Small Claims Court In Los Angeles

If you’re considering filing a case through small claims court in Los Angeles County, you need to do a bit of homework – and legwork – to get your paperwork in order and prepare to present your case. 

This guide will help you do just that.

When it comes to lawsuits, lawyers and courts, most people are wary (and for good reason).

Attorneys are expensive, especially in Los Angeles, where a car accident or lease dispute lawsuit will often cost more in time and money than the eventual payout.

Squabble helps you File Your Small Claims Case in Minutes

That’s why small claims courts exist. Their quick turnaround times and relatively low filing costs get you what you’re owed without a huge expense of time or money, provided you’re willing to put in the time to learn how to file correctly (more on that in a moment).

 🌟 Did you know? Lawyers are not allowed to attend an initial small claims hearing in Los Angeles County. This is designed to make things more fair and equitable.

Can I File A Case through Small Claims Court In Los Angeles County?

Whether you’re an individual or large firm, a resident of Los Angeles or from out of town, anyone can file a small claims lawsuit.

However, your claim must meet certain conditions in order to stick.

First, the accused in your case must either be a person residing in Los Angeles or a business that has a registered address in the city.

While this is the general rule, there are exceptions that give you the right to sue in a Los Angeles small claims court. For example, you can file for a car accident lawsuit if the incident happens within city limits. Similarly, you can file a claim over a security deposit dispute if the leased premises are located in Los Angeles.

small claims court los angeles | let squabble do your legwork

What Can I Sue For In Small Claims Court?

You can file a case in Los Angeles small claims courts for almost any dispute involving money.

Some of the most common small claims cases you’ll come across are disputes over security deposits, unpaid rent, roommate disputes, loan disputes, contracts, car accidents, repair disputes, property damage, and unpaid bills.

Security Deposits

Disagreements over a landlord unfairly withholding a percentage or all of a tenant’s deposit after a lease ends form a large portion of cases in small claims court. In such matters, the best option is to sue the landlord and have the judge decide on who is telling the truth.

Other common landlord-tenant disputes you’ll see in a small claims court are early lease terminations or property damage that exceeds the amount of the security deposit.  

Roommate disputes

Contrary to popular belief, you can actually sue your roommate.

If your roommate is not paying their share of the bills, rent, and/or damaged your property or the property of your landlord, these are all admissible grounds for a case to be filed in a Los Angeles small claims court.

Loan disputes

Many people loan money to family or friends that they believe to be reliable – who better to trust after all? Unfortunately, this is often the beginning of strained relationships and headaches when collecting the debt doesn’t go as smoothly as expected. Filing a lawsuit with the Los Angeles small claims court is a great solution to get your money back when disagreements arise over the money, or when the friend or family member you loaned the money to won’t hold up their end of your agreement.

A Ford car after an accident. Black car with damage to its front bumper and driver side and other vehicles in the background.

Car accidents

While car accidents involving serious injury or death are usually heard in formal court where payouts are not capped and criminal charges can be added, minor fender benders or accidents are the domain of small claims court. Small claims court is also a path to obtaining a settlement when insurance companies don’t adequately cover the losses involved in the accident.

Just note, these cases are generally tough to win as the onus is on you (the plaintiff) to prove the other driver was at fault while you were following the law. The key to a strong case is a good witness and detailed police report as this can help the judge determine who is at fault.

Property damage

Complaints of intentional and/or negligent property damage are very common in small claims court. These cases are usually simple if you can prove beyond doubt that a person damaged your property. However, be careful and make sure you accurately calculate the cost of the loss or repairs. If you fail to do so or try to inflate the value of damages, your case may be lost.

Breach of Contract

When people enter into an agreement to provide a goods or service for a certain fee, the terms of that agreement (when the work will be completed, when payment is due, etc.) is considered a contract, whether the agreement is formal, decided over email, or agreed upon verbally. Some common examples: 

  • An agreement between a homeowner and contractor (such as to build a fence or deck, complete repairs or improvements, etc.)
  • When a customer agrees to pay over time for a good or service they receive up front (such as installment payments, or when a martial arts client receives equipment and uniforms upfront in exchange for agreeing to pay a monthly for a certain number of months, etc.)

Breach of contract commonly occurs when one party doesn’t uphold their end of the agreement. If the customer doesn’t pay the contractor once the work is completed, or the contractor doesn’t complete the work in the manner the customer expected, the small claims court of Los Angeles will hear these sorts of cases and determine if monetary compensation is owed.

Looking for more tips for filing a small claims suit for a breach of contract? Check out our detailed guide here.

Squabble makes filing your small claims case easy.

Now that you know what types of cases you can file in Los Angeles small claims court, let’s look at the deadlines you’re dealing with. 

How Long Do I Have To File A Case Through Small Claims Court?

People unfamiliar with small claims courts often ask if there are time limits on when to file a case.

In short, deadlines definitely exist.

Each state has a “statute of limitations” that defines how long a plaintiff has until they can file a claims case and Los Angeles is no different. Therefore, make sure you don’t delay a case too long or otherwise you might never get a chance to win.

In California, the state’s legislative information website is a great resource if you want to learn about the different statute of limitations for different cases.

Let’s quickly recap some time limits set by the Los Angeles small claims courts:

Written contract disputes

Lawsuits involving a written contract (lease agreement, proof of deposit, performance of a service, sale of goods) can be filed up to four years from the day the terms of the contract are broken. In the event that the contract was oral, the statute of limitations is two years from the date it was broken.

Close up of a person signing a document. A hand holding a pen above a piece of paper with a signature line.

Property damage

Lawsuits involving vehicular damage or stolen property can be filed up to three years from the day the damage occurred.

Personal injuries

For proceedings involving minor injuries (such as a bite by your neighbor’s aggressive dog, or an injury sustained due to faulty or broken equipment at a place of business you visited), you have two years from the date of injury to file a small claims case. However, if the injury is discovered at a later time, you have one year from the date the injury is identified and linked to the earlier event.

Looking for more tips for filing a small claims suit for a personal injury? Check out our detailed guide here.

Negligence by a healthcare provider

If you feel you’ve been wronged by a healthcare provider, you have three years from the date of the injury to file a case.

For example, if a dentist accidentally damages your teeth during a routine cleaning operation, it may be grounds for compensation at a Los Angeles small claims court.

 🌟 Did you know? Squabble has the statute of limitations for each type of dispute coded into the easiest way to file your small claims case online, so you don’t need to worry about keeping the various limitations straight. We do it for you. Check it out here.

How Much Can I Sue For In A Small Claims Court?

Depending on the state, small claims courts have an upper cap known as “small claims limits” that limits the amount of money you can claim in damages.

In Los Angeles, a person or sole proprietor can sue for $10,000 or less while a corporation can sue for no more than $5,000.

For example, let’s say a car accident leaves you with $11,000 in damages. According to the law in Los Angeles, you can still only sue for $10,000 in a small claims court. In other words, you’ll have to cover the extra $1,000 in damages in exchange for the easier process of filing a small claim versus a formal lawsuit.

🌟 Did you know? You cannot file more than two claims exceeding $2,500 in any court throughout the State of California during a calendar year.

What Are The Filing Fees At A Los Angeles Small Claims Court?

There is no one-size-fits all answer here.

Close up of a person holding and fanning out 100 dollar bills in one hand.

The fees associated with your small claims case largely depends on how much you are suing for, which is broken down into three tiers. For cases seeking damages of $1,500 or less, the filing fee as of this writing is $30. If you are suing for anywhere between $1,500 and $5,000, the price jumps to $50. The highest filing fee you can expect at a Los Angeles small claims court is $75.

The easiest way to determine what it will cost to file your small claims case in Los Angeles is to use Squabble’s free tool to estimate your filing fees:

While fees associated with filing a case at the small claims court are expected, many people are often unaware of serving costs – the fee associated with notifying the defendant that they have been sued. 

If the defendant is a Los Angeles resident, you must properly serve them with notice that you are suing them at least 15 days before trial. Alternatively, if the defendant lives outside the city, you must notify them at least 20 days before trial.

Since many plaintiffs are unaware of this requirement, or how to properly serve, their case never makes it to court. This is why it’s smart to hire someone with experience to handle this process.

Technically, you can get a friend to serve the notice to the defendant but they must be at least 18 and not be involved in the case in any way. Another option is to hire a court clerk to serve on your behalf via certified mail (for a fee of $10-15) but this option is not usually the best since it requires the defendant to sign the document. If they fail to do so or it isn’t legible, the entire case is usually thrown out (ouch!).  

If you’re serious about winning your case, we recommend hiring a process server (for a fee of $60-$125) or an individual who is licensed to serve case documents. These people are experts at and have a high success rate of completing the process.

🌟 Did you know? Squabble ensures your service of process is handled properly and makes it easy to file your small claims case in 10 minutes or less.

If none of these options suit you, sheriffs (depending on the county) can act as servers for $40-60 but not all police departments offer this service.

When Will My Small Claims Hearings Take Place?

Once you file a case through a  small claims court in Los Angeles – provided that your case is accepted by the court – your hearing will take place within 30-70 days.

How Do I Get Ready For A Small Claims Court Hearing?

With all the technicalities of making sure your case is filed and accepted by the court, it’s now time to switch gears and prepare for the upcoming trial. 

You don’t want to arrive to a small claims court in Los Angeles unprepared and have your case thrown out by the judge, so make sure you do each of the following in the lead-up to the hearing.

Research the law

While your case may seem straightforward to you, it doesn’t mean it is a surefire win. To avoid getting caught out on trial day, make sure to research all the relevant laws that can help you win your case.

For example, in a repair dispute, research might reveal how your mechanic failed to follow a step outlined in the guidelines. With such evidence, chances of winning cases increase significantly.

While a Google search can provide you with a wealth of information, if you are suing for a large amount or have a complicated issue you may want to get a professional opinion. Consider consulting an attorney who can tell you what to expect and watch out for.

Squabble brings the legal expertise without the legal fees

Collect your evidence

You can’t win a case without convincing a judge that you’re right. To do that, you’ll need solid evidence, so collect and organize relevant items related to your case (invoices, contracts, receipts). 

Remember to print extra copies of all pieces of evidence as you will need to submit them to both the judge and the defendant.

Figure out what you’re going to say

It’s always a smart idea to prepare a basic structure of what you’ll say in court to present your side of the case as concisely as possible.

Start off by providing the big picture. Here’s an example:

“Your honor, I am suing my former landlord because they failed to return my $1,500 deposit after I moved out.”

Use this as the base to prepare to go into more detail. Put yourself in the judge’s shoes and try to imagine the types of questions he/she may ask so you’re not caught off guard on trial day.

🌟 Did you know? Most small claims cases are heard in 15 minutes or less, so make sure you can summarize your case quickly and concisely.

What Happens On The Day Of The Hearing?

It’s the big day! You’ve been preparing for your small claims case and it’s time to finally go to court. Remember to take a deep breath and not get overwhelmed.

Be on time! 

Make sure to leave home early and give yourself ample time to reach court. Account for driving, traffic or accident delays, parking, and finding out where to go once you arrive). 

If you aren’t in court at your appointed time, your case will be thrown out.

Walking into the courthouse

Arriving at the courthouse, you will need to pass through a security screening like you would at an airport. You’ll pass through metal detection and your bags and belongings will be screened.

🌟 Did you know? Unlike many courthouses in the U.S., Los Angeles County small claims courts allow you to bring in laptops and cellphones.

Locating where your case will be heard

Courthouses are big and hear hundreds of cases per day across many courtrooms. So once you’ve cleared security, search for the room where your case is to be heard. 

To find it, look at the daily schedules posted outside each courtroom door. If you can’t find your case but are certain you’re scheduled for that day, ask for help from a courtroom clerk.

After finding the correct courtroom, you will have to wait where other cases are being heard. Use this time to organize your evidence, calm your nerves, or use the restroom but be sure to be present when your name is called. 

A small claims court in Los Angeles is low on patience and with many others waiting for their turn, they won’t hesitate to drop your case. 

Once it is your turn, the judge and clerk will walk you through what to expect if both parties are present.

What happens in cases where one party fails to show up?

If the defendant does not show up to the hearing, you still have to prove to the judge why you should win.

But if you fail to show up, the judge will automatically close the case.

The hearing

Assuming both parties are present, you’ll enter the hearing phase. The process is relatively quick and straightforward and begins with the judge asking both parties to present their evidence.

Next up, the talking phase. 

Here, the judge will ask you why you are suing and also give the defendant a chance to share their side of the story. The entire back and forth should last about 10 minutes after which both parties will be asked to present their evidence.

🌟 Did you know? Depending on the case, judges can either keep the evidence for reference or return it to the owner.

And just like that, you’re done! 

Don’t expect to get an answer of who won (except on rare occasions) right away. Usually, the decision is mailed by the judge to both parties within a few weeks or sometimes a few months (when the courts are backed up).

Small Claims Mediation

Since small claims courts get busy, they often offer free mediations. 

These are situations in which a third-party organizes a meeting between the plaintiff and defendant to resolve the case without the intervention or presence of a judge. 

Mediations are optional and both sides must agree to it in order to take place. If both sides are willing, the session is held before the case is officially heard. 

If there is a positive outcome, both sides can go home early: a win-win for all!

Are Attorneys Allowed In Small Claims Court?

No lawyers or attorneys are allowed to represent either defendants or plaintiffs at Los Angeles County small claims court hearings of any case.

Picture of a man buttoning up his suite jacket. Man wearing a navy suit jacket, blue tie with ivory stripes, and white shirt.

But if a defendant appeals the verdict or outcome, attorneys are allowed.

How To Access Your Small Claims Case Files Online

With everything online these days, you can easily view and download your case files free of charge. Simply head over to the online case docket which lets you access all files related to your case uploaded by you, the defendant, and/or court.

Interpreters and Translators for Small Claims Court in Los Angeles

If English is not your native language, you can easily request a free translator through the Los Angeles Court Interpreter Request Portal. Select a language from the drop down menu at the top of the page, click the “select your case type” drop down and choose Small Claims. Now click the “Click here” link to complete the correct form to request an interpreter for your case.

🌟 Did you know? You don’t need to put in a special request for a Spanish language interpreter – the Los Angeles small claims courts have them available every day.

Small Claims Court in Los Angeles County

There are numerous courthouses throughout Los Angeles County, but not all of them conduct small claims hearings.  

The easiest way to identify the proper paperwork to file your small claims case in Los Angeles is to use Squabble’s free tool to identify the proper court in which to file your claim and estimate your filing fees.

You can also use the Los Angeles Court Filing Court Locator to search for the courthouse where your case belongs. 

Here are the Los Angeles County courthouses where judges preside over small claims cases:

Bellflower Courthouse

10025 East Flower Street

Bellflower, CA 90706

(562) 345-3396

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Office location: 2nd floor.

Small Claims Clerk’s Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.


Chatsworth Courthouse

9425 Penfield Ave.

Chatsworth, CA 91311

(818) 407-2200

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Office location: 1st Floor, Room 1200

Small Claims hearings are held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8:30 a.m.


Compton Courthouse

200 West Compton Blvd.

Compton, CA 90220

(310) 761-8657

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Office location: 9th Floor, Room 902

Small Claims Clerk’s Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m to 3:30 p.m.


George Deukmejian Courthouse (Long Beach)

275 Magnolia

Long Beach, CA 90802

(562) 256-2315 and (562) 256-2316

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Office location: 1st Floor

Small Claims Clerk’s Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m to 3:30 p.m.

Small Claims Court Night Hearings Available: 3rd Tuesday of the month at 4:30 pm.


Inglewood Courthouse

One Regent Street

Inglewood, CA 90301

(310) 419-1396

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Michael D. Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse

42011 4th Street West

Lancaster, CA 93534

(661) 483-5797

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Office location: 1st Floor

Small Claims Clerk’s Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m to 3:30 p.m.


Pasadena Courthouse

300 East Walnut St.

Pasadena, CA 91101

(626) 396- 3397

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Office location: 1st Floor, Room 102

Small Claims Clerk’s Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m – 3:30 p.m.


Santa Monica Courthouse

1725 Main Street

Santa Monica, CA 90401

(310) 255-1963

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Office location: 2nd Floor, Room 224

Small Claims Clerk’s Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m to 3:30 p.m.


Stanley Mosk Courthouse (Downtown Los Angeles)

111 North Hill Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 830-0803

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Office location: 1st Floor, Room 113

Small Claims Clerk’s Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m to 3:30 p.m.


Van Nuys Courthouse East

6230 Sylmar Ave.

Van Nuys, CA 91401

(818) 901-4798

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m to 3:30 p.m.


West Covina Courthouse

1427 West Covina Parkway

West Covina, CA 91790

(626) 430-2596

Clerk’s Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Small Claims Clerk’s Office location: 1st Floor, Room 107

Small Claims Clerk’s Phone Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m to 3:30 p.m.



Dealing with the court is never a stress-free experience but don’t let that scare you away from filing your case through a small claims court in Los Angeles. 

If you have been wronged, you deserve to be compensated. 

Fortunately, the small claims court system exists to make it possible and Squabble makes the process easy.

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