Ohio Small Claims Court Process

Ohio Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 5, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $6,000
Deadline to File 4 years – Oral lease agreement

6 years – Written lease agreement

Filing Fees Varies by court
Appeal Deadline 30 days

Small Claims Court Basics in Ohio

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 Ohio?

A typical small claims case in Ohio takes three to six weeks, 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 Ohio?

In Ohio, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $6,000.

To attempt to recover an amount of more than $6,000, the suit must be filed as a civil case in Municipal Court.

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

In Ohio, 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 Ohio?

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 Ohio?

In Ohio, every County Court and Municipal Court has a small claims division. A small claims case should be filed in the Municipal Court or County Court where the rental property is located or where the defendant lives or has a place of business.

The Ohio trial courts directory shows all courts located within your county. Contact the court clerk before filing to confirm that you selected the correct court.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Ohio

Step 1: Obtain a Small Claims Complaint from the court clerk and check to see if there are other forms that need to be filed. For example, some courts require small claims to be filed with a cover sheet.

When you speak with the clerk to obtain the correct form(s), ask about their filing procedures, which differ between courts. Although each court has its own Small Claims Complaint form, it will look similar to the forms used in Hamilton County and Cleveland.

Step 2: File the Small Claims Complaint form and any other required forms with the appropriate court. Most courts allow filing in person and by mail and provide filing instructions on their website.

Step 3: Pay the filing fee.

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

The fees for filing a case in Small Claims Court in Ohio are set by each Municipal and County Court. Many courts post their filing fees on their website. You can use the Ohio court directory’s interactive map to find your local court’s website.

As an example, below are the filing fees for a few courts in Ohio.

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 Poverty Affidavit Form.

Small Claims Court Process in Ohio

After filing a small claims case in Ohio, the case is scheduled for a trial and the appropriate documents are served on the defendant.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. After you have filed the complaint, you will need to serve the defendant. The available methods of service on the defendant vary by court, but can typically be completed by certified mail or bailiff.

Step 2: Gather evidence and witnesses. Gather all physical evidence you may have to support your case and 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. Check with the court to determine their process and fees for the 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 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 Ohio

If you win the judgment in Ohio, 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 to file an appeal by filing a Notice of Appeal in the court that issued the judgment.

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, 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 placing a lien on real estate.

A judgment gains interest at a rate established by the Ohio Tax Commissioner (5% annually for judgments entered in 2023). You have 5 years to collect a judgment before it becomes dormant. However, a Motion to Revive Dormant Judgment can be filed within 10 years of the issuance of the judgment.