Arkansas Small Claims Court Process

Arkansas Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: March 2, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $5,000
Deadline to File 3 Years – Oral lease agreement

5 Years – Written lease agreement

Filing Fee Usually $65
Appeal Deadline 30 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in Arkansas

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 Arkansas?

A typical small claims case in Arkansas takes one to two 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 Arkansas?

In Arkansas, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $5,000.

To attempt to recover an amount of more than $5,000, the suit must be filed as a civil case in District Court.

How Long Do You Have to File a Small Claim in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, you have up to 5 years from the date of the dispute to file a small claims case if the tenancy was governed by a written lease agreement. If the lease was oral, the case must be filed within 3 years.

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

Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney. Arkansas Small Claims Court does not permit the use of an attorney, paralegal, or any other representative.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, Small Claims Court is a division of District Court. A small claims case should be filed in the District Court in the county where the rental property is located or where the defendant lives.

To find your local District Court, you can use the court directory.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Arkansas

Step 1: Contact the court clerk to obtain a Complaint form. The different courts throughout Arkansas use their own form of Complaint, but they are similar to the Pulaski County District Court Complaint form.

Step 2: File the Complaint in person at your local District Court. The court clerk will provide you with documents to be served on the defendant.

Step 3: Pay the filing fee.

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

The fee for filing a case in Small Claims Court in Arkansas varies by court but is typically $65 plus the cost of service on the defendant.

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

You can still file a case if you cannot afford the fees by filing a Request to Proceed in Forma Pauperis.

Small Claims Court Process in Arkansas

After filing a small claims case in Arkansas, the appropriate documents are served on the defendant and the defendant files an Answer before the case is scheduled for a trial.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. After you file the Complaint in person with the court clerk you will need to serve the defendant.

The following documents must be served on the defendant:

  • Complaint
  • Answer
  • Notice

Service on the defendant can be completed by:

  • Certified or registered mail
  • Registered private process server
  • Sheriff

Step 2: Defendant files an Answer. Within 30 days of receiving the Complaint, the defendant must file an Answer and mail a copy to you. Once an Answer has been filed, the clerk will issue a trial date.

If the defendant does not file their Answer within this time period, the judge will typically issue a default judgment, but you may be required to attend a default judgment hearing.

Step 3: 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 deciding 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 Arkansas

If you win the judgment in Arkansas, 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.

If the defendant disagrees with the outcome of the trial, they have 30 days to appeal to Circuit Court by filing a Notice of Appeal.

When the judge issues the judgment, they will 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, there are multiple court actions available to recover the debt. The most common methods of enforcing a judgment are garnishment of wages, bank garnishment, or property seizure. To initiate these processes, you would need to file a Writ of Garnishment or Writ of Execution in the District Court.

A judgment gains interest at a rate equal to the Federal Reserve primary credit rate on the date the judgment is entered plus 2%. You have 10 years to collect a judgment before it expires.