North Dakota Small Claims Court Process

North Dakota Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: April 4, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $15,000
Deadline to File 6 Years
Filing Fees $10
Appeal Deadline N/A

Small Claims Court Basics in North Dakota

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 North Dakota?

A typical small claims case in North Dakota takes one to two 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 North Dakota?

In North Dakota, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $15,000.

To attempt to recover an amount of more than $15,000, the suit must be filed as a regular civil case in District Court.

How Long Do You Have to File a Small Claim in North Dakota?

In North Dakota, you must file a small claims case for most landlord-tenant issues within 6 years.

Are Lawyers Needed or Allowed in Small Claims Court in North Dakota?

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 North Dakota?

In North Dakota, Small Claims Court is a division of District Court. A small claims case should be filed in the District Court within the county where the rental property is located or where the defendant lives.

If the defendant is a corporation, LLC, or partnership, the case can also be filed where the defendant has a place of business.

How to File a Small Claims Case in North Dakota

File the following documents in person with your local Clerk of District Court with the filing fee:

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

The fee for filing a case in Small Claims Court in North Dakota is $10.

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.

Small Claims Court Process in North Dakota

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

Step 1: Serve the defendant. After you file the case, you will need to serve the defendant. See page 2 of the Affidavit of Service for instructions.

The following documents must be served on the defendant:

Service on the defendant can be completed by:

  • Certified mail
  • Personal service

Step 2: Submit an Affidavit of Service. Once the defendant has been served, you must submit an Affidavit of Service to the court.

Step 3: Defendant files an Answer or Counterclaim. Once the defendant has been served, they are required to file an Answer or Counterclaim with the court and mail you a copy. If the defendant fails to file their response within 20 days of service, a default judgment may be issued.

Step 4: 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 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 North Dakota

If you win the judgment in North Dakota, you may be paid the judgment within the allotted time period, or you may need to pursue additional actions to recover the debt. Decisions made in North Dakota Small Claims Court cannot be appealed.

After the judge issues the judgment, you must wait at least 30 days before filing a court case to enforce the judgment. 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. The most common methods of enforcing a judgment are bank or wage garnishment or placing a lien on real estate. To initiate these processes, you would need to file a case through the Small Claims Court to seek court-enforced payment of the judgment.

A judgment gains interest at a rate based on the prime rate published in the Wall Street Journal (10% for judgments entered in 2023). You have 20 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires.