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What are the Best Tips for Collecting Small Claims?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Collecting small claims can be difficult. Sometimes defendants dispute the money that is owed or simply refuse to pay; sometimes they do not have the money to pay. Some tips for successfully collecting small claims include communicating with the debtor both before and after small claims court, providing payment requests in writing, and offering payment arrangements. Sometimes, however, debtors won't pay, even after a judge has ordered them to. In such a case, the plaintiff in the case may utilize levies and liens to collect the money he is owed.

One of the best tips for collecting small claims is to get everything in writing. If a person is trying to collect a small claims amount before going to small claims court, it is important to put payment requests in writing. This way, the defendant cannot claim he was unaware of the collection attempts. Sending written requests in a way that will provide a proof of receipt may help as well.

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Another tip for collecting small claims is to keep the lines of communication open before going into court. Often, people are willing to settle once they realize that the plaintiff is serious about collecting the money he believes he is due. If the person who is owed money informs the debtor that he intends to take him to small claims court and attempts to collect the money verbally and through written correspondence, there is a chance that the other person will opt to settle out of court.

Some of the tips for handling small claims collections can be helpful after a person has already won his small claims case as well. For example, after a winning a small claims case, a person may expect to receive payment from the defendant without taking any further action. Unfortunately, however, cases do not always proceed this way, and it may be necessary for a plaintiff to begin post-court collection efforts. In such a case, he may have to send additional written requests to the defendant to request payment. Collection efforts made by phone may help as well.

A person who has won a judgment in a small claims case may also consider agreeing to payment arrangements instead of requiring the defendant to pay the entire debt in full. A plaintiff may want to receive the entire amount of the judgment he's won in a small claims matter, but the defendant may be unable to pay it immediately. Offering payment arrangements allows the plaintiff to collect at least some money rather than waiting an indefinite amount of time for the defendant to pay the entire amount.

In some jurisdictions, a person who has won a small claims judgment may also have the opportunity to levy the debtor's property in order to collect on a judgment. For example, funds may be seized from the debtor's bank account to help pay the judgment. In some cases, a person may even place a lien against the debtor's home or other property.

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