Oregon Small Claims Court Process

Oregon Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: February 4, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $10,000
Deadline to File 1 Year
Filing Fees Vary by court
Appeal Deadline Circuit Court: N/A

Justice Court: 30 days

Small Claims Court Basics in Oregon

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 Oregon?

A typical small claims case in Oregon 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 Oregon?

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

To attempt to recover a higher amount, the suit must be filed as a civil case in Circuit Court or Justice Court.

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

In Oregon, you have up to 1 year from the date of a landlord-tenant dispute to file a small claims case.

Are Lawyers Needed or Allowed in Small Claims Court in Oregon?

Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney. Oregon Small Claims Court does not permit the use of an attorney unless approved by the judge.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in Oregon?

Oregon Circuit Courts and Justice Courts have small claims divisions. Small claims are filed in the county where the rental property is located or where the defendant lives.

To determine the correct court, you can use the Circuit Court Map or Justice Court Directory (scroll down and click on ‘Municipal & Justice Court Registry’).

How to File a Small Claims Case in Oregon

Step 1: You must make a good faith effort to resolve a dispute before filing a small claim. You can try to settle the matter by phone or in writing. If you cannot contact the landlord or they refuse to negotiate, you can proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Obtain the small claims forms from your local court clerk. Circuit Courts use a standard template, but Justice Courts have their own form for small claim filings.

Circuit Court: All Circuit Courts in Oregon use the Small Claims and Notice of Claim form.

Justice Court: Contact your local Justice Court for their form.

Step 3: Complete the small claim form. Check with your local court clerk to determine if supporting documentation should be attached to the form.

Step 4: File the form in person at your local court.

Step 5: Pay the filing fee.

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

In Oregon, the filing fee for a small claims case varies by court. Contact your local court clerk for filing fees in your area.

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. Circuit Courts use the Application for Deferral or Waiver of Fees form. To request a fee waiver in Justice Court, contact your local court clerk for the appropriate form.

Small Claims Court Process in Oregon

After filing a small claims case in Oregon, the Notice of Claim is served on the defendant and the defendant must respond to the claim before a hearing is scheduled.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. Service on the defendant can be completed by certified mail, sheriff, or process server. The procedure for serving the defendant varies by court, so check with your local court clerk to determine the correct process.

Step 2: Defendant’s response. Once the defendant has been served, they must respond to the claim within 14 days. There are three ways to respond:

  • Pay the amount demanded and end the case
  • Deny the claim and request a hearing
  • File a counterclaim

If the defendant fails to respond to the Notice of Claim, you must file a Motion for Default Judgment to obtain a default judgment. Contact your local court clerk to obtain the correct form.

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 to the judge and the jury (if requested) before they decide 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 Oregon

If you win the judgment in Oregon, 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.

Decisions made in Circuit Court cannot be appealed by either party. If the judgment was issued in Justice Court, either party can appeal the decision to the Circuit Court within 30 days after the issuance of the judgment.

When the judge issues the judgment, they may determine a time period or deadline 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 bank or wage garnishment or property seizure. Circuit Courts and Justice Courts have different procedures for the collection of judgments.

You have 10 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate of 9% per year.