Small Claims is for the recovery of money only. The maximum amount you can sue for is $5000. A “natural person” (not a business or public entity) may claim up to $10,000. You cannot file more than two claims for more than $2500 each during a calendar year. No attorneys are permitted to represent either party. Forms for filing small claims can be obtained at any court location. They are also available electronically at this site. To receive forms by mail send a request with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the court.
You must sue in the right county. If you file your claim in the wrong county, the court will dismiss the claim. Ventura County is the proper place to file if:
The defendant lives or does business in Ventura County.
The property was damaged or the injury occurred in Ventura County.
A contract (written or spoken) was made, signed, performed or broken by the Defendant in Ventura County.
The defendant lived or did business in Ventura County when the contract was broken.
The buyer or lessee signed the contract, now lives or lived in Ventura County when the contract was made, if this claim is about an offer or contract for personal, family, or household goods, services, or loans.
The buyer signed the contract, now lives or lived in Ventura County when the contract was made, if this claim is about a retail installment contract (like a credit card).
The buyer signed the contract, now lives, or lived in Ventura County when the contract was made, or where the vehicle is permanently garaged, if this claim is about a vehicle finance sale.
If your claim occurred in the east end of the county, your case will be set for hearing in the East County Division.
The District Attorney's Small Claims Advisor is located in the Courthouse in Ventura and may be reached by calling (805) 654-5054.
You must be at least 18 years old to file a claim. If you are not yet 18, you may ask the court to appoint a guardian ad litem.
You must be the original owner of the claim.
A person who sues in small claims court must first make a demand when possible. This means you have asked the defendant to pay and the defendant has refused.
The forms to file a small claims case can be located on the court website under Online Forms by selecting the Judicial Council hyperlink. If you do not have access to a computer, you may either come directly to the clerk’s office to fill out the appropriate paperwork or have the paperwork mailed to you by sending in your request along with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Small Claims forms cannot be filed by fax.
If you want to file a small claim and you are a business or corporation that operates or does business under a fictitious name (“doing business as” or “dba”) you must complete Judicial Council form SC-103, Fictitious Business Name form and file it with you claim form. If you do not file this form, the court will dismiss your claim at the time of the hearing.
If the claim you are filing is to enforce the payment of a debt, you must provide a written calculation showing how you calculated the amount owed that must include the original debt amount, each payment credited to the debt, each fee and charge added to the debt, each payment credited against those fees and charges, all other debits or charges to the account and an explanation of the nature of those fees, charges, debits, and all other credits to the debt, by source and amount. This is required by law and your claim cannot be filed without this information.
The defendant must be served with a copy of the claim 15 days prior to the hearing date if they live in county and 20 days prior to the hearing if they live out of county.
The types of service are:
Certified mail. Service by certified mail must be done by the clerk's office. The fee is $15.00 per defendant. You cannot serve the defendant yourself. Certified mail is the least effective form of service and the green return receipt must be signed by the defendant personally or the court will delay your hearing and ask you to attempt another form of service. You will need to check with the court prior to the hearing to see if the receipt for certified mail was returned to the court.
Personal service. Personal service means someone gives the papers directly to the person being sued or to the agent authorized to accept service for a business or public entity. A plaintiff cannot serve the defendant. Anyone over the age of 18, not a party to the action, may serve the defendant. The person serving the claim must sign a proof of service form showing when the defendant was served and this form must be filed with the court 5 days prior to the hearing date. You can have the Sheriff serve the defendant for a fee of $35.00 per defendant or you can hire a registered process service to serve the defendant.
If service is not completed your case will be taken off calendar and you will need to reset the hearing and have the defendant re-served.
If the case is settled after the filing of the claim and before the hearing date, the plaintiff must file Judicial Council form “Request For Dismissal” (CIV-110) with the court. If the claim was satisfied with payment by check, the plaintiff may want to wait until the check has cleared the bank before filing the dismissal.
Mediation at the Court. Free mediation services for litigants in small claims cases is provided by trained volunteer mediators through Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement who are available at the court at the time of your hearing.
- Mediation is Power. In mediation, the parties determine the outcome of the case, rather than having the judge decide for you.
- Save Business Relationships and Friendships. Mediation can help maintain important relationships without going to court.
- Have Both Views of the Dispute Heard. Many cases aren’t just about money. However, in front of a judge, they may be. Mediation gives each party a chance to resolve all issues so they can move on with their lives.
- Save Time. In small claims cases, as soon as a settlement is reached the mediator will take your settlement agreement back to court and your case will be heard more quickly. The judge will review and sign the settlement agreement and the parties are then free to go.
- Nothing to Lose. If an agreement is not reached in mediation, you will still have your opportunity to have your matter heard by the court.
Mediation prior to court. In addition to providing mediation services at the Court, free of charge, the Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement (VCDS) also provides mediation services at its offices where you can resolve your disputes even before filing a court action for low or no fees. Contact Information:
Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement
4001 Mission Oaks Blvd
Camarillo, CA 93012
If you won the case and the court awarded you money and the defendant does not voluntarily pay the judgment, the court will not collect the money or enforce the judgment for you. You must pursue collection of the judgment. This information is provided on the reverse side of the "Notice of Entry of Judgment" which is mailed to all parties after the hearing.
If you do not have information regarding the judgment debtor’s income or property, you may make the debtor come to court to answer questions. This is done by filing an order for examination. The court will charge $60.00 to file the order for examination. This order is required to be served on the judgment debtor and may be served only by a sheriff or a registered process server.
After you find out about the judgment debtor's property or Income, you may ask the court for a writ of execution. The court will charge a fee of $25.00 to issue the writ. A writ of execution is a court paper, which tells a law officer to take property of the judgment debtor to pay your claim. Examples of the kinds of property the officer may be able to take are: wages, bank accounts, automobiles, business property or rental income.
The judgment debtor may own land or a house or other buildings. You may want to record an abstract to place a lien so that you will be paid if property is purchased, sold or refinanced. You can get a lien by recording an Abstract of Judgment with the County Recorder in the county where the property is located. The court will charge a fee of $25.00 to issue the abstract. The Recorder will charge a fee to have the Abstract of Judgment recorded.
If you did not go to the trial and a judgment was entered against you, you may ask the court to vacate the judgment. To make this request, you must file Judicial Council form Notice of Motion to Vacate Judgment within 30 days after the date the Notice of Entry of Judgment was mailed to you. There is a $20.00 filing fee. If your request is denied, you then have 10 days from the date the notice of denial was mailed to file an appeal.
If you lost the case on your own claim and the court did not award you any money, the court's decision on your claim is final. You may not appeal your own claim.
If you are the party that was sued and you lost, you may appeal if you disagree with the court's decision.
If you appeared at the trial, you must begin your appeal by filing a Judicial Council form Notice of Appeal (SC-140) and pay the $75.00 fee within 30 days after the Notice of Entry of Judgment was mailed or handed to you. Your appeal will be in the Superior Court. You will have a new trial and you must present your evidence again. The hearing will include all claims heard in the Small Claims court. You may be represented by an attorney at the appeal.
After full payment of the judgment is made the judgment creditor must immediately file with the court Judicial Council form “Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment” (EJ-100).
If an abstract of judgment has been recorded with the recorder of any county and the judgment is satisfied, the judgment creditor must file an acknowledgment of satisfaction of judgment with the court and serve a notarized acknowledgment of satisfaction on the judgment debtor. Service can be made personally or by mail.
The judgment creditor may be liable for damages if satisfaction of judgment is not filed with the court in a timely manner.
The judgment debtor can choose to pay the judgment to the court instead of paying it directly to the judgment creditor. When this happens, the court will notify the judgment creditor by mail so that the creditor can make arrangements to have a check mailed to them.
Notice to all judgment creditors: If you have won a judgment in small claims court, it is extremely important that you keep the court informed of your current mailing address. If a judgment is paid to the court and the court does not have your current address, the court cannot notify you of the payment to the court and you will not receive payment.
For frequently asked questions about Small Claims, please visit our FAQs page.