Minnesota Small Claims Court Process

Minnesota Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 27, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $15,000
Deadline to File 2 years – Security deposit claims

6 years – Breach of a lease agreement, property damage

Filing Fees Vary by court
Appeal Deadline 21 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in Minnesota

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 Minnesota?

A typical small claims case in Minnesota 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 Minnesota?

In Minnesota, 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 District Court.

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

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

  • 2 years: Violation of law with statutory penalty (e.g. security deposit claims)
  • 6 years: Breach of a lease agreement, property damage, violation of law without statutory penalty

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

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 Minnesota?

In Minnesota, Small Claims Court is called Conciliation Court, which is a division of District Court. Small claims are filed in the Conciliation Court where the defendant lives or has a place of business or where the rental property is located.

To determine the correct Conciliation Court, you can visit the court directory.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Minnesota

Step 1: If the claim is regarding a breach of a lease agreement or certain illegal activities, you must send the landlord written notice before filing a claim. If the landlord has not corrected the issue within 14 days of receiving the notice, you may proceed with filing a small claims case.

If the landlord allows any of the following illegal activities to occur at the property, you are required to send written notice before filing a claim:

  • Use, sale, manufacture, or existence of controlled substances
  • Existence of stolen property
  • Unlawful use or possession of a firearm
  • Prostitution

Step 2: Complete a Statement of Claim using the PDF form or the online questionnaire to generate and download a completed form.

Step 3: File the Statement of Claim electronically, by mail, or in person with the court clerk. If you use the online questionnaire to generate your forms, you will be directed to the electronic filing system after completing the interview.

If you file the case by mail or in person, check with the court clerk to determine how many copies are required. The filing procedures vary by court.

Step 4: Pay the filing fee.

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

In Minnesota, the filing fee for a small claims case varies by court. Use the District Court filing fees database to determine the court fees in your county. After selecting your county from the drop-down list, enter ‘Conciliation’ as the Fee Category. There is an extra $5 fee for filing electronically.

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 Inability to Pay Conciliation Court Filing Fee. If you use the online questionnaire to complete your court forms, you will have the option to complete the fee waiver.

Small Claims Court Process in Minnesota

After filing a small claims case in Minnesota, the Statement of Claim and Summons forms are served on the defendant and the court clerk will schedule a trial.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. If the defendant lives in the county where the case is filed and the claim is for less than $2,500, the court administrator will serve the defendant by first-class mail. Otherwise, you will need to serve the defendant by certified mail or eServe (if the case is filed electronically).

An Affidavit of Service form must be filed with the court within 60 days after the original filing date. If the defendant is served electronically, the record of service on the eFiling System serves as proof of service.

Once proof of service has been filed, the court clerk will schedule a trial date.

Step 2: Gather evidence and witnesses. Gather all physical evidence you may have to support your case and 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 the defendant a subpoena.

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 Minnesota

If you win the judgment in Minnesota, 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 both plaintiff and defendant attend the trial, either party can appeal the decision to the District Court within 21 days after the court administrator delivers the judgment by filing and serving a Demand for Removal/Appeal.

When the judge issues the judgment, they may determine a time period for repayment of up to 12 months. 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 or wage garnishment or a property lien. After receiving a judgment, you must docket the judgment by filing an Affidavit of Identification of Judgment Debtor.

You have 10 years to collect or renew a small claims judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate established by the state court administrator, currently 5% for 2023.