This article was posted on Wednesday, Dec 01, 2021

Dennis Block

Below is information on the current requirements of filing in Small Claims Court for unpaid rent, written by Eviction Attorney Dennis Block.


Unpaid Rent and Small Claims Court

Suing in Small Claims Court has always been an effective remedy for landlords to obtain a judgment for rent owed. In the past, there was a jurisdiction limit of $10,000 for individuals and $5,000 for corporations and other entities. Plaintiffs were limited to file only two matters, over $2,500, in any one-year period. If exceeded, future judgments would be limited to $2,500 for the balance of the one-year period.

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This has now been changed for residential rent owed for the period of March 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021. The legislature has declared that rent owed during this period is now a civil debt. A civil suit is required to recover these monies owed. By declaring this a civil debt, the landlord cannot bring forth an eviction based on non-payment of rent.

Tenant Relief Act of 2020

With the passage of the Tenant Relief Act of 2020, Small Claims Court has changed its jurisdictional limit. For rent owed during this period, a landlord is free to sue for the entire amount owed. The law does require that you make a good faith effort to obtain governmental rental assistance or to cooperate with the tenant in obtaining this assistance. This can be accomplished by filing an application at:

Small Claims Court Requirements

The Small Claims Court will request that you attach documentation as to what steps you took. If documentation is not available, you will need to describe what efforts you took. The rules require that you do not have any rental assistance application pending and that you had first sent a demand letter to your tenant demanding that the debt be paid.

Once this is accomplished, you are free to file your suit in Small Claims Court. Once filed, you will need to serve your tenant with the lawsuit. There could be an issue of serving your tenant, if you do not know tenant’s current whereabouts.

Our firm has instituted a program that will file the Small Claims Action on behalf of the landlord. We will confirm that all procedures have been complied and will enable skip tracing to locate your tenant if a current address is unknown. For more information, visit my website at:


Dennis Block, of Dennis P. Block & Associates can be reached for information on landlord/tenant law or evictions at any of the following offices:  Los Angeles: 323.938.2868, Encino: 818.986.3147, Inglewood: 310.673.2996, Long Beach:  310.434.5000, Ventura: 805.653.7264, Pasadena: 626.798.1014, Orange: 714.634.8232, San Diego: 619.481.5423 or by visiting Now, you can also read Dennis Block on Twitter, or text him at (818) 570-1557.  “Landlord Tenant Radio Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at or download the app “EVICT123”.

Read more December 2021 articles from the AOA magazine