New Hampshire Small Claims Court Process

New Hampshire Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: March 22, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $10,000
Deadline to File 3 Years
Filing Fees $90 or $145
Appeal Deadline 30 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in New Hampshire

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 New Hampshire?

A typical small claims case in New Hampshire takes two 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 New Hampshire?

In New Hampshire, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $10,000.

To attempt to recover an amount of more than $10,000, the suit must be filed as a regular civil case in Circuit Court.

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

Most landlord-tenant cases in New Hampshire, including the breach of a lease agreement and a security deposit claim, must be filed within three years.

Are Lawyers Needed or Allowed in Small Claims Court in New Hampshire?

Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney in most situations. However, either party can be represented by an attorney if they so choose.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in New Hampshire?

In New Hampshire, Small Claims Court is part of the District Division of Circuit Court. A small claims case should be filed in the District Division where the plaintiff or defendant lives, except a demand for rent or eviction case should be filed where the rental property is located.

New Hampshire is divided into 10 circuits. Use the court map to determine your circuit, then use the District Division directory to locate the closest courthouse.

How to File a Small Claims Case in New Hampshire

Step 1: Create an online account for the electronic filing system.


Electronic filing is required unless you cannot access the electronic filing system. You can apply to waive the requirement by filing a Request/Motion for Exception so you can file in person. If approved, you can file a Complaint in person with the clerk of the appropriate court.

Step 2: Log in and click Small Claims –Start a New Case. Enter the county and choose the appropriate court.

Step 3: Follow the prompts to enter your information and complete your filing.

Step 4: Pay the filing fee.

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

In New Hampshire, the filing fee for a small claims case is $90 or $145 depending on the claim amount:

  • $5,000 or less – $90
  • Over $5,000 – $145

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 Waive Filing Fees. During the electronic filing process, you will have the option to apply to waive the fees.

Small Claims Court Process in New Hampshire

After filing a small claims case in New Hampshire, the court clerk will schedule a deadline for the defendant to respond, the appropriate documents are served on the defendant, and the defendant files a Response before the case is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing.

Step 1: Service on the defendant. After you file the complaint, the court will schedule a return date and serve the defendant by mail. You will receive a copy of your Complaint by email with the return date. The return date is a deadline for the defendant and is not a trial date.

Step 2: Defendant files a Response. The defendant must file a Response no later than the return date. If the defendant files their Response, the court clerk will schedule a pre-trial hearing.

If the defendant does not file their Response on time, the judge will issue a default judgment.


If your claim is for more than $5,000, you are required to attend a mediation session. The court will provide a date for mediation.

Step 3: Attend the pre-trial hearing. On the pre-trial hearing date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. If your claim is for less than $5,000, the judge will give you the option to attend a mediation session instead of proceeding directly to a formal trial.

Step 4: Attend the trial. If you and the defendant choose not to attend a mediation session, the case will go 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 New Hampshire

If you win the judgment in New Hampshire, 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 disagrees with the outcome of the trial, they have 30 days after the issuance of the judgment to appeal by filing a Notice of Appeal.

When the judge issues the judgment, the debtor will have 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 begin the debt collection process, you should file a Motion for Periodic Payments. (See the filing instructions)

A judgment gains interest at a rate based on the prevailing discount rate on 26-week U.S. Treasury bills (5.8% for 2023). You have 20 years to collect a judgment before it expires.