Colorado Small Claims Court Process

Colorado Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 23, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $7,500
Deadline to File 1 year – Security deposit claim (with triple damages)

3 years – Violation of a lease agreement

6 years – Security deposit claim (without statutory penalty)

Filing Fees $31 or $55
Appeal Deadline 14 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in Colorado

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 or magistrate, 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 Colorado?

A typical small claims case in Colorado takes one 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 Colorado?

In Colorado, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $7,500.

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

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

The time limit for filing a small claims case in Colorado depends on the type of case filed:

  • 1 year: Security deposit claims (with damages)
  • 3 years: Breach of a lease agreement
  • 6 years: Security deposit claims (without damages)

In Colorado, a small claims case for the return of a security deposit can be filed within 6 years. However, to file a claim with damages (up to three times the amount wrongfully withheld), the case must be filed within 1 year.

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

Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney. Colorado Small Claims Court does not permit the use of an attorney, except to represent themselves or their company, unless approved by the court.

If one side is granted the right to use an attorney, both plaintiff and defendant will be able to use an attorney.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in Colorado?

In Colorado, Small Claims Court is a division of County Court. The courthouse may be called Combined Court if it contains other court divisions. Small claims are filed in the County Court where the rental property is located (for security deposit claims) or where the defendant lives, works or has an office.

To determine the correct County Court, you can visit the court directory.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Colorado

Step 1: If the claim is regarding a security deposit, late fee, or rental application fee, you must send the landlord written notice before filing a claim. If the landlord has not corrected the issue within 7 days of receiving the notice, you may proceed with filing a small claims case.

For example, a 7-day written notice is required in the following situations:

  • The landlord failed to return a security deposit
  • The landlord made unreasonable deductions from the security deposit
  • The landlord overcharged for a late fee
  • The landlord charged a late fee, but it was not listed in the lease agreement
  • The landlord violated the Rental Application Fairness Act

Step 2: Complete a Notice, Claim and Summons to Appear for Trial (parts 1-4). Do not attach any exhibits or documents to the form (like the lease agreement). The court will fill in the scheduled court trial date when you file, so leave the box titled ‘Notice and Summons to Appear for Trial’ blank.

Step 3: File the Notice, Claim and Summons in person with the court clerk. Bring all 7 pages with you, although only the first 6 pages should be filled out.

Contact the court clerk before filing to determine how many copies they require.

Step 4: Pay the filing fee.

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

In Colorado, the filing fee for a small claims case is $31 or $55 depending on the claim amount:

  • Up to $500 – $31 
  • $500.01 to $7,500 – $55

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 Fee Waiver with the court clerk.

Small Claims Court Process in Colorado

After filing a small claims case in Colorado, the court clerk will schedule a trial and the Notice, Claim and Summons is served on the defendant.

Step 1: Serve the defendant no later than 15 days before the trial date. Service can be completed by sheriff, private process server, or by certified mail by the court clerk.

Once the defendant has been served, the court must receive a completed Affidavit of Service (see page 7). You can bring it to the court on the day of the trial.

Step 2: Defendant’s Response. The defendant is required to file a response (page 3 of the Notice, Claim and Summons) with the court if they want to appear at the trial to defend their side.

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.

Step 4: Attend the trial. On the trial date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. The judge or magistrate 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 or magistrate will issue you a default judgment.

Winning a Small Claims Judgment in Colorado

If you win the judgment in Colorado, 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 District Court within 14 days after the issuance of the judgment by filing a Notice of Appeal in the County Court where the judgment was issued.

In the best case, the judgment debtor pays their debt promptly after the issuance of a final judgment. If the judgment debtor has not paid within 14 days, you can proceed with a court-enforced collection of the judgment.

If the debtor is delinquent on their payment or refuses to pay, you can recover the debt through bank or wage garnishment through a Writ of Garnishment. You can also seek a property lien by taking a Transcript of Judgment to the recorder’s office in the county where the judgment debtor owns property.

You have 6 years to collect or renew a small claims judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate of 8% per year.