing fee is $50.
If you are owed more than $5,000 but less than or equal to $10,000, then your filing fee is $75.
If you have filed 12+ cases in California Small Claims Court in the previous 12 months, then it doesn't matter how much you are owed and your filing fee is $100.
Fee to Serve the Defendant Using the Court Clerk
Once you file your small claims court case, you need to serve the defendant. There are many ways to serve the lawsuit. One way is to ask the Court Clerk to serve the complaint.
Costs: Around $10-$15 (costs differ depending on the county).
The court clerk notifies the defendant of the lawsuit by mailing the documents using certified mail. Only the Court Clerk can serve using certified mail.
The defendant must sign the certified mail receipt clearly (if no signature or illegible signature, then service is invalid). We do not recommend this option as it is only successful 50% of the time (and according to some sources it is only successful 5% of the time) 🛑.
We recommend you serve the defendant using a process server, the sheriff or a friend instead of using the court clerk.
Fee to Change the Hearing Date
Once you file your small claims court case, the court clerk will give you a hearing date. If you can no longer attend the hearing on that date, you can file a request to change the hearing date.
If the Defendant has been served, the fee is $10.
If the Defendant has not been served, there is no fee.
For other court fees, see here.