Small Claims FAQs

Small Claims Instructions

SERVICE INFORMATION

IF YOU ARE SUING AN INDIVIDUAL:

Obtain the proper name and street address of the individual. If the spouse will be included in the suit, obtain the proper name and street address of the spouse. First names must be used and any alias names, if know.

IF YOU ARE SUING A CORPORATION:

You must know the correct name of the corporation and the state in which it is incorporated.

Obtain the name and address of an officer of the corporation: the president, vice-president, etc.., or in the absence of any of these, the name and address of the business agent residing in this state, or the name of the resident agent transacting business for the corporation in this state. To find this information, you may write or call:

SECRETARY OF STATE OF FLORIDA
ATTN: CORPORATION DIVISION
TALLAHASSEE, FL 32304
(850) 488-9000
http://www.sunbiz.org

IF YOU ARE SUING A PARTNERSHIP:

Obtain the names and addresses of all the partners.

GENERAL INFORMATION

VENUE:

The law gives the person filing a lawsuit the right to sue in any of serval places. If a lawsuit is filed in the wrong venue, the Court may direct that the case be transferred to the correct venue or may direct that the case be dismissed. A proper location or venue may be one of the following:

  • Where the contract was entered into.
  • If suit is on an unsecured promissory note, where the note is signed and 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 defendant(s) resides(s).
  • Any location agreed to in a contract.

Also, in an action for money due, if there is no agreement as to where suit may be filed, proper venue lies in the county where payment is to be made.

Many individuals, partnerships, and corporations do business under a fictitious name, such as:

  • John Jones, dba Book World
  • John Jones, Bill Smith, a partnership, dba Jones & Smith Plumbing
  • ABC, Incorporated, a Florida corporation dba Snack Shop
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How Do I Obtain a Judgment Lien on the Debtor's Real Property?
You can obtain a judgment lien on the judgment debtor's real property by recording a certified copy of your judgment in the real estate records of the county in which the property is located. Such liens are not recorded with the Department of State. These liens last for ten years and they can be continued for another ten. You can download forms at www.sunbiz.org or call the Department of State, Division of Corporations, Judgment Liens Section, at 850-656-7463. return to top
How Do I Obtain a Judgment Lien on the Debtor's Personal Property?
You can obtain a judgment lien on all of the judgment debtor's personal property located anywhere in the state by filing a Judgment Lien Certificate with the Department of State. To get the proper form you must go on the Internet to the Department's website: www.sunbiz.org. You can either download the form from the website or have it mailed to you. Once you have filled out the form, you can either file it and pay the filing fee electronically, or mail it to the Department with the filing fee. return to top
How do I collect a Judgment?

If you win a lawsuit for money, you will get a copy of the Court's judgment stating the amount of money the losing party must pay to you. The losing party is called the judgment debtor, and you, the winner, are called the judgment creditor. If the judgment debtor does not pay, you are entitled to get the sheriff to seize the judgment debtor's property. The seizing of property by the sheriff is called a levy. Once the sheriff has levied on the property, the sheriff will then sell it, and pay you out of the money the sheriff receives from the sale. This process is call execution. There are a number of steps you must take.

Step 1. Once you get your judgment, you should first obtain a judgment lien by recording a Judgment Lien Certificate with the Department of State. This is not always crucial, but it is a very good idea. We will explain below why it is a good idea and how you do it.

Step 2. In order to get the sheriff to levy upon (to seize) the judgment debtor's property, you must first locate the property. The sheriff won't do this for you. Remember that there are many kinds of property the sheriff can seize. Land and buildings are called real property. Movable things, like cars, horses, boats, furniture, and jewelry are called personal property. There are some kinds of property the sheriff cannot levy on. The main kind of property the sheriff cannot seize is a person's home. A person's homestead is exempt from execution. The judgment debtor may also select personal property worth up to $1,000, and one motor vehicle worth up to $1,000, as exempt property. Only people have exemptions. If your judgment is against a corporation or a partnership, the sheriff can seize all of its property. Of course, the sheriff can only levy on property the judgment debtor truly owns - not property owned by somebody else, such as leased property.

Step 3. Once you have located property the sheriff can seize, you take your judgment to the Clerk of the Court that issued the judgment and ask for a document called a Writ of Execution. This tells the sheriff to seize property of the judgment debtor to satisfy your judgment. You then deliver the writ to the sheriff's office in the county in which the property is located. You must also give the sheriff written instructions, called Instructions for Levy. These instructions describe the property, and tell the sheriff where it is located. The sheriff will require you to deposit some money to pay the sheriff's fees and costs. You will get your deposit back if the execution is successful.

Step 4. Before the property can be sold, you have to check the Department of State's internet website, at www.sunbiz.org, to see if there are any judgment liens filed under the name of the Judgment Debtor. You must also check for creditors who have filed UCC security interests in the name of the Judgment Debtor at www.floridaucc.com. You must notify all of these people of the time and place of the sale. You then give the sheriff a signed affidavit, on which you provide the information contained in all the judgment lien certificates filed against the Judgment Debtor.

Step 5. Once the notices have been sent, the sale must be properly advertised in a local newspaper. Then, at the designated time and place, the sheriff will sell the property at a public auction. You can bid at the auction if you want to. The highest bidder for cash in hand pays the price to the sheriff and becomes the owner of the property.

Step 6. The sheriff will pay out the money received from the sale in this order:

  • The sheriff pays the sheriff's costs, and if the sale price covers these costs, you will get your deposit back.
  • The sheriff pays you $500 for your costs (whether you spent that much or not).
  • If somebody obtained a Judgment Lien before you did, the sheriff pays that person before paying you. If others have filed before you, the sheriff pays everybody in the order of filing.

If the sheriff runs out of money before getting to you, you get nothing more. This explains why it is such a good idea to obtain a Judgment Lien as soon as possible. If no judgment liens have ever been filed, the sheriff will pay you first, and anything left over will go back to the judgment debtor. But it's still a good idea to file as soon as possible. If you don't, there is always a chance that somebody might file during the execution process and come in ahead of you.

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How are Judgments collected?

Small Claims Judgments entered in County Courts are enforceable in the manner provided by law. The Clerk of Court may assist in the preparation of certain documents related to collecting a judgment; however, the information we can provide regarding collection is very limited.

  1. The prevailing party may record a certified copy of the Final Judgment with the Clerk of Court in the county where the debtor resides and/or owns real property. The recording of a certified copy creates a lien of record against any real estate in the county where recorded. This lien, if not satisfied, must be reestablished every seven (7) years, for the life of the judgment, F.S. 55.10(2). The cost of a certified copy is $1.00 per page for the copy and $1.50 per document for certification. The cost of recording is $10.00 for the first page and $8.50 for each subsequent page. You may send a written request along with the appropriate fee to the Recording Department at the address referenced below.
  2. The prevailing party may request a Writ of Execution ten (10) DAYS AFTER ENTRY OF JUDGMENT. The Writ is the Court Order directing and authorizing the Sheriff to seize, advertise, and to sell to the highest bidder, enough of the judgment debtor's property to satisfy the amount of the judgment plus additional costs. BEFORE THE SHERIFF CAN LEVY, the judgment creditor must record a Judgment Lien with the Secretary of State. For information regarding this procedure, contact the Secretary of State, Division of Corporations at 850-488-9000 or www.sunbiz.org.
  3. If the holder of the judgment knows of any third person, such as an employer, tenant, mortgagor or bank (where the debtor has money deposited) who may owe the debtor any money or have possession of any of the debtor's personal property, he may request the Clerk's Office to issue a Writ of Garnishment against the third person. A garnishment when served, would obligate the garnishee to hold money or property for disposition by the Court. The fee for processing a Writ of Garnishment is $178.00 payable to the Clerk and $20.00 payable to the Sheriff. Forms are available in each Clerk's Office or you may visit the Clerk's Website at www.brevardclerk.us, under "On-Line Forms".
  4. If the debtor is the "head of household", he/she is entitled to certain exempt property which cannot be successfully levied. Plaintiffs and defendants must seek legal advise on Post Judgmental relief.
  5. Within 30 days after a judgment has been fully paid, the judgment holder must send a RECORDED SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT to the person who has made full payment. Satisfaction of Judgment forms are available in the Small Claims Department. The recording fee is $10.00 for the first page and $8.50 for each subsequent page and must be paid prior to recordation. Also, any additional costs incurred by the plaintiff will be added to the amount owed by the defendant.
  6. If you are the prevailing party, you may wish to request the judge to enter an order directing the defendant to complete a Fact Information Sheet to assist you in the collection of your judgment. If your Final Judgment includes this direction, you must also purchase the Fact Information Sheet - Small Claims Rules Form 7.343 (Law 390). If your Final Judgment does not include this information, you must purchase the Order to Complete Small Claims Rules Form 7.343 (Law 389) and the Fact Information Sheet - Small Claims Rules Form 7.343 (Law 390). These forms may be found in the Brevard Forms book located in the Clerk's Office or you may visit the Clerk's Website at www.brevardclerk.us, under "On-Line Forms". .
  7. 7Any further assistance or legal advice must come from private counsel. The Clerk's Office cannot recommend an attorney for you. If you require assistance in obtaining an attorney, you should contact the Lawyer's Referral Service at 1-800-342-8011.

PLEASE NOTE: The Secretary of State's Office charges a fee for providing information over the telephone. Information from their website is free.

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