Small claims cases in Iowa are heard by the Small Claims Court, a division of the District Court, and are subject to state law so all procedures, rules and required forms are uniform state-wide. You can use Small Claims Court for many types of civil suits as long as the amount in controversy is $6,500 or less. A judge or magistrate hears your case, and you don't need an attorney to represent you, but you can choose to have one.
Decide Which Action to File
The Iowa Small Claims Court designates various types of claims for separate actions. First, explore each type of action to determine the one best suited for your small claims case. The court requires different forms for each.
Complete an Original Notice Form
Each action requires a specific Original Notice form. Your local court clerk can supply you with the appropriate form for your case, or you may download it online from the Iowa Judicial Branch website.
Make at least three copies of the completed Original Notice form and all accompanying documents. You'll need one copy for your records and the original plus two for the court.
File the Form and Pay Fees
Return the original form and two copies to the court clerk. Pay the filing fee, which, at time of publication is $85.00, a mailing fee of $10.00 and costs for serving the documents on the defendant.
Iowa Small Claims Court Actions
Actions for Money Judgments
An action for a money judgment includes any case in which you're seeking $6,500 or less from the defendant. You can sue for unpaid debts, as well as damages to your property. File the Original Notice and Petition for Money Judgment, Verification of Account and Confidential Information Sheet.
Forcible Entry and Detainer
If you're a landlord seeking eviction of a tenant, you can file a forcible entry and detainer action in Small Claims Court for these reasons:
- Your tenant hasn't paid rent or has continually paid rent late.
- Your tenant is still living in the property after the lease has expired.
- Your tenant is violating terms of the lease, for example, by smoking in a non-smoking apartment.
You can also file this action if:
- A person is living on your property without your permission.
- You've purchased a property, but the defendant refuses to move out.
Before you file a forcible entry and detainer action, you must serve your tenant with a three-day notice to quit. If he still remains on your property, you can sue for eviction. File the Original Notice and Petition for Forcible Entry and Detainer and Confidential Information Sheet.
Action of Replevin
Replevin is a court order that requires a person holding property that belongs to someone else to return it to its rightful owner. Instead of seeking a money judgment, you ask the judge to order the defendant to return your property. To file this action in Small Claims Court, the property must be worth $6,500 or less. File the Original Notice and Petition for Replevin, Verification of Account Form and Confidential Information Sheet.
Action for Abandonment of a Manufactured or Mobile Home
This small claims action allows a property owner to recover costs to move an abandoned manufactured or mobile home from his land. As long as the home doesn’t have an outstanding lien against it, you can sue in Small Claims Court for:
- The cost to have the home moved to a storage facility
- Storage charges
- Reasonable attorney fees
File the Original Notice and Petition for the Disposition of Abandoned Property.
Action to Challenge a Mechanic’s Lien
If someone placed a lien against your real or personal property that you reasonably believe to be unjustified, you can file this small claims action. For example, a roofing contractor placed a lien on your home claiming that you didn't pay him for his services or materials, but you can prove you paid him in full or refused to pay him because he didn't complete the work according to your contract.
This type of lien is known as a mechanic's lien. This small claims action asks the judge to remove the lien from your property. The amount of the lien must be $5,000 or less for you to seek relief in Small Claims Court. File the Original Notice and Petition for Intervention.
Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.