Small Claims – How It Works

17 Oct

It happens often. You’re buying a home but you don’t like the results of the
inspection and you cancel the offer – or at least you try. The seller refuses
to release your deposit.

 You’re a tenant. You paid a security deposit and now you want it back. You’ve asked for it but your requests have been ignored.

Recent changes to small claims procedures make small claims very attractive. The amount that can be sued for in small claims has increased from $2,000 to

You don’t need to hire a lawyer in small claims unless you are a corporation or a
limited liability company. You can do it yourself.

Once the small claims case is filed, notice is sent to the defendant by regular
mail. A date is chosen by the court and the parties must appear or risk being

Hearings are no longer held in front of a judge. Rather, certain court personnel,
designated as Clerk/Magistrates, conduct the hearings.

It’s important to bring with you all the documents that you want considered by the hearing officer. Telling the hearing officer that “it’s at home” will often
lose the case. Be fully prepared to have any witnesses with you, copies of
checks and all your documents. Good luck! 

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.


George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and legal author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.


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