Georgia Small Claims Court Process

Georgia Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 5, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $15,000
Deadline to File 4 years – Oral lease agreement

6 years – Written lease agreement

Filing Fee Varies by court
Appeal Deadline 30 days

Small Claims Court Basics in Georgia

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 Georgia?

A typical small claims case in Georgia 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 Georgia?

In Georgia, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $15,000.

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

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

In Georgia, you have up to 6 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 Georgia?

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 Georgia?

In Georgia, Small Claims Court is called Magistrate Court. Every county in Georgia has a Magistrate Court. Small claims are filed in the Magistrate Court where the defendant lives.

You can use the Georgia Courts Directory to obtain contact information for your local Magistrate Court.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Georgia

Step 1: Contact the court clerk to determine what forms need to be filed. For example, some courts require small claims to be filed with a Cover Sheet or Entry of Service form.All small claims in Georgia require a Statement of Claimform.

When you speak with the clerk to obtain the correct form(s), ask about their filing procedures, which differ between courts.

Step 2: File the required forms in person, by mail, or electronically, depending on which filing methods your local court allows. The clerk at your local Magistrate Court can explain their specific filing procedures.

Step 3: Pay the filing fee.

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

The fees for filing a case in Small Claims Court in Georgia are set by each Magistrate Court. Many courts post their filing fees on their website.

As an example, below are the filing fees for a few courts in Georgia.

  • Fulton Magistrate Court – $60
  • Gwinnett Magistrate Court – $56
  • DeKalb Magistrate Court – $54

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 Poverty with the court clerk. Contact your local court clerk to obtain the form used by your county’s Magistrate Court.

Small Claims Court Process in Georgia

After filing a small claims case in Georgia, the Statement of Claim and any other documents required by your local Magistrate Court are served on the defendant, and the defendant is given time to provide an Answer.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. After you have filed the Statement of Claim and any other forms required by your local Magistrate Court, you will need to serve the defendant. The available methods of service on the defendant vary by court, but can typically be completed by sheriff, constable, process server, or leaving a copy at the defendant’s residence.

Step 2: Defendant submits an Answer. Within 30 days of accepting service, the defendant must respond to the claim by submitting an Answer to the court.

If the defendant fails to respond within 30 days, they can still file an Answer by paying a fee, for up to an additional 15 days. If the defendant still hasn’t responded after a total of 45 days after accepting service, the court will issue you a default judgment but may require that you attend a hearing to prove the amount of claimed damages.

If the defendant submits an Answer to your Statement of Claim, the court will schedule the case for a trial between 15 to 30 days after the date the Answer is filed. The court will provide notice of the trial to all parties.

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 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 Georgia

If you win the judgment in Georgia, 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 after the issuance of the judgment to file an appeal 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 placing a lien on personal property.

You have 7 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate equal to the prime rate set by the Federal Reserve at the time the judgment is issued plus 3%, unless a written contract establishes a different rate.