Florida Small Claims Court Process

Florida Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: December 30, 2022 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $8,000
Deadline to File 4 years – Oral lease agreement

5 years – Written lease agreement

Filing Fees $55 – Claims up to $100

$80 – Claims from $100.01 to $500

$175 – Claims from $500.01 to $2,500

$300 – Claims over $2,500.01

Appeal Deadline 30 days

Small Claims Court Basics in Florida

Small Claims Court is an informal court designed for minor cases limited to a maximum claim amount. The plaintiff and defendant present their case to the judge, who makes a decision, unless either party requests a jury trial.

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 Florida?

A typical small claims case in Florida takes two to four 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 Florida?

In Florida, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $8,000.

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 Florida?

In Florida, 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 4 years.

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

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 Florida?

In Florida, small claims are filed in the County Court where the rental property is located or where the defendant lives. To determine the correct County Court, you can visit the court clerk directory.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Florida

File a Statement of Claim in person, by mail, or electronically, depending on which filing methods your local court allows.

County Courts have their own Statement of Claim form and may have other forms you will need to file, so check with your local court to obtain the correct documents. The form will look similar to the one filed in Miami-Dade.

The procedures for filing a small claims case vary depending on the court. As an example of a typical process, in Broward County, a case can be filed by submitting the following documents in person to the court clerk.

  • 2 Statement of Claim forms for each defendant (signed in front of the clerk)
  • 2 Summons/Notices to Appear for Pretrial Conference for each defendant
  • 2 copies of any supporting documents (e.g. contracts, invoices, etc.) for each defendant

You can also file by mail in Broward County. The Statement of Claim must be signed and notarized and you must also include a self-addressed stamped envelope and payment by cashier’s check or money order. Personal checks are not accepted.

The court clerk at your local County Court can explain their specific filing procedures.

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

In Florida, the filing fee for a small claims case ranges from $55 to $300 depending on the claim amount:

  • $100 or less – $55
  • $100.01 to $500 – $80
  • $500.01 to $2,500 – $175
  • $2,500.01 to $8,000 – $300

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 Application for Determination of Indigent Status with the court clerk. If you qualify, you must pay a $25 fee and the court may establish a payment plan for the court fees.

Small Claims Court Process in Florida

After filing a small claims case in Florida, a pretrial conference will be scheduled no more than 50 days later and the Statement of Claim and any other documents required by your local County Court are served on the defendant.

You can download a court-specific Statement of Claim form from some of the County Court websites and review other information about their specific procedures.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. Service on the defendant can be completed by certified mail (if the defendant lives in Florida), sheriff, email (if the defendant has an account through eFiling Florida), or process server.

The procedure for serving the defendant varies by county, so check with your local court to determine the correct process.

Step 2: Pretrial mediation. In Florida, the plaintiff and defendant are required to attend pretrial mediation to attempt a resolution before the case is scheduled for a trial before a judge. If the defendant was properly served but fails to attend the pretrial mediation, the judge will issue you a default judgment.

If you and the defendant are unable to come to a resolution at the pretrial mediation conference, the case will be scheduled for a trial within 60 days.

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 to the judge and the jury, if requested, 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 Florida

If you win the judgment in Florida, 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 the plaintiff or defendant can request a rehearing within 15 days if they believe any information was overlooked at the trial. Alternatively, either party can appeal the decision to the District Court of Appeals within 30 days after the judge signs 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 15 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 or property lien through a Writ of Garnishment or Writ of Execution.

You have 20 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate set quarterly by the Chief Financial Officer.