Maine Small Claims Court Process

Maine Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: April 3, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $6,000
Deadline to File 6 years
Filing Fees $70
Appeal Deadline 30 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in Maine

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 Maine?

A typical small claims case in Maine takes one to three months, 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 Maine?

In Maine, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $6,000.

To attempt to recover an amount of more than $6,000, the suit must be filed as a regular civil case in District Court.

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

You must file a small claims case in Maine within 6 years.

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

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 Maine?

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

If the defendant is a corporation or partnership, the case can also be filed where its registered agent lives.

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

How to File a Small Claims Case in Maine

Step 1: If you are suing because your landlord failed to return your security deposit or provide an itemized statement of deductions, you must send a demand letter and wait seven days before filing your small claims case.

If the landlord has not returned the security deposit or provided the statement of deductions within seven days, you can proceed with the small claims process.

Step 2: Complete pages 1 and 2 of the Statement of Claim and the top portion of the Acknowledgment of Service. Attach any documents you have to support your claim to the Statement of Claim like the lease agreement or apartment photos.

Step 3: Serve the Statement of Claim and Acknowledgment of Service on the defendant by regular, certified or registered mail, or arrange with the sheriff’s office to have service made by a deputy.

Service by mail: Mail one copy of the Statement of Claim and two copies of the Acknowledgment of Service to the defendant with a self-addressed stamped envelope. If the defendant returns the signed Acknowledgment to you by mail, you can proceed with filing your case.

Service by certified or registered mail: Mail one copy of the Statement of Claim by certified or registered mail, restricted delivery. If you receive the green card in the mail signed by the defendant, you can proceed with filing.

Service by sheriff’s deputy: Bring your original Statement of Claim and one copy to the sheriff’s office in the county where the defendant lives or has a place of business. They will serve the defendant and provide you with page 3 of the Statement of Claim.

Step 4: File the original Statement of Claim by mail or in person at your local District Court. You must file your case no later than 20 days after service on the defendant. Depending on how the defendant was served, you must include one of the following:

  • Acknowledgment of Service
  • Certified or registered mail green card
  • Page 3 of the Statement of Claim

Step 5: Pay the filing fee.

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

The fee for filing a case in Small Claims Court in Maine is $70.

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 to Proceed without Payment of Fees.

Small Claims Court Process in Maine

After filing a small claims case in Maine, the court clerk will schedule a hearing date and notify you and the defendant by mail.

Attend the trial. On the trial date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. The judge may offer or require you and the defendant to attempt a resolution through mediation before proceeding to a formal trial.

If you decline mediation or it is unsuccessful, the case will proceed to trial. 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 Maine

If you win the judgment in Maine, 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 believes the judge made an error in applying the law at the trial, they have 30 days to appeal to Superior Court by filing a Notice of Appeal.

When the judge issues the judgment, the judgment debtor has 30 days to pay. 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. To initiate these processes, you would need to file a Request for a Disclosure Hearing through the District Court to seek court-enforced payment of the judgment.

A judgment gains annual interest at a rate of 6% plus the one-year United States Treasury bill rate (10.73% for judgments entered in 2023). You have 10 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires.