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Small Claims Division

Please check our COVID-19 page for the latest information on Court operations.

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.

Starting November 1, 2021 cases may be filed for back rent, under rules set out in AB 3088, SB 91 and AB832. These cases may be filed for any amount including over the usual $10,000 cap.  A new Plaintiff's Claim form has been created for cases seeking unpaid rent and other obligations between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.  A State Rent Relief Program is available. Applications may be submitted by both landlords and tenants. Information about how the program works and online applications can be found on the California COVID-19 Rent Relief page

All Small Claims cases are filed and heard at the Watsonville Courthouse. There are no Small Claims cases at the Santa Cruz Courthouse.

You may appear in person or through Zoom. If you would like to appear by Zoom you must complete and file a local form, Notice of Remote Appearance in Small Claims SUPSC 026, to put the court and other parties on notice of your Zoom appearance.

  • You may access the court's Emergency Local Rules and Forms here regarding Remote Appearances including the local form notifying the court that you will be appearing remotely that must be filed. If appearing remotely, make sure to read the Guidelines for Evidence Submission for Non-Criminal Trials and Evidentiary Hearings.
  • 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.

Access Guide & File Here

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