Guide To: How to Bring a Suit in Small Claims Court

Intro

This is a corollary to my previous blog post

  • Guide To:  Landlord/Tenant Security Deposit Dispute.

The scope of this blog relates to bringing suits over security deposits with your previous landlord in small claims courts; however many of these steps can be followed for any suit in small claims court.

Where Can I File My Suit?

Tenants can bring suit in the county which the defendant (landlord), at the time of filing, either

  • Resides
  • Is regularly employed
  • Has an office for the transaction of business, or
  • Is a student at an institution of higher education

Tenants can also bring suit in the county where the subject real property is located (i.e. the county where your rental unit is).

 

Steps to Filing Your Claim

Step 1 – Complete the JDF 250 (Notice, Claims, and Summons to Appear for Trial)

Form JDF 250 can be found here

The form requires you to identify the names and addresses of the parties. In this case

  • Plaintiff = tenant (you)
  • Defendant = landlord

If the defendant is a business, then you must go to the Colorado Secretary of State’s website to determine who is the registered agent to complete service of process.

 

Example: Boulder Property Management Corp.

 

Step 1: Put the business’s name into the first search box, then search

 

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Step 2: Click on the appropriate # ID Numbe

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In this case the correct ID Number is #4. To ensure that this is the particular business you are interested in, select the link with:

  • The correct Name of the business
  • The Event listed as “Articles of Incorporation”
  • The Status is listed as “Good Standing”

 

Step 3: Locate their registered agent

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In this case, the registered agent is Jared E Minor

**If your landlord is a government agent, there are few more pitfalls. This is outside the scope of this blog. However the details can be found in §24-10-109 of the Colorado Revised Statutes

 

Step 2 – File Your Form with the Court

Locate your preferred court that has jurisdiction over this case (see above). Provide the court with your completed JDF 50 and pay the fee. The court will provide you with a court date or instruct you in mediation measures.

 

Step 3 – Serve your Landlord

The landlord must receive notice of the lawsuit. This service must be completed 15 days before the trial date or the trial may be reschedule or dismissed.

There are two options to complete service of process

 

  1. Personal Service

This is the preferred method by the courts. YOU CANNOT SERVE YOUR LANDLORD YOURSELF. Personal service of process can be accomplished in one of three ways:

  • Sherriff’s Department
  • Private Process Server
  • A friend whom is 18 years old or older and not a party to the case.

The process server must be provided with one copy, for each defendant, of the following:

  • The Notice, Claim, and Summons to Appear for Trial
    • Listed as “Defendants Copy” on the JDF 50
  • Affidavit of Service
    • Again, located on the JDF 50

The process server will return the completed Affidavit of Service portion to you. This should be brought to the court at the time of the hearing or filed ahead of time.

 

  1. Certified Mail

You can ask the court to conduct the service of process for you. The courts do not like to do this and it is not preferred. There is a small fee involved and it could delay your case.

**Service of process fees are usually granted to winning party at trial!

 

Preparing for the Court Trial

Small claims courts are informal and without a jury, so forget what you learned in Law and Order. However there are some parallels to what you might have seen on TV.

Gathering Relevant Documents

You must know your state security deposit rules. Don’t worry, they are not that complicated. However it is embarrassing to be dismissed by a judge because you were unaware of the relevant local and state laws. Bringing a copy of these laws is never a bad idea. This webpage provides a nice starting point, along with the Consumer Tips link located at the top of the blog.

You should also bring:

  • A signed copy of the lease or rental agreement and any other supporting documents your landlord provided for you at signing.
  • Receipts or cancelled checks for your security deposit
  • Any cleanings fees you paid to your landlord if applicable
  • Move-in/Move-out photos and videos if applicable
  • Witnesses (See Below)
  • Anything else you deem relevant

Witnesses

It is sometimes beneficial to have one or two witnesses who are familiar with your rental property and can testify on your behalf. The court will accept written statement from witnesses in most cases. Preferably these should be voluntary witnesses. However, if you deem it necessary, you can issue a subpoena to involuntarily bring a witness to court, this can be accomplished through a JDF 79 Form. Link with the Form and instructions on how to file is below

 

You’re Day in Court

These tips may be obvious, however they are important enough to include.

COME EARLY.

  • Judges and magistrates do not like to be kept waiting.
  • Also any courtroom can be an intimidating place. Some judges and magistrates will allow you to observe other trials. This may be a good practice to alleviate some of those fears.

BE PREPARED

  • Make copies, organize, and label all of your exhibits.
    • Exhibits are any documents, photographs, videos, etc. that you will produce as evidence at trial

 

Outcome

If you have a successful outcome, the court will determine the amount of damages owed. You are responsible for collecting this money, not the court. Additional collection information is located below:

 

 

I hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your day in court!

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