Idaho Small Claims Court Process

Idaho Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: March 17, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $5,000
Deadline to File 2 years – Return of security deposit

4 years – Violation of oral lease

5 years – Violation of written lease

Filing Fees $69
Appeal Deadline 30 days

Small Claims Court Basics in Idaho

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 Idaho?

A typical small claims case in Idaho 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 Idaho?

In Idaho, 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 in District Court.

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

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

  • 2 years: Violation of a statute with a penalty (e.g. return of a security deposit)
  • 4 years: Violation of an oral lease agreement
  • 5 years: Violation of a written lease agreement

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

Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney in most situations. You may hire an attorney to provide you with legal advice and assist with the preparation of documents, but they cannot attend the trial to represent you.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in Idaho?

In Idaho, Small Claims Court is a division of Magistrate Court, which 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 Idaho

Step 1: If the claim is regarding a security deposit, breach of a lease agreement, or the health and safety of the property, you must send the landlord a demand letter before filing a claim. If the landlord has not corrected the issue within 3 days of receiving the notice, you may proceed with filing a small claims case.

For example, a 3-day written notice is required when the landlord:

  • Fails to return a security deposit
  • Fails to weatherproof the residence
  • Fails to maintain the smoke detectors, plumbing, heating, ventilation, electrical, cooking, or sanitary facilities
  • Fails to prevent a hazardous condition
  • Causes harm to the tenant through a breach of the lease agreement

You can use the fillable PDFs provided by the Idaho court system or write your own demand letter in a similar format:

Step 2: Register for an account to file electronically.


Electronic filing is not required unless you are a business. If you choose to file your case in person, bring two copies (+1 copy for each additional defendant) of a completed Claim and Summons to the small claims division of your local District Court.

Step 3: Log in and select ‘Start a Filing,’ then ‘Small Claims – Start Your Case.’

Step 4: Follow the prompts to enter your information and upload any documents you may have to support your claim like the demand letter, lease agreement, and apartment photos.

Step 5: Pay the filing fee.

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

The fee for filing a case in Small Claims Court in Idaho is $69.

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 Motion and Order for a Fee Waiver. (See instructions for filing)

Small Claims Court Process in Idaho

After filing a small claims case in Idaho, 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 Claim in person or electronically, you will need to serve the defendant. The deadline to serve the defendant varies by court but is typically 30 days. Check with the court clerk to determine the deadline for service.

The following documents must be served on the defendant:

  • Claim
  • Summons
  • Answer (blank)

Service on the defendant can be completed by:

  • Certified mail by the court clerk
  • Hand-delivery by someone over 18 not involved in the case
  • Professional process server
  • Sheriff

After the defendant is served, you must file an Affidavit of Service with the court clerk or bring it to the trial.

Step 2: Defendant files an Answer. Within 21 days of receiving the Summons, the defendant must file their Answer with the court. Once the Answer has been filed, the court clerk will issue a trial date.

If the defendant fails to respond to the Summons, you should file an Affidavit for Default to request a default judgment from the judge.

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 Idaho

If you win the judgment in Idaho, 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 a different judge by filing a Notice of Appeal.

You must wait until the 30-day appeal period passes before you can begin a court process to enforce the judgment. 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 wage garnishment or property seizure. To initiate these processes, you would need to file a case through the District Court to seek court-enforced payment of the judgment.

A judgment gains interest at a rate determined once per year by the State Treasurer. You have 10 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires.