Suing Your Landlord in Small Claims Court
If your landlord doesn't follow the law in Oregon, you may be able to sue them for money in Small Claims Court. Small Claims Court is a special court where:
You can sue for up to $10,000, and
You and the other people in your case cannot bring a lawyer to court with you, unless you get special permission from a judge.
If your case is worth more than $10,000, you will need to take your case to a regular civil court. You will likely need a lawyer to help you with that case.
To start a Small Claims case, follow these steps:
Make a copy of your demand letter.
Mail your letter to your landlord.
Mail the letter by first class mail (not registered or certified mail).
- Get a certificate of mailing from the post office to prove you sent the letter, and
- Keep a copy of the letter. It proves you tried to get the landlord to pay you before starting your small claims case. (This is called a good faith effort.)
Wait at least 10 days for your landlord to pay you.
No matter how much money you are suing for, give your landlord at least 10 days to pay you.
While you're waiting, get information for your case.
You'll need this information to fill out your Small Claims Court forms:
- Landlord or property manager’s name and address;
- Copy of your rental agreement, if possible. If you don’t have this, you can use copies of proof of rent payment, like receipts, cancelled checks, etc;
- Copy of your demand letter (from step 2);
- Amount of money you are asking for;
- Any written documents that support your case; and
- Names and phone numbers of any witnesses you want to go to court to support your case.
File your forms and pay your filing fee.
Turn in your forms with the court clerk at your local court:
- Ask the clerk to make you a copy to serve (give) your landlord.
- The court clerk will keep one copy of your Small Claims papers, and put a case number on it.
You will also need to pay a filing fee or turn in a fee waiver if you can't afford the fee.
Turn in a proof of service form at the court.
The person who serves your landlord must fill out a Certificate of Service. This form tells the court how and when the forms were served.
You or the server must file the certificate of service at the court as soon as possible after the forms are served.
Give your landlord 14 days to respond to your case.
A response is called an answer. Your landlord may or may not file an answer.
- If your landlord doesn't file a response in 14 days: You can fill out papers to ask the court for a default judgment. This means you win your case. Default judgment forms include:
- If your landlord files an answer: Go to the next step.
Prove your case at trial.
At trial, a judge will listen to and review evidence from both sides. If the judge decides your landlord owes you money, they will sign a judgment that tells your landlord to pay you. A judgment is a court document that requires someone to do something. The judgment will be in the court records.
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