Heading to Small Claims Court..... for the 1st time. Any advice?

7 Replies

I made the “nice guy” land lording mistake with a tenant.

She now owes me about $3,000….I know, I’m an idiot.

She moved out without me having to evict her.

Can anyone offer any tips on Small claims court?

Should I hire an attorney to handle for me?

For that small of a price, I would not hire an attorney.  My biggest piece of advice is to be prepared for your former tenant to blatantly lie...and just keep your cool through the whole thing.

I agree with Russell (again). Some people might lose their cool on me/us for saying needing a lawyer for this situation is overkill. But whatever, I agree that $3,000 is something you probably can easily prove. Like he said, keep your cool. Have your proof. Be concise in court and don't talk forever. Some of your proof should be the case file numbers for the original case you filed to get the eviction (unless you mean you never filed and she just moved out....i'm assuming you mean you filed eviction but she moved out before it happened.)

Look up how to file/summon someone to small claims court. Do you have her new address? Able to find it somehow?

Do you at least have a security deposit to keep?

Thanks for your replies!

I will definitely keep that in mind, I do get frustrated with systems like this that just don’t seem to operate correctly.I do have all our text messages and a pretty good log of timelined events.So I should be okay.

I do also have the security deposit, so that’s something….

She was my tenant for over 2 years, very nice girl.

Goes to show even the best tenant won’t pay rent when they don’t have money. :(

I only threatened eviction, never filed.  I did issue her a 5 day notice to pay or vacate, she was respectable and just left, she felt bad about things too.

I guess I’ll just go at it then and file.

Have a great day!

There are a number factors one may ask themselves in determining whether or not to have an attorney. Some states do not even allow you to have an attorney in small claims! (That would be mine)

In determining whether to hire an attorney, consider a few factors;

1) How likely is it that the Debtor is going to hire an attorney to represent them?

2) How much evidence do you have regarding the transaction?

3) What kind of defenses does the Debtor have?

Please keep in mind, I highly disagree with the other posters that having a low amount of money makes a lawyer not worth it. Hello, I am a Debt Collection attorney. We typically take these cases contingency, and we can recover our attorneys fees from the Debtor. Typically speaking, my debt collection clients don't pay out of pocket for my services. I would not use the amount in controversy as a bar to seeking legal aid. (Another example of why you should consult an attorney on legal matters)

Disclaimer: For those users in Virginia, the foregoing could be considered legal advertising by the State Bar. Also not, I am not your attorney, and you should seek legal counsel elsewhere.

Consider you time, effort and probability of collecting.  If you win, the collection processes is iffy and seldomly pays back to you.

IMO, write it off as a bad debt deduction and be done with it.  Rentals is not a profit only proposition and if you try to make it so, you will only become more dissatisfied and disgruntled.

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

@Brian Tennies understand your state laws also, if I win in small claims court but tenant has moved out of state, I am not able to collect. Even if you win getting payment is questionable.

 You can typically "domesticate" a judgment in another state under a three seal system. This is how debt collection firms typically reach people out of state. We domesticate the judgment and then proceed to collections. Typically speaking, such costs may or may not be recoverable by the court. In our state, at least, you can recover the costs of domestication in your collections efforts, making it worth it to pursue. Whether you can do this in your particular state is best discussed with a debt collection firm.