Maryland Small Claims Court Process

Maryland Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 19, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $5,000
Deadline to File 2 years – Security deposit claims

3 years – Other civil claims

Filing Fees $34 (+ cost of service)
Appeal Deadline 30 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in Maryland

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 Maryland?

A typical small claims case in Maryland 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 Maryland?

In Maryland, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $5,000.

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

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

In Maryland, you have up to 2 years from the last day of the lease term to file a small claims case regarding a security deposit. Other civil casesmust be filed within 3 years.

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

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 Maryland?

In Maryland, Small Claims Court is a division of District Court. Small claims are filed in the District Court for the county where the defendant lives, works, or does business. If the defendant is a corporation, they can also be sued where they have a main office.

To determine the correct District Court, you can use the court map.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Maryland

Step 1: Complete a Complaint form. Attach any relevant documentation you have to support your claim (e.g. lease agreement, photos of the apartment, etc.).

note

Watch the District Court’s video How to File a Small Claim for instructions on completing the Complaint form and filing a case.

Step 2: File the Complaint in person with the court clerk. Bring 4 copies of the Complaint and supporting documentation.

Step 3: Pay the filing fees.

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

In Maryland, the filing fee for a small claims case is $34 plus $60 if you select service by sheriff or constable or $10 for service by certified mail by the court clerk.

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 Request for Waiver of Prepaid Costs with the court clerk. If the request is approved, you will be able to file the case without paying fees upfront. The judge may determine that the defendant must pay the fees.

If you lose the case and are held responsible for filing fees, you can file a Request for Waiver of Open Costs to waive the outstanding fees.

Small Claims Court Process in Maryland

After filing a small claims case in Maryland, the court clerk will issue a Writ of Summons, then the Complaint and Writ of Summons are served on the defendant, and the case is scheduled for a trial.

Step 1: Serve the defendant by certified mail, sheriff/constable, or private process. You will select your preferred method of service when filing your case.

Option 1: Certified Mail – If you selected certified mail, the court clerk will serve the defendant by certified mail and complete a Proof of Service form.

Some courts allow plaintiffs to complete service by certified mail. If you select this option, you must submit a Proof of Service form to the court clerk.

Option 2: Sheriff/Constable – Some courts only offer service by sheriff and some only by constable, so check with your court clerk before you select one of these options. If you selected service by sheriff or constable, they will serve the defendant in person and then submit Proof of Service to the court.

Option 3: Private Process – If you selected private process, the court clerk will provide you with a Writ of Summons and Affidavit of Service form, either at the time the case is filed or by mail.

You will need to hire a private process server or ask an adult that is not related to the case to hand-deliver the Complaint and Writ of Summons. The documents can be hand-delivered directly to the defendant or to anyone over 18 years old and of suitable discretion that lives at the defendant’s residence.

Once the defendant has been served, the court must receive a completed Proof of Service form.

Step 2: Defendant files a Notice of Intention to Defend. After the defendant is served, they have 15 days (or 60 days if they are out-of-state) to file a Notice of Intention to Defend. If the defendant files the Notice, a trial will be scheduled and the court clerk will notify you of the trial date.

If the defendant fails to file a Notice of Intention to Defend, the judge will review your claim and may issue an Affidavit Judgment. You may be first asked to appear in court to present your evidence.

Step 3: Gather witnesses. If you think it would help your case, 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 a Subpoena. Contact the court clerk for a copy of the Subpoena form.

Step 4: 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 Maryland

If you win the judgment in Maryland, 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 Circuit Court within 30 days after the entry of judgment by filing a Notice of Appeal in the District 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 10 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 seizure by filing a Request for Garnishment or Request for Writ of Execution.

You have 12 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate of 10% per year (except the interest on a judgment for unpaid rent is 6%).

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