West Virginia Small Claims Court Process

West Virginia Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: March 21, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $10,000
Deadline to File 5 years – Oral lease agreement

10 years – Written lease agreement

Filing Fees $50 to $70
Appeal Deadline 20 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in West Virginia

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 West Virginia?

A typical small claims case in West Virginia 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 West Virginia?

In West Virginia, 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 Circuit Court.

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

In West Virginia, you have up to 10 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 5 years.

Are Lawyers Needed or Allowed in Small Claims Court in West Virginia?

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 West Virginia?

In West Virginia, Small Claims Court is called Magistrate Court. Every county in West Virginia has at least two Magistrate Courts. A small claims case should be filed in any Magistrate Court in the county where the rental property is located.

You can use the court map to find your local Magistrate Court.

How to File a Small Claims Case in West Virginia

File a Civil Complaint in person at your local Magistrate Court. Contact your local court clerk before filing to determine how many copies they require.

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

In West Virginia, the filing fee for a small claims case ranges from $50 to $70 depending on the claim amount:

  • $500 or less – $50
  • $500.01 to $1,000 – $55
  • $1,000.01 to $2,000 – $60
  • $2,000.01 to $10,000 – $70

There is an additional fee for the cost of 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 Financial Affidavit and Application. (See Guidelines for Eligibility)

Small Claims Court Process in West Virginia

After filing a small claims case in West Virginia, 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:

  • Certified mail by the court clerk
  • Private process server
  • Sheriff

Step 2: Defendant files an Answer. Within 20 days after receiving the Summons (or 30 days in some situations), the defendant must file their Answer with the court. Once the Answer has been filed, the clerk of the court will issue a trial date.

Check with the court clerk to determine the defendant’s deadline to respond to the Complaint and Summons.

If the defendant does not respond in time, you can file an Affidavit to request a default judgment.

Step 3: Attend the trial. On the trial date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. The judge (or 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 West Virginia

If you win the judgment in West Virginia, 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 20 days after the issuance of the judgment to appeal to Circuit Court by filing a Petition for Appeal.

You must wait until the 20-day appeal period passes before you can begin a court process 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 garnishment of wages, bank garnishment, or placing a lien on real estate. To initiate these processes, you would need to file a case through the Magistrate Court to seek court-enforced payment of the judgment.

A judgment gains interest at a rate based on the Fifth Federal Reserve District discount rate (7% for 2023). You have 10 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires.