Missouri Small Claims Court Process

Missouri Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 19, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $5,000
Deadline to File 3 years – Security deposit claim

5 years – Breach of a lease agreement

10 years – Payment of rent

Filing Fees Vary by court
Appeal Deadline 10 days

Small Claims Court Basics in Missouri

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 Missouri?

A typical small claims case in Missouri 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 Missouri?

In Missouri, 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 Circuit Court.

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

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

  • Three years: Violation of a law with a statutory penalty (e.g. failure to return security deposit)
  • Five years: Breach of a lease agreement, Violation of a law without a statutory penalty (e.g. habitability claims)
  • Ten years: Payment of rent

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

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 Missouri?

In Missouri, Small Claims Court is a division of Circuit Court. Small claims are filed in the Circuit Court within the county where the defendant lives or the rental property is located.

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

How to File a Small Claims Case in Missouri

Step 1: Complete a Petition Small Claims Court. Contact your local court clerk before filing to determine if the court requires any other forms with a small claims filing.

Step 2: File the Petition Small Claims Court. Each court will have its own rules for filing a small claims case so you should check with the court before filing. Some require filing in person and some allow filing by mail.

Step 3: Pay the filing fees.

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

In Missouri, the filing fee for a small claims case varies by court. Contact your local court clerk to determine the applicable filing fees.

For example, below are typical filing fees:

  • Kansas City – $27.50 (+$36 for service by sheriff)
  • St. Louis – $80.50 (+$10.04 for service by certified mail or $36 by sheriff)

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 to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.

Small Claims Court Process in Missouri

After filing a small claims case in Missouri, the clerk will schedule a trial and serve a copy of the Petition and Summons on the defendant.

Step 1: Service on the defendant is completed by the court clerk by certified mail or sheriff, depending on the court. The defendant must be served at least 10 days before the trial.

Step 2: Get 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 serving 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 may ask you to explain your case before issuing a default judgment.

Winning a Small Claims Judgment in Missouri

If you win the judgment in Missouri, 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 within 10 days after the issuance of the judgment by filing a Notice of Appeal in the Circuit 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 through a Garnishment Application and Order.

You have 10 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate of 9% per year.