Small Claims Division
The Small Claims Court is a special court where disputes are resolved inexpensively and quickly. Small Claims cases are for damages of $10,000 or less. Small Claims is affordable and fast, with simple and informal rules. Attorneys are not allowed. All Small Claims cases are filed and heard at the Watsonville Courthouse.
Filing an Action Based on COVID Related Rental Debt
As of November 1, 2021 cases may be filed for back rent, under rules set out in AB 3088, SB 91 and AB 832. These cases may be filed for any amount including over the usual $10,000 cap. A new Plaintiff's Claim form (SC-500) has been created for cases seeking unpaid rent and other obligations between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. You must use this form to file your claim. The State Rent Relief Program closed on March 31, 2022. Information about pending applications can be found on the California COVID-19 Rent Relief page
You may appear in person or through Zoom. If you would like to appear by Zoom you must complete form RA-010 to give notice to the court and other parties of your Zoom appearance. Small Claims cases are heard on Thursdays at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. On the day of your hearing, log in to the Online Virtual Courtroom for Department A at https://santacruzcourt-org.zoomgov.com/j/1611506734 If you are assigned to a different courtroom, you will need to find the link on the document here. Only parties may log in to the Online Virtual Courtroom. Public observation of Small Claims Court is in person only.
- You may access the court's Local Rules here. Rule 1.4 discusses Remote Appearances including information on the form you will need to file notifying the court and other parties that you will be appearing remotely.
- If you intend to appear remotely, you will need to submit your evidence to the court and serve your evidence on the other side before your court date. Make sure to read the Guidelines for Evidence Submission for Non-Criminal Trials and Evidentiary Hearings found on the Local Rules page on when and how to do so. If you have video evidence, make sure you review the separate document, on the same page, about presenting video evidence in the courtroom. If you need help with this, contact the Small Claims Advisor.
- To access Zoom links and other helpful Zoom information please go to our page, Participating Remotely by Zoom.
Start a Small Claims Case
- Read Information for the Small Claims Plaintiff Form SC-100-INFO or SC-500-INFO for COVID Rental Debt cases
- Fill out Plaintiff’s Claims and Order to Go To Small Claims Court Form SC-100 or SC-500 for COVID Rental Debt cases
- You can also get Form SC-100 or SC-500 from the Court in Watsonville, the Self Help Center or the Santa Cruz County Law Library (for a small fee)
- File your papers at the Watsonville Court. All Small Claims cases in Santa Cruz County are filed and heard at the Watsonville Courthouse.
- You may file your papers in person, submit via mail, or File at Home
- If you have additional questions please call the Small Claims Advisor at (831) 786-7370
- More information about fees and filing can be found by reading local form SUPSC 001, Small Claims Filing Information.
The video Resolving Your Small Claims Case in the California Courts is now available at the California Courts website.
File At Home
The File at Home program through Odyssey Guide & File asks you a series of questions and uses your answers to prepare the form needed to file in Small Claims Court. Make sure you register for an account before you get started. This way you can easily access your paperwork in the future.
Before you start, make sure you do not have any questions about your situation or the Small Claims process. Some of the most commonly asked questions:
- Where do I file my paperwork? (Is this the right county?)
- How do I name a business?
- How do I sue a corporation?
- Who is the agent for service of process for a corporation?
We strongly suggest that you contact the Small Claims Advisor Program BEFORE you submit your paperwork. Call 831-786-7370 and leave a message for a return call.
Once you have completed your paperwork you have the option of submitting your completed form via e-file or to print your completed form to bring to the Watsonville Courthouse to file.
When you submit your forms by e-file you will need to pay the court filing fee (and the applicable e-file service fee) or complete and submit the fee waiver application and order forms. You may pay your filing fee and e-filing service fee by credit card or echeck. There is an additional service fee for paying by credit card or echeck.
If you decide to print your forms for filing, we encourage you to bring them to the Self Help Center before you file so we can review them first.
IMPORTANT: E-filing your forms means that you will need to check to make sure your forms were accepted for filing. Once your filing is accepted you will receive an email with a link to download a file-stamped copy of your document to have served on the party you are suing. If you do not receive an acceptance email within a few days, you should log into your account to check for acceptance. The completed proof of service (after the forms have been served) will need to be filed with the Court.