Alabama Small Claims Court Process

Alabama Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 31, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $6,000
Deadline to File 6 Years
Filing Fees Vary by court
Appeal Deadline 14 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in Alabama

Small Claims Court is an informal court designed for minor cases limited to a maximum claim amount. The trial does not involve a jury. Instead, the plaintiff and defendant present their case to the judge, who makes a decision.

Common suits filed by landlords include:

  • Recovery of unpaid rent
  • Damages that exceed the amount of the security deposit
  • Failure to uphold the responsibilities of the rental agreement
  • Early termination of a lease

Common suits filed by tenants include:

  • Failure to return the security deposit correctly
  • Failure to uphold the responsibilities of the rental agreement
  • Overcharging for damages

How Long Does the Small Claims Court Process Take in Alabama?

A typical small claims case in Alabama takes two to three months, from the date of filing, but can be longer if there are problems serving the defendant, the trial is continued, or other delays occur.

How Much Can You Sue For in Small Claims Court in Alabama?

In Alabama, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $6,000.

To attempt to recover a higher amount, the suit must be filed as a civil case in District Court.

How Long Do You Have to File a Small Claims Case in Alabama?

The time limit for filing a small claims case in Alabama is 6 years for most landlord-tenant disputes.

Are Lawyers Needed or Allowed in Small Claims Court in Alabama?

Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney. However, either party can be represented by an attorney if they so choose.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in Alabama?

In Alabama, Small Claims Court is a division of District Court. Small claims are filed in the District Court in the county where the defendant lives or where the rental property is located. If the defendant is a corporation, the case can also be filed in the county where the corporation’s main office is located.

To determine the correct District Court, you can use the court map.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Alabama

Step 1: Complete a Statement of Claim form.

Step 2: File the Statement of Claim in person with the court clerk. Check with the court clerk to determine how many copies are required. The filing procedures vary by court.

Step 3: Pay the filing fee.

How Much Does it Cost to File a Case in Small Claims Court in Alabama?

In Alabama, the filing fee for a small claims case varies by court. Check with your local court clerk for filing fees in your county.

What if You Can’t Afford to File a Case?

You can still file a case if you cannot afford the fees by filing an Affidavit of Substantial Hardship.

Small Claims Court Process in Alabama

After filing a small claims case in Alabama, the Statement of Claim and Summons forms are served on the defendant, and the defendant files an Answer before a trial is scheduled.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. After you have filed the small claim, you will need to serve the defendant. The methods of service vary by court. Defendants are typically served by certified mail, sheriff, constable, or process server. Some courts handle service on the defendant with a fee.

Step 2: Defendant’s Answer. Once the defendant has been served, they must file an Answer within 14 days. Once the defendant files their Answer, the court will schedule a trial. If the defendant fails to respond, the judge may issue a default judgment.

Step 3: Gather evidence and witnesses. Gather all physical evidence you may have to support your case and ensure that any witnesses are available to attend the trial. For example, you may ask the apartment manager to serve as a witness to how clean you left the apartment after moving out.

You may need to subpoena a witness if you are unable to get them to attend voluntarily by filing and serving the defendant a subpoena. Check with your court clerk to obtain their subpoena form.

Step 4: Attend the trial. On the trial date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. The judge will give you and the defendant an opportunity to provide your arguments before they decide to dismiss the case or issue a judgment.

If the defendant does not attend the trial, the judge will issue you a default judgment.

Winning a Small Claims Judgment in Alabama

If you win the judgment in Alabama, the other party may appeal the case, you may be paid the judgment within the allotted time period, or you may need to pursue additional actions to recover the debt.

Either party can appeal the decision to the Circuit Court within 14 days after the issuance of the judgment by filing a Notice of Appeal.

When the judge issues the judgment, they may determine a time period for repayment. In the best case, the judgment debtor pays their debt within this period.

If the debtor is delinquent on their payment or refuses to pay, you can recover the debt through wage garnishment or a property seizure by obtaining a Writ of Execution.

You have 10 years to collect a judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate of 7.5% per year.