New Jersey Small Claims Court Process

New Jersey Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 6, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $5,000
Deadline to File 6 years – Breach of a lease agreement
Filing Fees $35 – Filing fee

$7 – Service fee

$5 – For each additional defendant

Appeal Deadline 45 days

Small Claims Court Basics in New Jersey

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 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 Jersey?

A typical small claims case in New Jersey takes one to three 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 New Jersey?

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

To attempt to recover more than $5,000, the suit must be filed as a civil case in Special Civil Part.

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

In New Jersey, you have up to 6 years from the date of the dispute to file a small claims case for the breach of a written or oral lease agreement, including a dispute over a security deposit.

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

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 New Jersey?

In New Jersey, Small Claims Court is a division of the Superior Court’s Special Civil Part. Small claims are filed in the county where the rental property is located or where the defendant lives or does business. To determine the correct court, visit the court directory.

How to File a Small Claims Case in New Jersey

Step 1: Complete the Complaint and Summons forms (see pages 8-13).

Step 2: File the Complaint in person, by mail, or electronically.

Option 1: In-Person Filing. File one original of each of the Complaint and Summons forms (keep copies for yourself) at the Office of the Special Civil Part. Bring payment for the filing fee in cash, check, money order, or credit card.

Option 2: Mail-In Filing. Mail the original copies of the Complaint and Summons to the Office of the Special Civil Part along with the filing fee as a check or money order. The court recommends certified mail with a return receipt.

Option 3: Electronic Filing. File your case electronically by using the court’s Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) system. Register for an account, then log in to upload your documents, enter the required information, and pay the filing fee.

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

In New Jersey, the filing fee for a small claims case is $35 for one defendant ($5 for each additional defendant) plus $7 for service on the defendant.

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 Application.

Small Claims Court Process in New Jersey

After filing a small claims case in New Jersey, the court serves the defendant and the case is scheduled for a hearing.

Step 1: Service on the defendant will be completed by the court clerk by certified or registered mail.

Step 2: Notice of Hearing. After the clerk serves the defendant, they will mail a notice with a hearing date to the plaintiff and defendant.

Step 3: Attend the hearing. On the hearing 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 to the judge before they decide to dismiss the case or issue a judgment.

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

Winning a Small Claims Judgment in New Jersey

If you win the judgment in New Jersey, 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 Appellate Division of the Superior Court within 45 days after the issuance of the judgment by filing a Notice of Appeal.

When the judge 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 wage or bank garnishment or seizure of personal property.

You have 20 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate based on the average rate of return of the State of New Jersey Cash Management Fund (0.25% for 2023) unless the court establishes a different rate of interest.