Seals of the Court of Appeals and Superior Court
District of Columbia Courts

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I file a lawsuit in the small claims clerk's office?

You start a case by filing a statement of claim in the Small Claims Clerk's Office. The Small Claims Clerk’s Office is located in Court Building B, 510 4th Street, NW, Room 120. The party who files the case is called the plaintiff. The defendant is the person who is being sued. The statement of claim is a document that explains why the plaintiff believes the defendant owes the plaintiff money.

How do I file a claim against the plaintiff?

If a defendant wants to file a claim against the plaintiff in the same case, a written set-off or counterclaim must be filed, pursuant to Superior Court Rule for Small Claims 5. A set-off is a separate claim that the defendant has against the plaintiff that can be used to reduce the amount of money the defendant owes the plaintiff. If the defendant wins the set-off, the May 2011 12 amount of money the defendant wins will be subtracted from any money the defendant owes the plaintiff.

Can my case be heard by a jury?

Any party can make a request to have their case heard by a jury. The request must be in writing and signed. The written request must be filed with the Small Claims Clerk’s Office before the first court date. The Court may extend the time to file the request for a jury demand upon request by the party. If the defendant wants to request a jury trial, a verified answer requesting the case to be heard by a jury must be filed on or before the first court date. A “verified answer” is an answer that the defendant has sworn to in front of a clerk or notary public.

How do I file a motion?

A party can ask the judge to make a ruling or order something to be done by filing a written motion or making an oral motion in court during the trial or hearing. Usually, one side files a motion, the other side files a written response, and the court holds a hearing, where the parties give brief oral arguments. If a motion is based upon facts that are not clear to the judge from the documents previously filed by the parties, it must be in writing and filed with an affidavit or sworn testimony of the person filing the motion, his agent, or some other competent person.

Do I need a lawyer to help me with my small claims case?

The Small Claims Branch is less formal than other branches of the Court. The procedures are simple and costs kept low so that most people do not need a lawyer to represent them in their small claims case. You must be 18 years old to file a case. Someone who is under the age of 18 or an incompetent person can only sue through a "representative or next of friend". An “incompetent person” is someone who a judge believes cannot make legal decisions for him or herself. A “representative or next of friend” is a person acting for the minor child or incompetent person.

Do I need to bring anything to file the suit?

You should bring a copy of the Notice to Correct and/or Vacate in English and Spanish, for cases brought against tenants for any reason, except non-payment of rent cases and drug haven cases. (A landlord may be required to give a tenant a notice to quit prior to filing a non-payment of rent case, but you are not required to bring it to court to file the lawsuit.

Do I need to file an answer?

In most small claims cases, defendants are not required to file an answer, plea, or other defense(s) in writing. Instead, defendants can just tell the judge why they disagree that they owe some or all of the money the plaintiff is suing for when they are in court.

Do I need to mark my exhibits?

Yes. Please review the General Order for Civil Cases and individual judges' supplements.

Do you have an x-ray box to supply to me?

An x-ray box may be used demonstrate your injuries to the judge. The Court has an x-ray box which you can use if it is available. If it is not available, you must supply your own. It cannot be reserved. Availability is on a first come, first served basis. You must contact Central Recording by e-mail, two business days before the hearing, at CourtroomTechnology [at] dcsc.gov to request use of x-ray box.

How do I add a party to my case?

If you think that another party needs to be added to your case so that the judge can hear all relevant issues, you must comply with Superior Court Rules 14 or 19 and the person(s) must be served within 100 miles from the place of the hearing or trial. SCR-Civ. 4(k)(1)(B).

How do I collect my money judgment?

The Superior Court does not collect or pay the judgment award to the winning party. The winning party must collect the money judgment that was ordered by the judge. Legal action to collect a money judgment cannot be done until ten business days after the clerk dockets or enters the judgment on its official record. If the losing party does not pay the winning party, the winning party may apply for a writ of attachment on a judgment.

How can I serve the statement of claim on the defendant(s)?

"Service of process" is how each defendant is given a copy of the statement of claim and supporting documents. You must serve most Small Claims Branch statement of claims upon the defendant(s) within sixty (60) days of filing the original statement of claim. In collection and subrogation cases only, you have 180 days to serve the defendant(s).

How do I contact someone for additional help?

To file a case, get case information, or review a case file, please call us at (202) 879-1133 or visit us in Room 5000 of the Moultrie Courthouse.

How do I find out what courtroom my case will be heard in?

"If you know the name of the judge, there is a lighted board above the information desk in the lobby of the Moultrie Courthouse which lists the judges' names and courtroom numbers daily. If you do not know the name of the judge handling your case, please report to Room 5000, Quality Review Office."

How do I go about having my exhibits returned to me after the trial is over?

Exhibits are released to all parties at the conclusion of a trial unless the judge notes otherwise. The courtroom clerk can explain all procedures in reference to exhibit returns.

How do I make a request to continue my initial hearing?

A party can call the Small Claims Clerk’s Office at (202) 879-1120 to request a continuance of the initial hearing. A continuance, if granted, will delay the initial hearing until a future date. You must first call the other party and try to agree to change the date. If both parties agree on a new date, a praecipe (an official form used to request the clerk or court to perform an act) to continue the case must be filed in the Small Claims Clerk’s Office.

How do I notify the court of an address change?

You must file a statement (called a "praecipe") with the Civil Clerk's Office noting the change in each pending civil case.

How do I prepare for court?

"All parties can bring witnesses (people who have first-hand knowledge of the case) to court to testify under oath at the hearing. If a witness will not agree to appear in court, the Court can issue a subpoena ordering the person to show up in court or give the Court documents that support the case. The subpoena must be served on the witness by a process server. The process server does not have to be approved by the Small Claims Clerk’s Office but must be over the age of 18 and cannot be a party to the case.

How is service made upon the defendant, i.e. how do we notify the defendant that he or she is being sued?

The plaintiff is responsible for service of process upon the defendant, by the following methods: Special process server-someone at least eighteen years of age and not involved in the case; or Certified or registered mail-with a return receipt from the US Postal Service; or First-class mail-regular mail with an acknowledgment form enclosed for the defendant to sign and return to the court.

How many copies of a summons do I need?

An original summons (front & back page), and two copies are needed for each defendant who is to be served. The original and the two copies are to be presented at the time the complaint is filed or when an alias summons is being issued.

How may I collect on the money judgment?

Through various attachments and writs. See the Landlord and Tenant Clerk for additional information, forms, and costs.

How may I evict a tenant who is suspected of selling drugs?

You must use normal landlord and tenant eviction procedures. This type of case is heard within two weeks after filing of the complaint instead of three weeks. Let the clerk know that it is a "drug haven" case.

How may I find out the next event in my case?

If you have a civil case number, this information can be provided to you. Please bring notice of the scheduled event to court with you. If you do not have your court notice with you, report to the Quality Review Office, Room 5000, and inform the clerk of the party's name(s). The clerk will seek the information in the court's computer system and review the events with you. Or you may call 202-879-1750.

How may I get a money judgment?

First, the tenant must be served personally with a copy of the summons. If you get a default at roll call, ask the clerk to send the case before the judge. Ask the judge to grant you a money judgment. If your cases goes to trial and you win, you can ask the judge to enter a money judgment at the trial.

How may I get monies released from the court registry?

You must file a motion in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office at 510 4th Street, NW, Bldg. B, Room 110, Washington, DC 20001. The clerk's office has a standard motion form. The cost is $10

How may I make a late protective order payment (payment made to the court registry) to the court?

Contact the landlord for consent to make a late payment. If the landlord will not agree, file a motion in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office to make a late protective order payment. The cost is $10

How much time do I have to execute or follow through on the money judgment?

If the judgment is unrecorded (that is, not recorded with the DC Recorder of Deeds) you have three years, and if the judgment is recorded, you have twelve years. Ask the clerk in the DC Recorder of Deeds Office about recording the money judgment. The number for the DC Recorder of Deeds (located within the DC Office of Tax and Revenue) is 202-727-5374 or 727-4829. The Recorder's Office is located at 515 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.

How soon is a landlord and tenant case heard after it is filed?

You will be given your court date, usually about 3-4 weeks out, when you file your complaint. The landlord is responsible for making sure that the tenant receives notice of the lawsuit. The landlord must use a process server to serve the tenant with a copy of the complaint. The tenant must be served at least 7 days, not counting Sundays and legal holidays, before the court date.

I am supposed to be in court today but my name is not on the docket. What should I do?

The courtroom clerk will check the status of your case.

I cannot afford to pay the court costs and filing fees. Is there a way to waive the fees?

You can file an Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Costs in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. You will be required to provide information about your income and expenses, and a judge will review the application to see if you qualify.

I do not have a case number, but do know I am supposed to be in court today. How do I find my case number?

You may report to the Civil Clerks Office, Room 5000, where they have a civil index. You may look up the case number by caption (parties' names).

I have a judgment or a default against my tenant. How do I to evict the tenant?

You must use court process to evict the tenant. To do this, you must wait at least forty-eight hours after entry of a judgment or a default before you return to the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office to file a writ of restitution, which orders the eviction of the tenant. If you have a "default," you must turn the "default" into a "judgment" by filing a Servicemembers affidavit with the court certifying that the tenant is not on active duty with the military or other government service.

If I am a tenant, how can I get the landlord to make repairs to my home?

If a landlord fails to make repairs after a tenant notifies the landlord about the need for repairs, the tenant has several options. A tenant may sue their landlord for DC Housing Code violations by filing a complaint and summons with the Civil Actions Branch Clerk's Office, Moultrie Courthouse, Room 5000.

If I need to bring a TV, VCR or other equipment into the courtroom, how do I get this equipment into the courthouse?

You must submit a written request to the Executive Office at 500 Indiana Avenue, NW; Room 1500; Washington, DC or by facsimile to (202) 879-1802. The request must include the case name, case number, date of the proceeding, name of judicial officer, courtroom, the name of the person bringing the equipment, type of equipment, and a contact number, including facsimile number.

Is there anything I can do to stop my landlord from evicting me after a judgment is entered?

You can ask the court to stop the eviction by filing an Application to Stay Execution of the Writ of Restitution in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. If the reason the landlord sued you is because you owe rent, you can avoid eviction by paying the landlord all of the rent and court costs that you owe as of the day the you make the payment. (This includes the rent that has come due since the time the landlord filed the lawsuit.) If you bring your account current with the landlord, the landlord cannot evict you unless he or she brings a new lawsuit.

May I pay my rent into the court registry until the repairs are made?

If your landlord has sued you in Landlord and Tenant Court, you can ask the court to allow you to pay your rent into the registry of the court until the case is over or as part of an agreement settling the case. The Court's Registry is a court-monitored bank account set aside for tenants to make rental payments (called protective order payments). If you do not have a case in Landlord and Tenant Court, you cannot pay your rent into the court registry.

May I sue the landlord for damage to property?

If you are already involved in a non-payment of rent case in Landlord and Tenant, you can file a counterclaim, recoupment, or setoff to collect money from your landlord for part or all of the rent that you paid in the past when the apartment or house was in need of repair. You can also collect money to reimburse you for the costs of repairs that you have personally made to the apartment or house.

The first time I heard anything about a lawsuit against me was when I received a writ of restitution (eviction notice) in the mail. What can I do?

If you do not believe that you should be evicted, you can come to court immediately and file an Application to Stay Execution of the Writ of Restitution in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. You may also want to file a motion to ask the court to vacate the judgment so that you can present defenses you have to the case. The cost for the motion is $10.

What can I do if I lose?

"If you are the losing party because the Court issued a default or default judgment, you may file a motion to vacate the default or default judgment. The Court issues a default judgment when you do not show up at your court date. If your wages and/or bank accounts or other properties have been “attached,” (seized or taken because of a court order) and you want to get back your property, you may file a motion to quash the writ of attachment. This motion can be added to the motion to vacate the default judgment.

What do I do if my case has been rescheduled due to court closings?

When the Court is closed because of inclement weather or an emergency, hearings will be rescheduled as follows:Civil Action Cases
Trials – All parties are to appear in court when the court resumes for business unless notified otherwise by judicial staff.

All other hearings will be rescheduled for a new date and notice of the new date will be mailed to all parties.Landlord and Tenant Cases
Jury Trials Only – All parties are to appear in court when the court resumes for business unless notified otherwise by judicial staff.

What happens at the initial hearing?

All cases are scheduled for an initial hearing at 9:00 a.m. except subrogation cases, which are scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Before entering the courtroom, parties should check the court docket located in the box outside the courtroom to see if their case is scheduled to be heard. Remember, if the proof of service is not filed in the Small Claims Clerk’s Office five business days before the court date, the case will not be on the Court’s calendar or docket for that day.

What happens if I do not settle my case at the initial scheduling conference?

If your case does not settle, the judge may select a form of alternative dispute resolution by which parties may resolve their dispute without going to trial. Learn more about ADR and mediation in general.

What happens on the court date?

Court begins at 9:00 a.m., when the judge makes important announcements about what will happen in court and the parties' rights. After these announcements, the courtroom clerk calls roll and parties must answer that they are "present" and state their names. Failure of a tenant to appear may result in a default. Failure of landlord to appear may result in a dismissal. When both parties appear, they may attempt to resolve their differences by entering into a written agreement.

What is a judgment for possession?

A judgment for possession entitles the landlord to evict the tenant.

What is a money judgment?

If the landlord sues the tenant for possession because the tenant owes rent, the landlord can also request that the tenant be required to pay the back rent and any other monies due, such as late fees. If the landlord makes this kind of request, he or she is asking for a money judgment.

What is an initial scheduling conference?

The initial scheduling conference is the first formal hearing before the assigned judge that presents the parties with an opportunity to try and settle their case. Further, if a case does not settle, the case is placed on a track and a number of deadlines are set to complete certain events.

What is the current interest rate on judgments?

The interest rate on judgments is three percent (3%) for the calendar quarter beginning April 1, 2016(DC Code §28-3302(c)). Pursuant to DC Code §28-3302(b), this rate does not apply to judgments against the District of Columbia or its employees acting within the scope of their employment. In such situations the judgment interest rate remains 4%. The new interest rate is for post judgments only.

What is the proper procedure to reschedule an event?

You must contact the Quality Review Office (see your notice for appropriate telephone number) and they will advise you of the proper procedure for the specific event or date you wish to reset.

What may be done if the landlord fails to complete repairs on time?

If your landlord agreed to make repairs as part of a consent judgment agreement or settlement agreement, you can contact the landlord to find out what is causing the delay and attempt to work out additional terms. If you cannot work the problem out yourself, you can go to the Clerk's Office at least one day after the repairs were scheduled to be completed. The clerk will give you a form to complete instructing the landlord to return to court because of the lack of repairs.

What may the landlord do if the tenant fails to make his or her rental payments according to a consent judgment agreement approved by the judge or interview and judgment officer?

If the tenant fails to make a payment according to a consent judgment agreement, the landlord may obtain an application to terminate the stay of execution from the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. If a stay is terminated, it subjects the tenant to eviction procedures.

What may the landlord do if the tenant fails to make his or her rental payments according to a settlement agreement?

If the tenant fails to make a payment according to a payment schedule in a settlement agreement, the landlord can file a motion in the Landlord and Tenant's Clerk's office asking that the court enter a judgment so that the landlord can evict the tenant. The cost for the motion is $10.

What should I do if I cannot meet a payment plan that I agreed to?

You can contact the landlord and ask for an extension of time. If you are not able to work something out with the landlord, you can ask the court to give you more time. However, in most cases a judge will not change the dates that payments are due in a written payment plan, even if you have a very good reason for why you cannot pay on time.

What should I do if the case settles before the court date?

If the parties reach an agreement or settlement out of court prior to the court date, the plaintiff must file a praecipe (an official form used to request the clerk or court to perform an act) asking the Court to dismiss the statement of claim and mark the case as settled. If the defendant has filed a counterclaim or other action, the defendant must also file a praecipe to dismiss his or her claim and mark the case as settled. The parties may also file their settlement agreement with the Court.

What types of cases are filed in the Civil Clerks Office and what are the filing fees?

"Civil law suits where the monetary amount exceeds $5,000 and cases where parties are requesting equitable relief (e.g. temporary restraining order or injunctive relief) are filed in the Civil Clerk's Office, Room 5000 in the Moultrie Courthouse. The filing fee for a new complaint is $120.
Temporary Restraining Order $160
Petition to Change Name $60
Petition to Amend Birth Certificate $60

What will happen if the landlord does not agree on the dates when I can pay the rent, when repairs will be made, or other items?

If you cannot reach an agreement with your landlord, you can ask a court-trained mediator to help you work out an agreement. You also have the right to take your case in front of the judge. The judge cannot force the landlord to accept payment dates or other terms that the landlord does not agree to. But, if you have defenses to the landlord's claims, you can ask the court for a trial. However, if you do not have any defenses, the judge may enter a judgment against you.

When can I sue in Landlord and Tenant Court?

A landlord or other person can sue in Landlord and Tenant whenever a person or company is in possession of property but does not have a legal right to be there. Tenants may lose their right to possession by failing to pay rent, violating the lease, violating the housing code, running a "drug-haven," or for certain other reasons recognized by the law. Cases can also be filed to evict trespassers, squatters, and others who do not have a legal right to possess the property.

When I report to the courtroom for my hearing, what information should I bring with me?

You should bring any and all information pertaining to your case and your court notice.

Where am I to report to on my scheduled date?

In most instances, if a civil case number is provided, staff can direct you to your place of assignment. Please bring notice of the scheduled event to court with you.

Who can sue in Landlord and Tenant Court?

Only landlords or others who want to evict a tenant or another occupant from their property can sue in Landlord and Tenant Court. A person or company seeking to evict a tenant or other occupant can file a Complaint for Possession in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. If a landlord only wants to sue for rent or other damages (but not possession of the property), the landlord must bring suit in Small Claims or the Civil Actions Branch. Tenants who wish to sue their landlords must bring suit in Small Claims or the Civil Actions Branch.

Who must attend the scheduling conference?

All counsel and unrepresented parties must attend the initial scheduling conference.

Why do I have to redact personal identifying information?

The Superior Court adopted a privacy rule, SCR 5(f)(1), which applies to most divisions, requiring that the filer redact or remove from the public record the following information: Social Security numbers, dates of birth, financial account numbers and names of minors. If you need to include such information in a particular filing, a motion should be filed seeking permission to file the unredacted filing under seal and, upon approval by the court, a redacted copy can then be submitted, in paper, under seal.

Why must I pay an additional $18.00 for a second writ of restitution to evict a tenant?

After a writ of restitution has been filed in the Landlord and Tenant clerk's office and the US Marshal has not evicted the tenant within the applicable 75 days, only an additional $18.00 is required for a second writ of restitution, $8.00 for the US Marshal fee and $10 for the clerk's. Any questions regarding eviction procedures must be directed to the US marshal. The US marshal's office is located on the C level in the main building of the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse. Only a landlord and tenant judge may set aside the $10 clerk's fee.

Will my court costs and interest be included in my judgment?

The judge decides if one party must pay the costs of the lawsuit for the other party. Your judgment can include fees paid to the Marshal and the Court. Your judgment will not include fees paid to the special process server to serve the defendant. See SCR-SC 15(a). Certain judgments include payment of interest on the amount owed. See DC Code § 15-109. The judgment interest rate is the legal or statutory rate of interest, unless the claim is based on a contract that states another rate.