Filing a Small Claims Case in Iowa

Small claims in Iowa are a basic court procedure for settling civil disputes involving minor sums of money. The small claims in Iowa procedure allow certain kinds of claims to be settled informally through the County Court, usually without the need for lawyers or barristers.

What kinds of cases are heard in small claims court in Iowa?

A small claims action is a civil lawsuit to obtain a judgment of money where the amount of damages is less than $6,500. A lawsuit to forcibly enter and detainer that arises out of the dispute between landlord and tenant is possible through a court for small claims in Iowa. In small claims court, the case is heard by an individual judge rather than juries.

How do I start a small claims case in Iowa? 

To start with a small claims action go through the steps for self-represented litigants who file small claims actions. Then, you will electronically submit the correct Small Claims Notice form. Notice document and also pay the $95 filing cost. The official forms used for Iowa small claims in Iowa are free on this site. There may be an additional cost to have the petition delivered to your opponent. After you’ve filed the original notice and paid filing costs along with other charges and fees, you’ve initiated your case. You have to file electronically unless you receive consent from the court for filing on paper. The official forms for filing for Iowa small claims court cases are free to download.

What is the process for defending a small claims case? 

If you’ve received an Original Notice that names you as a defendant in a small claims action You should read the steps for a defendant who is responding to a small-claims action. The next step is to complete an Appearance and Response form. There is no charge to file an answer. If you don’t respond in time, you could be at risk of the court entering a default judgment against you, granting the plaintiff what they demanded in the Original Notice as well as the Petition. If you believe that you have an interest in the person who is suing you, you could make an unresolved counterclaim.

What is the process after the case is filed?

If the opposing party has submitted an answer within the timeframe The clerk will then assign an instance on the calendar of the court to be heard. Judges are the ones who hear most small claims cases, but any judge can be able to hear small claims cases in Iowa. Hearings for Small Claims Filing are easy and informal. Take the time to read the rules to represent yourself prior to the hearing. In the event that your hearing gets not contested and the magistrate is unable to resolve the issue, he will record the hearing. Hearings are not recorded by a court reporter certified unless the party is able to provide the reporter at its own cost.

File Small Claims Court Iowa

What if the other party does not appear at the hearing? 

Unless good reason to the contrary is demonstrated:

  • If both parties fail to show up at the time of the hearing claims will be considered dismissed with no prejudice. The plaintiff could be eligible to file a new claim after the payment of a further filing fee of $95.
  • If the plaintiff is unable to make an appearance, and the defendant does appear the claim will be dismissed without prejudice. This means that the plaintiff cannot refile the same claim.
  • If the plaintiff shows up however the defendant does not appear, the court will make an order of default on the defendant.

If the defendant does not appear, and the court’s clerk finds that the proper notice was provided that the clerk of court can enter a default judgment against the defendant if the plaintiff’s damages are easily recognized. In the event, that plaintiff’s losses cannot be evidently identified the judge is the only person who can make a default judgment against any claim of the plaintiff.

Can I set aside a default judgment?

A defendant can ask the court to overturn the default judgment for just cause, which could include an error, mistake, or surprise, excusable negligence, or an unavoidable loss. A motion to annul a default judgment has to be filed within a short time after discovery of the reasons and not longer than sixty days following when the judgment is entered.

Can I appeal a small claims case in Iowa

If you’re unhappy with a small claims decision you can appeal the decision. In order to appeal, you must:

  • You can either inform the judge following the conclusion of your hearing you wish to appeal or submit an appeals notice within twenty days of the date the decision has been made.
  • The docket fee must be paid at the office of the Clerk of Court within 20 days from the time the decision is handed down.
  • If a magistrate has ruled in the original decision an associate district or district court judge is the person to consider the appeal. If a district associate judge was present at the initial action the district court judge will make the final decision on the appeal. If the district court judge was present at the initial action, a second district judge is the one to make the decision on the appeal.
  • The appeal will be considered on the basis of the record, without any additional evidence. If the original decision was recorded electronically the recording will become the evidence on appeal.

If you’re not satisfied with the decision of your appeal, you can ask for the Iowa Supreme Court to review the appeal. For small claims cases in Iowa, the supreme court is in decision-making power to decide whether it will consider reviewing the case. Review is not a legal requirement.

What county should I file my case in?

Small claims in Iowa, in contrast to the district or superior court cases, must be filed in the county in which at least one defendant is a resident.

Filing A Small Claims Suit Iowa

How do I file a case in small claims court in Iowa?

A small claim is filed with the office of the superior court in the county that is appropriate. The forms can be completed prior to filing and the clerk in the superior court will give you the forms. You’ll need the following information:

  • 3 copies of your complaint detailing what claim(s) and the relief that is sought by the magistrate.
  • If your claim concerns cash, the form may be used to make a claim.
  • If the claim is made to seek the recovery of the personal belongings of those involved, this type could be used.
  • When the case is one of summary expulsion (eviction) a form is a good option.

There are also specific forms available for

  • Expedited summary ejectment in connection with the vacation rental agreement.
  • The enforcement of a possessory lien on an automobile.
  • Recovering an automobile that is held as a lien as well as calculating the lien amount.
  • Recover vehicle to enforce possession lien and to determine the amount of lien.
  • 3 copies of Magistrate Summons. Only the top of the page should be filled in, including the addresses and names of the parties.
  • Affidavits are required under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) which informs the court whether or not the defendant is a member of the military. This is designed to protect the rights of active duty military personnel. It is possible to search for military records to determine the status of a person here.
  • The filing fee is $96. If you cannot pay for the cost it is possible to submit your case with the status of an indigent, filing this form.

Further Information regarding small Claims cases in Nebraska

Counterclaims as well as Setoffs

If the defendant is notified that a small claim has been filed, the defendant is notified. filing they can submit to the court with a “counterclaim” or “setoff” (CC 4:2) with the court. A counterclaim is a declaration of the defendant that they are due money or property from the plaintiff. The term “setoff” is a declaration made by the defendant that they are owed money by the plaintiff and that they also owe the defendant money.

If the defendant wants to make a counterclaim or set off an attorney at the county court may offer the appropriate forms, or use the form below. The defendant needs to submit an uncomplicated explanation of the reason why the money is due from the plaintiff. The defendant must file a counterclaim or set off with the court, and also have a notice sent to the plaintiff no less than two days before the trial date. If the counterclaim or setoff exceeds the limit of the Small Claims Court limit this case is moved to the regular docket of county courts and then set for trial.

Transfer of Cases to Small Claims Court

A defendant in a small-claims court proceeding can be able to remove the case from smaller claims courts and be taken into consideration as a regular civil matter in the county court docket. The defendant’s lawyer or the attorney for the defendant has to request the transfer within two days of the date of hearing and pay the fees that differ in the case between small claims and regular court dockets of county courts. After this has been completed the case will be automatically assigned by the court. the law does not allow the plaintiff to oppose the transfer. Following this transfer is completed, the plaintiff and the defendant can be represented by a lawyer throughout the trial. If a defendant wants an appeal a jury must request to have a jury trial at the time that the transfer is made.

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