CLERK'S FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Among the large number of questions the clerk receives, there are a few that are asked more than most. Here you will find many of these "Frequently Asked Questions" and their answers.
If your particular question is not here, or you need elaboration on an answer given here, feel free to contact the Clerk by phone below or by email.
What is a small claims case?
Is an attorney necessary?
A small claims case is a legal action filed in county court to settle minor legal disputes among parties where the dollar amount involved is $5,000.00 or less, excluding costs, interest, and attorney fees.
Generally, Florida law gives the person suing the right to file suit in any one of several places as listed below. If the person being sued has been sued in any place other than one of these places, he/she has the right to request that the case be moved to a proper location or venue. A proper location or venue may be one of the following:
- Where the contract was entered into.
- If the suit is on an unsecured promissory note, where the note is signed or where the maker resides.
- If the suit is to recover property or to foreclose a lien, where the property is located.
- Where the event giving rise to the suit occurred.
- Where any one or more of the defendants sued reside.
- Any location agreed to in a contract.
- In an action for money due, if there is no agreement as to where suit may be filed, where payment is to be made.
Rule 7.160, Florida Small Claims Rules.
No. Small claims court is considered a "peoples court" and a lawyer is not required. Clerk's Office personnel will provide you with the necessary forms for filing a small claims case.
Who can file a small claims case?
Any person(s) 18 years or older or any individual doing business as a company, may file a small claims case.
What does it cost to file a small claims case?
Filing fees for small claims actions are determined by Florida Statutes and are subject to annual change by legislative action. Fees also vary in accordance with the dollar amount of the claim and type of action.
What information is needed to file a small claims case?
Other fees are required for service on the parties sued and are dependent on the type of service selected. A current Schedule of Service Charges is available in any Clerk's Office location.
It is important that the claim is filed against the right party. The additional time spent researching the correct name could make a difference in the ability to collect on any judgment entered by the court.
Are there other requirements?
Copies of any contracts, notes, leases, receipts, or other evidence in support of the claim must be furnished for each person sued and the court. The originals must be brought to the first court appearance. A full explanation of the reason for the small claims action will be necessary.
If someone other than an individual is sued, additional information is needed to complete the required forms. For example, is the individual doing business as a company, a partnership where there are several people doing business as a company, or corporation?
What happens after the filing of a small claims case?
After the filing of a small claims case, each person or business sued must be served with a Summons or Notice to appear in court on the date and time scheduled when the claim was filed. This court date will be a pre-trial conference and parties should be prepared to present their cases in court.
Why use mediation?
At the pretrial conference mediation is ordered if both parties to the dispute are present and unable to settle their dispute. A mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. Mediation is an informal and non-adversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In mediation, decision-making authority rests with the parties.
If the dispute cannot be settled at the pre-trial conference, a trial date will be scheduled by the court. The parties must appear at the trial with all witnesses and documentation.
At the trial, both parties will have an opportunity to explain the case to the judge, ask the other party any questions concerning the claim, present documentation as discussed at the pre-trial conference, and call witnesses.
The Judge will require mediation because:
Is a jury trial possible in a small claims case?
Mediation is economical. Settlement is viewed as fair by both parties. There is one court meeting. There is no need to subpoena evidence or witnesses and depend on their presence at trial. There is no extensive trial preparation. Mediation preserves personal and business relationships. It allows debtors to arrange repayment plans, avoid a judgment, and preserve credit reputation. Mediation protects privacy and avoids the publicity of trial. Both parties remain in control and participate in a "win-win" solution. The agreement is final and the dispute resolved.
Yes, a trial by jury may be requested by the person filing the Small Claims case, upon written demand at the time the case is filed. The person being sued may request a jury trial within 5 days after service of Notice or at the pre-trial conference. See Fla. Sm. Cl. R. 7.150.
What happens to the case if a settlement is reached?
If, at any time in the proceedings a settlement is reached by the parties, the person who filed suit must notify the Clerk's Office in writing of the settlement.
How does a party collect on any judgment?
May a lien be filed against the defendant's property?
What is foreclosure?
When property is mortgaged, the property is transferred to a creditor to be used as secured collateral on a loan. The individual exchanging the property for the loan becomes the mortgagor, and the creditor acquiring the property title becomes the mortgagee.
Where do I file a foreclosure action?
If the mortgagor defaults on the loan payments associated with the mortgage, the creditors can take legal action to enforce a mortgage against the property and prevent the mortgagor from keeping the property. This type of legal action is referred to as foreclosure.
Foreclosure actions are filed in the Leon County Clerk and Comptroller's Office at 301 South Monroe Street, Room 100. All mortgage foreclosure files are public records, and can be viewed at the above address.
What happens in foreclosure proceedings?
If the Court finds that the mortgagor is in default of the mortgage payments, final judgment will be issued in favor of the plaintiff. The final judgment sets forth the costs due to the plaintiff, such as principal charges, interest, court costs, and s fees.
What is done prior to the foreclosure sale?
In addition to the assessment of costs, the final judgment will list instructions for the sale of the mortgaged property at a public auction. The instructions will include a description of the property to be sold; the time, place, and date of the sale; the amount due on the mortgage; and instructions to the s Office regarding distribution of the proceeds of the sale if someone other than the plaintiff is the successful bidder.
The original final judgment is filed and recorded with the s Office. Simultaneously with filing the final judgment, or shortly thereafter, the plaintiff must provide a Notice of Sale for issuance by the s Office.
How do I find out about mortgage foreclosure sales?
A copy of the notice must be advertised in a local newspaper authorized by law to accept legal notices. The advertisement must be published once a week for 2 consecutive weeks, and the second publication must be at least 5 days before the sale date. Before the foreclosure sale occurs, the plaintiff must file with the s Office an Affidavit of Publisher which proves the sale has been properly advertised.
May a person who is not involved in the foreclosure lawsuit bid on the property?
The sale dates and final judgments can be viewed at www.clerk.leon.fl.us
by clicking "View Foreclosures" Online on the Clerk's homepage. You will see the list of sales scheduled, and may select a date to view the case number, style of the case and legal description.
Yes, and this person is often referred to as a "third party bidder."
What information is important to know for prospective bidders prior to the sale?
When and where are mortgage foreclosure sales held, and how are they conducted?
Everyone should be aware of the requirements of Florida law. All sales are for cash. This can be a certified check or cashier's check. Anyone bidding on the property should have already made financial arrangements so they can meet the requirements of the sale. If a person other than the Plaintiff is the successful bidder, the successful high bidder shall post immediately with the Clerk a deposit equal to 5 percent of the final bid. The deposit shall be applied to the sale price at the time of payment. If final payment is not received by 4:30 pm today, the clerk shall re-advertise the sale and pay all costs of the sale from the deposit. Any remaining funds shall be applied toward the judgment. (See 45.031(2)FS
The successful bidder is also required to pay for the documentary stamps on the Certificate of Title which is calculated at $.70 per $100. In addition, a registry court fee is required which is calculated on the bid amount -- 3% on the first $500.00 and 1.5% on the balance.
A purchaser at a judicial sale takes the property subject to any defects, liens, encumbrances and all matters of which he has notice or of which he could have obtained knowledge.
Mortgage foreclosure sales are conducted by the Clerk's office according to Section 45.031, Florida Statutes, and are held at 11 a.m., Monday through Friday. The sales are held in the Clerk of Courts Office, Suite 100, Leon County Courthouse.
Can anyone make an objection to the sale?
Prior to the bidding, the deputy clerk conducting the sale will read an announcement informing potential buyers of their rights and responsibilities under Florida law. A description of the property may also be read at this time. Potential buyers take the property as is, subject to any defects, liens, encumbrances, and all matters of which the buyer had notice or could have obtained knowledge.
If the plaintiff is the successful bidder, no funds are deposited with the Clerk, unless the bid is above the amount of indebtedness. However, if a party other than the plaintiff is the successful bidder, an immediate deposit of 5% of the bid is required. The balance of the bid, plus documentary stamps ($.70 per $100) and court registry fees (3% on the first $500 and 1.5% on the balance), must be received by 4:30 p.m. on the date of the sale. Payment must be in the form of s check, money order, bank checks, or cash - NO personal checks or promissory notes.
If the balance is not paid by the deadline, the sale will be declared void, and a resale will be scheduled. The s deposit is nonrefundable and will be used to pay for the costs of the resale. Any amount remaining will be applied towards the final judgment.
A $70 sale fee is required by Florida Statutes before the sale can be conducted.
An Objection to the Sale may be filed within 10 days after the filing of the Certificate of Sale. This will stop issuance of the title until the Court has a hearing and makes a decision on the objection.
When is the Certificate of Title issued?
If no objections are filed within 10 days of the sale, the s Office will issue and record the Certificate of Title. However, if the 10th day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the title will be issued on Tuesday; if Monday is a holiday, the title will be issued on Wednesday.
What is a county civil case?
A county civil case is a legal action filed in county court to settle minor legal disputes among parties where the dollar amount involved is more than $5,000 but does not exceed $15,000.
Who may file a county civil case?
Generally, these cases should be filed only in the county where the defendant resides, where the cause of action accrued, or where the property in litigation is located. Section 47.011, Florida Statutes.
Any person 18 years or older, and any individual doing business as a company, may file a county civil case. Please be aware that there are limited forms available at the s Office for filing county civil lawsuits. If you choose to represent yourself, you will need to prepare the complaint or petition, and should review the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure for information on filing a county civil case. If you do not feel comfortable representing yourself, you may wish to obtain the services of an attorney.
How is the defendant notified of the case?
What happens after the lawsuit is served?
A defendant is served by a certified process the Leon County s Office or a private process server. For each defendant listed in the complaint/petition, the plaintiff must provide an original and two copies of the Summons
. A copy of the complaint/petition and any other documents filed must be attached to the Summons for service. The Leon County Sheriff's Office and Private Process Servers charge a fee to serve each defendant.
The defendant has a specified time in which to respond to the complaint/petition. If no response is received in the time specified, the plaintiff may file a Motion for Default with the s Office. Once the defendant files a response, or a Motion for Default is entered, it will be necessary for the plaintiff to ask the court to hear the case by motion.
What is a residential landlord or tenant action and who can file?
A residential landlord/tenant action applies to the rental of non-commercial dwelling units and is an action filed by a landlord against a tenant, or by a tenant against a landlord, concerning common disputes such as payment of rent, non-compliance, or breach of a lease or rental agreement. A landlord (the owner or lessor of a dwelling) or a tenant (a person entitled to occupy a dwelling unit under a rental agreement) may file a residential landlord/tenant action. If commercial, agricultural or personal property is at issue, the plaintiff should contact an attorney for the proper procedures to resolve those disputes.
What steps must be taken before an eviction can be filed?
After proper written notice, what are the next steps?
Before the plaintiff can file a residential landlord/tenant action, proper written notice
must first be given to the landlord or the tenant. The form of the notice will depend on the landlord or s reason for terminating the lease.
When will I go to court?
The plaintiff must file a petition and request the Clerk to issue a summons, and deliver the summons to the Sheriff or a private process server for service. The following documents should be filed:
- Petition: original and two copies (original goes in file, one copy for service, and one copy for mailing from the s office; for each additional defendant, add two copies)
- Summons: original and three for one defendant (same amount for each additional defendant)
- Lease Agreement: three copies (one for the file; one for service; and one for mailing; two additional copies for each additional defendant)
- Notice: three copies (one for the file, one for service; and one for mailing; two additional copies for each additional defendant)
- A stamped envelope, addressed to the tenant
The Leon County s Office has most of these forms available online in interactive form
The defendant will have a specific period of time in which to respond, depending on the type of summons issued. If a response is filed and/or moneys deposited into the court registry, the file will be sent to the judge for further action. If no response is received or no money is deposited in the court registry, the plaintiff may file a Motion for Default with the s Office.
What happens when a final judgment is entered?
If the Court enters a Final Judgment against the party in default and the Final Judgment is for eviction, the plaintiff may ask the Clerk to issue a Writ of Possession. This must be served by the s Office.