Michigan Small Claims Court Process

Michigan Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 6, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $6,500
Deadline to File 3 years – Property damage

6 years – Violation of a lease, security deposit disputes

Filing Fees $30 – Claims up to $600

$50 – Claims from $600.01 to $1,750

$70 – Claims over $1,750.01

Appeal Deadline 7 days

Small Claims Court Basics in Michigan

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 a judge or magistrate, 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 Michigan?

A typical small claims case in Michigan takes one to two months, from the date of filing, but can be longer if there are problems serving the defendant, the hearing is continued, or other delays occur.

How Much Can You Sue For in Small Claims Court in Michigan?

In Michigan, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $6,500.

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 Michigan?

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

  • Three years: Damage to the rental unit
  • Six years: Failure to return the security deposit, violation of a lease agreement

If the landlord and tenant disagree on the charges for damages to the rental unit, the landlord must either return the disputed portion of the security deposit or file a court case within 45 days after the tenant vacates. The three-year time limit is for any other claim the landlord intends to make for damages to their property while still complying with the 45-day rule.

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

Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney. Michigan Small Claims Court does not permit the use of an attorney, except to represent themselves.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in Michigan?

In Michigan, small claims are filed in the District Court within the county where the property is located or where the defendant lives or does business. If the claim is regarding a security deposit, the claim must only be filed in the county where the defendant lives or does business.

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

How to File a Small Claims Case in Michigan

Step 1: Complete the Affidavit and Claim form by using the fillable PDF or the online questionnaire to generate and download the completed form.

Step 2: File the Affidavit and Claim in person, by mail, email, or electronically, depending on which filing methods your local court allows. Check with your local court clerk to understand their specific filing procedures.

Step 3: Pay the filing fee.

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

In Michigan, the filing fee for a small claims case ranges from $30 to $70 depending on the claim amount:

  • $600 or less – $30
  • $600.01 to $1,750 – $50
  • $1,750.01 to $6,500 – $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 a Fee Waiver Request.

Small Claims Court Process in Michigan

After filing a small claims case in Michigan, a hearing will be scheduled for no more than 45 days later, and the Affidavit and Claim and Notice to Appear forms are served on the defendant by the court clerk.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. Service on the defendant is completed by the court clerk by personal service or certified mail and by paying a fee.

Check with your court clerk to determine their process for service on the defendant.

Step 2: Attend the hearing. On the hearing date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. Small claims cases in Michigan are heard by a magistrate unless either party requests a hearing by a judge. In some districts, a mediation session is held prior to the hearing to attempt a resolution.

If the case cannot be settled in mediation, or mediation is not required, the judge or magistrate will give you and the defendant an opportunity to provide your arguments to the judge or magistrate before they decide to dismiss the case or issue a judgment.

If the defendant does not attend the hearing, the judge or magistrate will issue you a default judgment.

Winning a Small Claims Judgment in Michigan

If you win the judgment in Michigan, 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 a magistrate hears the case, either party can appeal the decision within seven days after the issuance of the judgment. Neither party can appeal a judgment issued by a judge.

When the judge or magistrate 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, you can recover the debt through bank/wage garnishment or seizure of real/personal property through a Writ of Garnishment or Request to Seize Property.

You have six years to collect or renew a judgment obtained from Small Claims Court before it expires. A judgment collects interest from the date of filing at a rate certified biannually by the State Treasurer.