Understanding the Small Claims Process
Condominium unit owners and lot owners in a planned community are personally liable for unpaid association fees. When an owner fails to pay his or her assessments, the Association may choose to file a collection complaint against the delinquent owner in order to obtain a money judgment against the owner. If the amount of unpaid assessments is $3,000.00 or under, the Association may choose to file a complaint for money damages in the Small Claims Division of the Municipal Court of the county in which the property is located. The jurisdictional limit for small claims court is $3,000.00. In order words, to file in the Small Claims Division, the amount of money being sought must be $3,000.00 or under.
The benefit of filing a collection complaint in small claims court is that it is a relatively quick and cost-effective process, as compared to lien foreclosure litigation initiated in the general division of the court. A hearing will be scheduled by the court automatically and the hearing date is typically thirty to sixty days from the date the Complaint was filed. Hearings in small claims court are typically held in front of a magistrate, as opposed to a judge. The hearings are less formal than trials in the general division of the court, and the rules of evidence are relaxed.
Once a small claims complaint is filed and a hearing is set, the Association will need at least one representative to attend the hearing, along with the Association’s attorney. The Association will need a representative who can give testimony regarding the owner’s delinquent account and regarding the relevant provisions of the governing documents for the Association. At the successful conclusion of the small claims hearing on the Association’s collection complaint, the Association will receive a money judgment against the delinquent owner.
Many times, just receiving a court summons from Small Claims Court is enough to cause a delinquent owner to pay what is due to the association.
Please contact Williams & Strohm, LLC with any questions you may have regarding the small claims process.
Charles T. Williams
Charles T. Williams is the founder and a principal in the firm. A native of Columbus, Ohio, and a veteran of the Vietnam war, Mr. Williams earned his law degree from Boston College Law School. He is widely recognized as one of Ohio’s foremost attorneys practicing homeowner association law and condominium law. Read Charles T. Williams's full bio.