New Mexico Small Claims Court Process

New Mexico Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: March 10, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $10,000
Deadline to File 4 Years: Oral lease agreement

6 Years: Written lease agreement

Filing Fees $77
Appeal Deadline 15 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in New Mexico

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 unless either party requests a jury trial.

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 Mexico?

A typical small claims case in New Mexico 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 Mexico?

In New Mexico, 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 in District Court.

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

In New Mexico, you have up to 6 years from the date of the dispute to file a small claims case if the tenancy was governed by a written lease agreement. If the lease was oral, the case must be filed within 4 years.

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

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 Mexico?

In Albuquerque and throughout Bernalillo County, Small Claims Court is a division of Metropolitan Court. In all other counties in New Mexico, Small Claims Court is a division of Magistrate Court. Small claims are filed in the county where the rental property is located or where the defendant or plaintiff lives.

If you are filing outside of Bernalillo County, visit the Magistrate Court directory to find your local court.

How to File a Small Claims Case in New Mexico

File a Civil Complaint in person (or electronically if supported by the court) using the Magistrate Court Civil Complaint form or the Bernalillo Metropolitan Court Complaint by Resident for Return of Deposit form.


Available filing methods vary by court. Check with the court clerk to determine what filing methods they allow or require.

In Bernalillo Metropolitan Court, the Complaint by Resident for Return of Deposit form is only used by tenants seeking the return of their security deposit. The Civil Complaint form is used for general complaints.

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

The fee for filing a case in Small Claims Court in New Mexico is $77.

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 Application for Free Process. Contact your local court clerk for the application form.

Small Claims Court Process in New Mexico

After filing a small claims case in New Mexico, the appropriate documents are served on the defendant and the defendant files an Answer before the case is scheduled for a trial.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. After you file the Complaint, you will need to serve the defendant.

The following documents must be served on the defendant:

  • Complaint
  • Summons
  • Answer

Service on the defendant can be completed by:

  • Any person over 18 not related to the case
  • Private process server
  • County sheriff
  • Mail

If service is to an individual, the person handling service can leave the documents on the individual’s front door, deliver them to the individual personally, or hand-deliver them to any person living at the individual’s residence who is 15 years of age or older.

If service is to a corporation, the documents can be delivered to the registered agent, officer, manager, or any other person in charge of the business entity.

Once the defendant has been served, you will need to submit the certificate of service form provided by the court clerk.

Step 2: Defendant files an Answer. Within 20 days of receiving the Summons, the defendant must file their Answer by mailing or hand-delivering a copy to the appropriate court. Once the Answer has been filed, the clerk of the court will issue a trial date.

If the defendant does not file their Answer, you can file a Motion for Default Judgment.

Step 3: Gather 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 filing and serving a Subpoena.

Step 4: Attend the trial. On the trial date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. The judge (and jury, if requested) 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 Mexico

If you win the judgment in New Mexico, 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 15 days to appeal to District Court by filing a Notice of Appeal.

When the judgment is filed, you can begin the collection process immediately. In the best case, the judgment debtor pays their debt shortly after the trial.

If the debtor is delinquent on their payment or refuses to pay, there are multiple court actions available to recover the debt. The most common methods of enforcing a judgment are garnishment of wages, bank garnishment, or property seizure. To initiate these processes, you would need to file a case where the judgment was issued to seek court-enforced repayment of the judgment.

A judgment typically gains interest at a rate of 8.75% annually. If the judgment was based on an act of bad faith, the judgment gains interest at a rate of 15% annually.   You have 14 years to collect a judgment before it expires.