Small Claims In Texas (Harris County Houston)

Legal disputes can be frustrating – at times even infuriating – for a number of reasons. Not only do you have to deal with financial implications of property or money lost and perhaps even physical pain or injury, but then you also have to learn to navigate a complex legal landscape to bring your case to court.  

This guide will help you get started in a matter of minutes.   


Have you ever had a roommate skip out on rent? Or perhaps you received a faulty product, shoddy service, or were the victim of a fender bender that led to damage or injury? 

We’ve all been there. 

Once the initial shock wears off, you want justice without having to deal with the headache (and cost) associated with lawyers and traditional court.

Fortunately, that’s why small claims courts exist.

Squabble helps you File Your Small Claims Case in Minute

Small Claims in Texas Harris County Court – also known as Harris County Justice Court or Harris County Justice of the Peace Court – provides an inexpensive and quick way for people to resolve legal disputes. Think of them as a ‘do-it-yourself’ court. 

Although small claims courts are more informal, there are still rules and procedures you need to be aware of to successfully file and win a case.

Who Can File A Small Claims Case In Texas?

Practically anyone can file a justice court case in Harris County. 

The only requirements you must meet are to be 18 years or older and to file in the correct jurisdiction (the location where the accused lives or has a registered address). 


Note: If you file in the wrong venue, your case might not be accepted or the defendant can have the case moved to the right location which means you’ll have to pay to restart the process. So make sure you file correctly!

Of course, there are some exceptions. 

For example, let’s say you’re owed money by a contractor for a project in which both parties live in different counties. Where should you file this case? If the contractor has a registered address in Harris County, the law allows you to file a case in the county’s justice courts system.

 🌟 Did you know?  In Harris County, small claims cases are filed in the justice court system which is also known as justice of the peace courts.

What Types Of Cases Do Small Claims Court In Texas Accept?

Small claims courts hear civil cases that involve a modest amount of money.

This means that divorce, child support, bankruptcy, or cases involving serious injuries or damages are off the table. 

Here are some cases you’ll often find in small claims court: 

Breach of contract 

It’s hard to go a day in small claims court without seeing disputes in which one party has failed or refuses to pay damages for breaking terms of a written, oral, or implied contract. 

Common cases include violation of employment or rental terms and failure to provide agreed-upon services.

For example, let’s say you’re moving and have a contract with a moving company to transport your belongings. However, on moving day, they fail to show up and leave you having to pay extra to the landlord for not clearing out in time. In this case, you can take the company to small claims court over damages including penalties, extra rent, surcharges paid to another moving company for last-minute service, etc. 

Personal injury

If you’ve been injured due to the negligence or carelessness of someone else, you can seek compensation. For example, let’s say you’re walking in the park when suddenly a dog runs up to you out of nowhere and bites you. Instead of apologizing and offering to take care of any medical bills for stitches, the owner accuses you of inciting their dog to aggression. Taking the dogs owner to small claims in Texas is a faster and likely more viable way to get your doctor’s bills covered than hiring an attorney and trying to take the dog’s owner to traditional court.

When attempting to win a personal injury case in small claims court, you have to be able to prove that someone else was responsible for your injury, also known as causation in legal terms.

🌟 Did you know? Most small claims courts will allow you to bring signed witness statements to court. Make sure they include the witness’ name, their professional experience (if its relevant) and clearly detail how, where, and when the witness saw or heard what happened.

Property damage

Property damage cases are also common in small claims (justice) courts throughout Harris County. 

For example, if your neighbor’s water pipe bursts and floods your basement, you can take them to court to pay for repairs. Just be sure you’re able to provide an exact estimate of damages: if you overinflate the cost of repairs, your case will be thrown out. Make sure to get a detailed estimate from a reputable repair company or contractor before you file your case.

Sometimes, taking someone to small claims in Texas will be the motivation needed for the person at fault to file an insurance claim with their homeowner insurance and get your debt paid.

Squabble makes filing your small claims case fast & easy.

Other common small claims court cases include:

Security Deposits: when you move out of your rental home and your landlord fails to return your deposit, despite leaving the place clean and damage-free, small claims court may be the quickest route to getting your money back.


Roommate Conflicts: If your roomate fails to pay their portion of expenses and you’re unable to collect what your’re owed, small claims in Texas can be an effective path to getting them to reimburse you.

Car Accidents: Even when both parties have insurance, sometimes things that were damaged in a car accident aren’t covered. Transporting a wedding cake when you were rear-ended? Replaced your tires the month before that work truck ahead of you dropped a load of nails in your path? Small claims may be a way to get these accident related costs covered. 

Unpaid Debts: When loaning money to a family member, friend or acquaintance goes awry, small claims can help you collect what you’re owed.

How Much Time Do I Have To File A Small Claims In Texas?

To prevent a backlog of old cases, the courts set a time limit from the time of debt or injury within which you have to file your small claims case. 

Every state in the country has its own set of statute of limitations, or time when you are allowed to bring a case to small claims court.

 🌟 Did you know? Squabble has the statute of limitations for all Harris County dispute types coded right into the app. Wondering how much time you have to file? Check it out here.

In Harris County, you have two years from the day an injury or property damage occurs to file a case and four years for cases involving breach of a written or oral contract. If you don’t file within the deadline, you will lose the right to take someone to court.

However, statutes of limitations are not totally binding and can be extended in certain scenarios.

For example, if the sued party is serving time in prison or living out of state, the statute of limitations may be extended. 

Let’s say a colleague borrows money from you to purchase a new car but fails to pay you back by the date promised in the signed written contract you both agreed to. As you begin to collect evidence and prepare to go to court, your colleague is jailed for one year for an unrelated charge. In this situation, the four-year statute of limitations will be put on hold and only resume once the defendant is released.

🌟 Did you know?  If a child is injured in Harris County, the statute of limitation only starts when he/she turns 18.

What Is The Most I Can Sue For In A Texas Small Claims Court?

Each state sets its own limits for how much you can file for in damages. Fun fact: Texas has the highest limits for small claims cases of any state in the country. 

In Harris County, claims of up to $20,000 are allowed in Justice of the Peace (small claims) Court.

Interestingly, this limit was recently increased to this amount. Prior to September 1, 2020, the maximum limit for small claims in Texas was $10,000. Only two other states, Georgia and Pennsylvania, allow limits above $10,000.

What will it Cost to File Small Claims In Texas?

To begin a small claims in Texas Harris County, the claimant (the party who brings about the lawsuit) must first file a petition. 

This form requires you to fill in information about who you are suing, the reasons for the lawsuit, and how much you are seeking in compensation. You can get a copy of the petition form at the court itself or by going online to the Justice of the Peace Courts website for Harris County.

The total cost for this process is $125 and includes fees relating to services provided by the court before judgment and a service fee. 

The easiest way to determine what it will cost to file your small claims case in Harris County – including court fees and service of process fees – is to use Squabble’s free tool to estimate your filing fees:

Once you’ve paid the fees, a court clerk will issue a citation which must be served to the defendant to formally inform them that there has been a case filed against them. 

You’re not allowed to serve the defendant yourself. You’ll need to get a friend to serve (not as reliable) or hire the services of a court clerk, county police officer, or a local process server to serve the defendant on your behalf. 

Generally, it’s a good idea to hire a private firm, even though there is an added cost, because they guarantee delivery receipt and ensure the defendant signs and responds within 14 days (excluding weekends and public holidays). If the defendant fails to acknowledge receipt of your lawsuit, the case cannot proceed further so its best not to take any chances with this step.

What if you can’t afford the filing and serving charges?

By law, a small claims in Texas court cannot deny you access to justice. 

If you don’t have the means to cover the court fees to file your small claims in Texas, you can submit a statement of inability to afford the payment of court costs form to have the fee waived. Justice courts in Harris County are obligated to provide this form to you if requested. 

Note: Be sure to be truthful when completing this form as you can face legal consequences for lying.

🌟 Did you know? Courts reject 36% of self-filed claims due to form or filing errors. Squabble’s triple-check filing guarantee ensure that your small claims filing forms are completed properly.

When Are Small Claims Cases Heard?

If the defendant responds to your citation within two weeks, the court will decide to move your case either to a pre-trial hearing or trial. 

What is a Small Claims Pretrial Conference?

The benefit of a pre-trial hearing is that it allows you to better prepare for trial and bring up issues such as the need for an interpreter or ask the court to subpoena a witness. 

This discovery phase allows for the exchange of information between the plaintiff, defendant, and court, so make good use of it. 

Collect evidence from the defendant if it helps improve your chances of winning. For example, in a contract dispute case, you can ask the court to have the defendant submit emails they sent internally relating to your account. 

Like you, the defendant can also make discovery requests, so don’t ignore them. Doing so could lead to penalties and/or dismissal of your case. 

The court may also use a pretrial conference to recommend mediation or alternative dispute resolution options which may save you the time and headache of appearing in court to get the money you’re owed.

At the end of the pre-trial conference, the court will assign a court date for the trial (generally within 30-45 days).

🌟 Did you know?  In Harris County, you have the right to demand your case be heard before a jury. Make sure you file a written request with the court as soon as possible, no less than 14 days before your case is set for trial. You will also have to pay a jury fee (currently it’s $22).

How To Prepare For Your Small Claims Court Hearing

We get it — court days can be scary!

You’ve put in the hard work with the paperwork and made sure the defendant responded to your case.  But it’s now time to stand up in front of a judge and prove to him or her why you should win. 


Luckily, small claim court hearings do not last days, weeks, or even years. At most, you’ll have to sacrifice a few hours out of one day. 

Here’s what you should do beforehand to prepare: 

Make sure you understand the law

Start by researching what the law states about your case. Rules and regulations are constantly changing, so don’t assume your knowledge is up-to-date.

Even cases that seem as tough they should be clear cut could be lost if you’ve overlooked a clause in the contract or aren’t up to date on the laws governing tenant relations, for example.

If you’re not confident in your ability to decipher technical jargon, consider hiring a professional to guide you through what to expect. While you shouldn’t need an attorney to appear on your behalf in small claims court, you may find the advice of a legal professional to be helpful if your case relies on detailed or complicated legal paperwork or laws.

Squabble brings legal expertise without legal fees to your small claims filing.

Gather ALL the evidence

It’s hard, if not nearly impossible, to win a case without evidence to back your claims. 

So make sure to collect and organize anything that can help you such as copies of contracts, estimates, receipts, and/or communications between you and the defendant. 

Prepare your speech

You wouldn’t give a presentation without preparing, so the same principle applies here. 

You don’t need to prepare what you’re going to say word for word, but you should definitely have a basic structure in mind. Write out some notes on a piece of paper if it’s likely to help you on trial day.

Remember to make it as easy as possible for the judge to understand the offense and why you brought the lawsuit. Start off with a broad explanation and then get into the specific details.

What Should I Expect On Hearing Day?

When your hearing day finally arrives, you don’t want any surprises. 

You’ve got to be mentally and physically ready. Having first-hand knowledge of what the process looks like can not only calm nerves but make you appear (and feel!) more confident.  

We’ve broken down the hearing day into the following three stages:

Arriving at court

This timeframe includes a range of activities such as getting ready to go to court from home and what to do when you arrive at court. 

The most important rule is BE ON TIME

Small claims in Texas are incredibly busy and if you’re not there when the hearing begins, it’s likely your case will be dismissed. Make sure to leave your home early and factor for everything from traffic, time to find parking, figuring out the courtroom that will hear your case and finding your way to it.

Once you’re made it through security, you can find out which courtroom to go to by looking at the list of cases posted outside each courtroom door. 

If you can’t find your case on the docket, ask for help from staff. 

Arriving early is best. While you wait for your case to get called you can go through your notes, practice what you’ll say, and get mentally prepared. 

The hearing 

The most critical phase of the entire process is the hearing. 

Once the judge completes all the formalities, you’ll be given the floor to make an opening statement where you explain what the case is about. 

This is your time to present your evidence and/or introduce witnesses you’ve brought to support your case. 

After you’ve finished, the same opportunity will be afforded to the defendant who can present his or her evidence and call on witnesses. You can ask request clarification or proof of their statements and ask their witness questions that relate to the case. 

🌟 Did you know? A judge will dismiss your case if you lose your cool. Remember to remain polite and professional even if you disagree or are unhappy with a witness statement.

After this step, both sides are given the opportunity to make a final closing statement. This is your time to succinctly summarize and drive home why you should win. 

Post hearing 

With the trial over, it’s time to wait for the result. 

The judge will likely deliberate (consider the evidence and statements made by both parties) and announce his or her decision in open court with a written judgment made available later.

If you’re not happy with the outcome, you have a few options:

  1. File a motion for a new trial. This motion must be filed within 14 days of the ruling but requires that you prove why justice was not delivered. 
  2. Appeal the judgment. An appeal must be filed within 21 days of the ruling but requires a $500 bond payment.

Even if you win the case, it doesn’t mean you’ll get your money right away. 

The defendant can also appeal or call for a retrial. If they don’t pursue that option, it is still your responsibility to follow up and enforce the civil judgment to collect payment. 

To do this, you have options.

If the defendant doesn’t pay right away you can seek a post-judgment discovery. During this process the defendant is sent a questionnaire to answer about assets that can satisfy the judgment.

Small Claims in Texas Harris County Houston

If the defendant does not comply, you can issue a writ of execution and have a police officer seize their assets so that they can be sold to satisfy the court judgment.

Small Claims In Texas Mediation

Although small claims in Texas are certainly less costly in time and money than traditional court, they can still be a headache of paperwork and chasing people to pay. 

To reduce their workload and save you trouble, small claims courts often offer mediation services in which the plaintiff and defendant can resolve a dispute in the presence of a third party without ever going to trial. 

Remember, this is an option – you’re not obligated to enter this process. Mediation can only take place if both sides agree to it and take place before trial. 

If you come to an agreement during mediation, the demand for payment will be as enforceable as a judge’s ruling.

Are Lawyers Allowed In Texas Justice Court?

In a Harris County Justice of the Peace Court, you are allowed to bring lawyers and attorneys but whether you should or not depends entirely on the specific circumstances of your case.. and your confidence.

Despite being civil cases with limited monetary damages, if big businesses are involved they will inevitably utilize either in-house or hire lawyers to represent their case and protect their brand and image. This can put you at a distinct disadvantage.

If you are considering bringing a case against a large company or corporate entity in Texas, or against a legal professional, it makes sense to bring your own lawyer to level the playing field. 

You can also bring a lawyer if you feel you are unable to speak in court.

However, keep in mind that involving attorneys dramatically increases the cost of your small claims filing.

Squabble offers an affordable middle ground. While you won’t have an attorney by your side in court, you get the legal expertise of the Squabble team’s triple check guarantee to ensure your forms are filed properly, defendant served appropriately, and tips and reminders along the way. 

That’s why 95% of parties who file through Squabble win their case in court.

Squabble ensures your small claims filing is quick and easy.

Accessing Your Small Claims Case Online

If you want to track your case online, you can do so free of charge by going to the Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts website.

Harris County Texas Justice Courts Locations

There are several of Justice Court locations throughout the greater Houston, TX area, each with a presiding Judge serving the 8 precincts. 

Note: The court nearest to you may NOT be the court where your case will be heard.

The easiest way to identify the proper court with which to file your small claims in Texas Harris County is to use Squabble’s free tool to identify your proper jurisdiction AND estimate your filing fees..

You can also use the Harris County Find Your Courthouse map to get information about the Justice Court in your area.

Here are the Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts where judges preside over small claims cases for the greater Houston area:

Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1, Place 1

7300 N. Shepherd, RM 138, Houston, TX 77091

Contact: (713) 274-0695

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1, Place 2

1302 Preston, Houston, TX 77002

Civil Judgment Info: 713-274-0631

Civil Docket Clerk: 713-274-0636

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 2, Place 1

10851 Scarsdale, Suite 500, Houston, TX 77089

Contact: (281) 481-9630

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 2, Place 2

101 S.Richey, Suite B, Pasadena, TX 77506

Contact: (713) 274-6100

Office Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3, Place 1

5300 Griggs Road, 2nd Floor, Houston, TX 77021

Contact: 713-274-0760

Press 4 for small claims

Office Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3, Place 2

701 W. Baker Road, Baytown, TX 77521

Contact: (713) 274-0900

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4, Place 1

6831 Cypresswood Dr, Suite 4, Spring, TX 77379-7700

Contact: 713-274-6550

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4, Place 2

7900 Will Clayton Parkway, Humble, TX 77338

Contact: (713) 274-0800

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Place 1

6800 Chimney Rock, Suite 102, Houston, TX 77081

Contact: (713) 274-8700

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Place 2

16715 Clay Rd, Suite 4, Houston, TX 77084

Contact: (713) 274-0800

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 6, Place 1

333 Lockwood, Houston, TX 77011

Contact: (713) 274-3985

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 6, Place 2

1001 SSGT Macario Garcia, Houston, TX 77011

Contact: (713) 274-8774

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 7, Place 1

5737 Cullen Blvd., Houston, TX 77021

Contact: (713) 274-1499

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 7, Place 2

5300 Griggs Road, 2nd Floor, Houston, TX 77021

Contact: (713) 274-0700

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 8, Place 1

7330 Spencer Hwy., Pasadena, TX 77505

Contact: (281) 479-6900

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 8, Place 2

16603 Buccaneer, Houston, TX 77062

Contact: (281) 488-8780

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday


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