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Your Guide to Small Claims & Commercial Small Claims in Suffolk County District Court


extracted and updated from
Adobe Acrobat PDF DocumentYour Guide to Small Claims & Commercial Small Claims in New York City, Nassau County, Suffolk County (2010)

This Guide shows you how to:

  • Start your case
  • File a commercial claim
  • Collect a judgment
  • Contact government agencies
  • Find the right court for your Small Claim

What is Small Claims Court?

Who can use Small Claims Court?

Do I need a lawyer to sue in Small Claims Court?

What if I don't speak English well? Can I have an interpreter?

What if someone sues me, but I am not the responsible person?

Can I sue on behalf of someone else?

What are Commercial Small Claims?

How do I start my Small Claims or Commercial Small Claims case?

Do I have to go to Small Claims Court to solve my problem?

Who tells the defendant about my claim?

Can I change the date of my hearing?

How do I prepare for my hearing?

Can I settle my claim before the judge hears the evidence?

What should I do the day of my hearing?

What happens during my hearing?

What happens if one side does not go to the trial?

What if I do not agree with the Court's decision?

Can I appeal the Judge's decision?

What do I do if I win?

How do I find a Judgment Debtor's assets?

Important Government Offices

Small Claims Court Locations

 

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ABOUT SMALL CLAIMS COURT

WHAT IS SMALL CLAIMS COURT?
Small Claims Court is a special court where you can sue for up to $5000. You can only sue for money. You cannot sue to make someone do something or for pain and suffering.

Small Claims Court is sometimes called the People's Court because:

  • It is inexpensive and easy to use,
  • You do not have to have a lawyer,
  • The Court will notify the defendant for you,
  • It has convenient hours of operation, and
  • The Court can get you an interpreter, if you need one.

If the Court is not able to notify the defendant by mail, the clerk will tell you what to do.

Before you start your case, read these important facts:

For Small Claims you must:

  • Be an individual who is 18 or older
  • Fill out a court form that explains your claim
  • Pay a court fee ($15 – $20)

Corporations, associations, partnerships, and assignees must start a Commercial Small Claim. Partnerships may start a Small Claims case or a Commercial Small Claims case in Suffolk County District Court.

For Commercial Small Claims, you must:

  • Be a corporation, association, partnership, or assignee
  • Pay a court fee ($25 per claim, plus postage costs)
  • Send a demand letter first for consumer transactions
  • Limit: You cannot file more than 5 Commercial Small Claims statewide per calendar month.

You must file your Small Claims complaint or Commercial Small Claims complaint where the person you are suing lives, works, or has a place of business. If the defendant lives, works, or has a place of business in Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip, or Smithtown in Western Suffolk County, you must use the Suffolk District Court. You may use the District Court location most convenient to you.

Deadline! There are strict deadlines for claims against a municipality, city, or county agency. back to top

Who can use Small Claims Court?
Any person who is 18 or older can sue in Small Claims Court. If you are under 18, your parent or guardian can sue for you.

Can I sue for more than $5000 in Small Claims Court?
No. If your claim is for more than $5000, you must start a civil case. You cannot split your claim into smaller claims to get around the limit.

Can partnerships start a Small Claims case?
In Suffolk District Court, partnerships can start a Small Claims case or a Commercial Small Claims case.

Can corporations and associations start a Small Claims case?
Corporations, associations, and assignees can start a Commercial Small Claims case, a different kind of Small Claims case.

Do I need a lawyer to sue in Small Claims Court?
You do not need a lawyer to sue in Small Claims Court. But you may hire one, if you want to. The other side may also have a lawyer.

What if I don't speak English well?
If you need an interpreter, tell the Small Claims Court Clerk when you file your claim. The clerk will assign an "official" interpreter to your trial if a party or witness needs one.

What if someone sues me, but I am not the responsible person?
Ask the Small Claims Court Clerk for information about a "third-party action." You may be able to have the responsible person added to your case.

Can I sue on behalf of someone else?
Unless you are the parent or guardian suing on behalf of your child, probably not. For example, if you had an accident in a borrowed car, the registered owner of the car can sue, but you cannot sue for damages to the car.

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What are Commercial Small Claims?
A Small Claim filed by a corporation, partnership, or association for up to $5,000 is a Commercial Small Claim. You cannot sue to make someone do something or for pain and suffering.

Here are some examples of Commercial Small Claims:

  • You are a corporation and you have a contract to sell bananas to Joe's grocery store. You deliver the bananas, but Joe does not pay. You can sue for the money you are owed.
  • You are a homeowner's association and you hire Ernie's lawn company for landscaping. You pay half the money owed up front. The landscaping is done poorly. You can sue for your money back.

If your Commercial Small Claim is against an individual, not a business, and the claim is about goods or services that were mainly for personal, family or household use, the Commercial Small Claim is a "consumer transaction." You must follow special rules for a consumer transaction.

Here is an example of a consumer transaction claim:

  • You are a corporation and you sell a dining room set to Rochelle. She does not pay you for the furniture. Your claim can ask for the money you are owed.

Who can file a Commercial Small Claims case?
Any corporation, partnership, or association that has its principal office in New York State, or an assignee of any commercial claim, may file a Commercial Small Claim* for up to $5,000. "Corporation" includes municipal corporations and public benefit corporations.

Can a collection agency file a Commercial Small Claim?
Yes. Collection agencies or other entities with a claim on a debt assigned to them may file a Commercial Small Claim as long as they did not buy the claim for the purpose of bringing an action.

Is there a limit on how many Commercial Small Claims can be filed?
Yes. You cannot file more than 5 claims statewide per calendar month.

Can a Commercial Small Claimant sue more than one person or business?
Yes. There can be more than one defendant in a Commercial Small Claims case.

Do you need a lawyer to bring a Commercial Small Claim?
No. You do not have to have a lawyer to file a Commercial Small Claims case. But you may have one at your own expense, if you want one.

Can the defendant have a lawyer?
Yes. The other side may have a lawyer. If both sides have a lawyer, your case may be transferred to Civil Court. You (the claimant/plaintiff) must pay any additional court fees.

Is there a fee to file a Commercial Small Claims case?
Yes. There is a Commercial Small Claims case filing fee, plus postage costs.

What are the special rules for starting a Commercial Small Claims case that is a Consumer Transaction?
Commercial Small Claims Consumer Transaction cases must follow these rules:

  • You must send the defendant a DC-292Demand Letter before you file your Commercial Small Claim. Do this at least 10 days (but not more than 180 days) before you file your claim.
  • You must DC-293certify that you sent a demand letter.

Where can I get a demand letter form and certification for my consumer transaction case?
You can get the DC-292Demand Letter for Commercial Small Claims Consumer Transaction and the DC-293Certification for Commercial Small Claims Consumer Transaction forms from the Court Clerk. back to top

How do I start my Small Claims or Commercial Small Claims case?
You or someone else may start your case by filling out a Complaint Form (DC-283). The Complaint Form describes your claim to the Court. You may file by mail or you may file in person at one of the District Court courthouses.

You will be required to pay a filing fee.

What information will I need to fill out the form?
You will need the correct name and street address of each defendant and claimant. You cannot use only a PO Box address.

What if I do not have the defendant's correct, legal name?
You can still start your case. You can use any name that the business or person operating the business uses. But once you get the correct information, give it to the Court Clerk. (If you do not provide the correct information, it will be very hard for you to collect your money judgment, if you win.)

To find the correct, legal name of a business, contact the County Clerk's Office.

What do I do with my completed form?
File it in person (or ask someone to file it for you) at the Small Claims Court Clerk's Office. If you are filing the Small Claims Complaint form by mail or filing the Commercial Claims Complaint form by mail you must sign it in front of a notary first.

Do I have to pay to file my claim?
Yes. You must pay a Small Claims filing fee or Commercial Small Claims filing fee by cash or money order, credit cards, or personal checks. Have photo ID available. Checks and money orders should be made payable to "The Clerk of the Court." The fees to sue in Small Claims Court are listed on our Fees webpage.

Is there another way to solve my problem without going to Court?
Yes. Every county in the state of New York has a community dispute resolution center that offers mediation for free.

You can find the location of a community dispute resolution center near you in the phonebook or at the Small Claims Court Clerk's Office. back to top

Can the person I am suing sue me?
Yes! If the person you are suing (the defendant) wants to sue you, s/he may file a Small Claims counterclaim against you.

In Small Claims and Commercial Small Claims Court, a counterclaim can only be for money, and the limit is $5000. The defendant will have to pay a $5 filing fee plus the cost of mailing to file a counterclaim.

How will I know if the defendant files a counterclaim?
The Court will send you a notice or you will be told on the trial date. If the defendant files a counterclaim, s/he must do so:

  • Within 5 days of getting the notice of your claim, or
  • On the day of the trial.

If the defendant sues me, will my case be postponed?
If the defendant files the counterclaim on the day of the trial, you may ask the judge to postpone the case so you can have time to prepare. Sometimes judges will postpone the trial even if you do not ask for it.

But if you received notice of the counterclaim before the date of your trial, you must be ready to present your claim and defend against the counterclaim on the date of your trial.

 

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WHO TELLS THE DEFENDANT ABOUT MY CLAIM?
After you file your claim, the Small Claims Court Clerk will serve the defendant a notice by mail. If the defendant cannot be served by mail, the clerk will tell you what to do.

Service of the notice lets the defendant know about your claim. It tells the defendant:

  • What the claim is about,
  • How much money you are asking for, and
  • The date of your Small Claims Court trial.

How do I know if the defendant was served?
The clerk will mail the defendant two copies of the notice:

  1. by regular, first-class mail, and
  2. by certified mail.

If the Post Office does not return the notice that was sent by regular mail to the clerk's office within 21 days (30 days for Commercial consumer transaction cases), the Court considers the defendant to have been served – even if the notice sent by certified mail was not delivered.

What if the Post Office was not able to deliver either notice?
If neither notice could be delivered, the clerk will:

  • Tell you how to have the defendant served, and
  • Give you a new date and time for your trial.

How do I have the defendant served?
You can also hire a process server. Or you can have someone who is 18 or older – not you or anyone else involved in this case – serve the notice. The Clerk will give you instructions.

If 4 months go by after you first file your claim, and you have not been able to personally serve the defendant, the Court will dismiss your case. Later, if you find out about the defendant's location, you can file your claim again.

You cannot have a trial if the defendant was not served. back to top

CAN I CHANGE THE DATE OF MY HEARING?
Adjournments in the Small Claims Court are discouraged. Only the Judge decides if an adjournment is to be granted.

Can I postpone my trial?
You can ask the Court to postpone your trial, but unless you have a good reason, the Court may not agree.

How do I ask to postpone my trial?
Send a letter to the Court and the other side asking to postpone (adjourn) your trial. You cannot ask for a postponement by phone. You (or someone who can speak for you) should go to the Small Claims Court on the date of your trial and explain to the Court why you need a postponement.

If you or someone else on your behalf can not come to Court on the trial date, the Court will read your letter, but may not postpone the case and your case may be dismissed. If you are the defendant, the Court may hear your case even if you are not there. You should contact the Court the day after your trial date to find out what the new trial date will be. Have your case number or index number when you contact the court. back to top

Which Small Claims Court do I use?
You must file your Small Claims complaint or Commercial Small Claims complaint where the person you are suing lives, works, or has a place of business.

If the defendant lives, works, or has a place of business in Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip, or Smithtown in Western Suffolk County, you must use the Suffolk District Court. You may use any of the five Suffolk District Court locations most convenient to you.

If the defendant lives, works, or has a place of business in Suffolk County but is located in one of the five eastern towns of Riverhead, Southold, East Hampton, Shelter Island, or Southampton, file your claim in the Justice court within that town (see page 34 of Adobe Acrobat PDF DocumentYour Guide to Small Claims & Commercial Small Claims in New York City, Nassau County, Suffolk County (2010). There are special rules for Small Claims cases in Eastern Suffolk County.

If the defendant lives, works, or has a place of business in Nassau County, you must use the Small Claims Court listed on page 32 of the Adobe Acrobat PDF DocumentYour Guide to Small Claims & Commercial Small Claims in New York City, Nassau County, Suffolk County (2010) to know which court you must use.

If the defendant lives, works, or has a place of business in New York City, you can use the Small Claims Court in:

  • The New York City County where you live,
  • The New York City County where the defendant lives or works, or has a place of business.

If the defendant lives in New York City, but you do not, contact the Small Claims Clerk (see page 31 of the Adobe Acrobat PDF DocumentYour Guide to Small Claims & Commercial Small Claims in New York City, Nassau County, Suffolk County) in the county where the defendant lives , works or has a place of business. Ask the clerk how to file by mail.

 

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Special rules for suing a public agency, city, town or village

Can I sue a public agency in Small Claims Court?
You can use the Small Claims courts to sue a

  • town,
  • village,
  • city, or
  • county agency.

You cannot sue the federal government or a state agency in Small Claims Court. Sue a state agency in the NYS Court of Claims.

Do I have to tell the agency that I plan to sue them?

Yes! By law, you have only 90 days to notify the agency. Start counting from the day you were injured or your items were damaged. You cannot sue unless you notify the agency.

What if I miss the 90-day deadline?

The Court may dismiss your case, even if you are only 1 day late.

How do I notify the agency?

Get the notice form from the agency you are suing. Fill it out. The agency will give you a claim number. In New York City, the Small Claims Clerk can give you addresses for all New York City agencies.

What do I do after I notify the agency?

The agency may:

  • Make you an offer to settle your claim,
  • Deny (refuse to pay) your claim, or
  • May not respond.

After 30 days, you may file start your case in Small Claims Court.

Deadline! You have 1 year + 90 days to file (or 1 year + 30 days if you are suing the MTA). Start counting from the date you were injured or your items were damaged. back to top

HOW DO I PREPARE FOR MY HEARING?

Before your trial, organize all your evidence that supports your claim, including:

  • Photos, written agreements, letters, or other documents,
  • Itemized bills, canceled checks, receipts or invoices marked PAID, damaged items, etc.

If you are asking for money for repairs or service, you must get two different itemized written estimates.

Can I have witnesses at my trial?

Yes. You can have witnesses at your trial. A witness can be:

  • You,
  • Someone who knows something about your claim, or
  • Someone with a lot of knowledge or experience with the reason for your claim. (This is called an expert witness.)

Before speaking to the Court (testifying), all witnesses must first swear to tell the truth.

Do I need an expert witness to testify at my trial?

If the reason for your claim requires expert knowledge to understand, it's a good idea to have an expert witness. For example, if your claim is about medical care, you will need a doctor with expert knowledge of your type of claim. That doctor must be willing to testify at your trial. In most cases, you must pay an expert witness to testify. You cannot use a subpoena to make an expert witness testify.

What if a witness does not want to testify or give me records?

You can ask the Small Claims Court Clerk for a subpoena. A subpoena is a court order that can order your witness to:

  • Send documents or records to the Court, or
  • Go to your trial to testify.

The Small Claims Court Clerk will help you fill out a subpoena.

Who gives (serves) the witness the subpoena?

You must arrange for the witness to be served the subpoena. The server can be a friend or relative who is 18 or older. Neither you nor anyone else involved in this case can be the server.

Do I have to pay the witness?

The witness has the right to receive a $15 witness fee, which must be paid when the subpoena is served. You must pay the witness fees, and in some cases, you may have to pay travel expenses, too.

Is there a deadline to serve a subpoena?

The subpoena must be served before the trial date. You should give the witness a "reasonable" amount of time to prepare for the trial and/or to produce the items listed on the subpoena. Reasonable usually means 5 or more days before the trial.

Can the defendant and I agree to settle our case before the trial?

Yes. In fact, it is almost always better if you and the defendant can make an agreement either before or during the trial. You may feel certain that you will win your case, but the Court may not agree with you.

If you make an agreement before your trial date, and the claim has been paid in full, notify the Small Claims Court Clerk in writing. The clerk will mark the case settled, and neither side will have to go to Court.

If you agree to settle, but the defendant has not paid you in full by the trial date, or you need more time to finish your agreement, go to Court on your trial date. Ask for a postponement so you can finish your agreement and get your claim paid. (This is called an Adjournment Pending Settlement.) The Court will give you a new trial date. If the claim is still not settled by the new trial date, go to court on the new date. back to top

WHAT SHOULD I DO ON THE DAY OF MY HEARING?

You should:

Get to the courthouse at least 15 minutes early. (It takes time to go through security and find your courtroom.)

Find your Small Claims Courtroom, then look for the Small Claims Court calendar. The calendar is a list of the day's cases. It is usually posted outside the courtroom.

Look for your last name and the defendant's last name on the calendar. If your case is not listed on the calendar, or if there is no calendar posted, ask the Court Clerk for help.

What happens if one side does not go to the trial?

If you, the claimant, are not in Court when the Small Claims Clerk calls the case, the Court will dismiss your case.

If the defendant is not in Court when the Small Claims Clerk calls the case, the Court will hear your case without the defendant. (This is called an inquest.) If you show enough evidence, you may win your case. If this happens the Court will enter a default judgment against the defendant.

Defendants in default judgment cases can ask the Small Claims Court Clerk how to re-open a case.

How will I know when my case starts?

The Court follows these steps:

  1. The clerk will call your case and your name.
  2. Stand up and say your name.
  3. Unless you are asking for a postponement, say, "Ready."
  4. If you want to postpone your trial or make another request say, "Application."

The Court may tell you to discuss your case with a mediator in the courthouse to see if you can settle the case.

If you and the defendant are both ready, the trial will start.

Who will decide my case?

In Suffolk County District Court, an arbitrator will decide your case. An arbitrator is an experienced lawyer with special training in Small Claims cases.

Arbitrators and judges apply the same law to your case, but a trial with an arbitrator is less formal.

Will there be a jury?

No. Small claims cases decided by an arbitrator do not have juries.

Small claims cases decided by a judge do not have juries unless the defendant demands it. SEE BELOW FOR TRIAL DE NOVO. The defendant would have to pay a demand for jury trial fee and an additional $50 fee (The $50 fee is an "undertaking" will be given to the side that wins the case). The defendant must also file a sworn notarized statement, called an "affidavit," saying:

  • S/he is asking for a jury trial in good faith, and
  • The claim has at least one question of fact that must be decided by a jury.

The clerk can provide more information about how to ask for a jury trial. back to top

WHAT HAPPENS DURING MY TRIAL?

The trial starts…

You, the claimant, go first. You will take an oath to tell the truth, and then you will tell your side of the story and show the Court your papers and other evidence. It's up to you to prove your claim.

Next, the Court and the defendant may ask you questions about the case.

If you have witnesses, they will take an oath and testify next. The Court and defendant may ask them questions, too.

Then the defendant takes an oath and tells his/her side of the story. The defendant can show papers and other evidence, and witnesses can testify on his/her behalf. Before they testify they must also take an oath to tell the truth.

You (the claimant) and the Court can ask the defendant and the defendant's witnesses questions.

You may ask the Court to question the defendant about his/her assets, such as a car, house, or bank accounts. This information may help you collect your judgment if you win your case.

Important! If you did not have the defendant's correct name when you started the case, you may ask the Court to correct it now. If you do not do this now, it will be very hard for you to collect your money judgment if you win.

The Court will decide.

When the trial is over, the Court does not usually make a decision right away. In most cases, the Court needs some time to consider your case. The Court will mail its decision to both sides within a few days. back to top

What if I do not agree with the Court's decision?

If the defendant did not come to court and the court orders a default judgment …

The defendant may ask the Court to open the case again if s/he has

  1. a valid defense and
  2. a good reason for not going to the trial.

If the Court agrees to open the case again, the clerk will schedule another trial. The Court may take your case on that date or postpone it to a later date. Defendants in default judgment can ask the Small Claims Court Clerk how to re-open a case (by Adobe Acrobat PDF Documentorder to show cause and a Adobe Acrobat PDF Documentsupporting affidavit).

If an arbitrator decided your case and you do not agree with the Court's decision…

You cannot appeal the Arbitrator's decision. You can ask for a new trial in front of a Judge:

Any party who is not in default has 35 days from the date of the mailing of the Arbitrator's Award to ask the court for a new trial before a judge. This is called a trial de novo. If you ask for a trial de novo you will have to pay a demand for trial de novo filing fee.

Trial De Novo

At a trial de novo, the Judge does not read the Arbitrator's Award. All evidence and witnesses are heard for the first time by the Judge. The Judge's decision is based on the evidence and testimony heard by the Judge, not the Arbitrator. The Judge's decision may be the same as the arbitrator's decision, or may award more or less money than the arbitrator, or may decide for the other party.

If a judge decided your case in a trial de novo…

You can ask a higher court to review your case. This is called an "appeal."

Is it hard to win an appeal?

Yes. Very few Small Claims decisions are appealed, and very few appeals are successful. The higher Court will only decide if there was substantial justice between the parties. That means deciding if the trial was basically fair. The higher Court will not change a Small Claims decision because of a technical mistake made at the trial.

Do I need a lawyer to ask for an appeal?

You are not required to have an attorney to file an appeal, but you should consult with one. Keep in mind that it may cost you more to appeal your Small Claims case than what you could win.

Is there a deadline to ask for an appeal?

Yes. You must file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the Court's judgment. The Small Claims Court Clerk can give you more information.

Do I have to pay for an appeal?

Yes. You will have to pay for a fee for a Notice of Appeal. You will also have to pay for a typed trial transcript for the higher court.

Do I still have to pay the judgment if I ask for an appeal?

Unless you deposit a sum of money equal to the amount of the judgment or file a bond with the Small Claims Court Clerk, you must pay the judgment. The bond or money deposited guarantees payment of the judgment if you lose the appeal.

If you receive a notice of appeal, call the Small Claims Court to ask if a bond or the judgment amount has been paid to the Court. If it hasn't, you can start collecting your judgment right away.

 

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COLLECTING YOUR JUDGMENT

WHAT DO I DO IF I WIN?

How do I get my money if I win?

After the trial, the Court will mail you and the other side a Arbitrator's Award. Read it and the other instructions in the envelope carefully. It says:

  • The Court's decision about how much money the other side has to pay you,
  • The County Clerk & Sheriff's office address and phone number, and
  • Ways to collect your judgment.

If you win, you are the judgment creditor. The side that owes the money is the judgment debtor.

Will the Court collect (enforce) the judgment?

No. The Court will not collect the money for you. You must collect the judgment yourself. But the judgment is valid for 20 years. Even if you won your case, there is no guarantee that you can collect your money. If the defendant does not pay willingly, there are legal steps that you can take to "enforce" the judgment..

How do I collect my judgment?

You can call or write the judgment debtor and ask for payment.

You can request a transcript of judgment from the Court Clerk. The Court charges a fee for the transcript. You must file the original transcript of judgment with the Suffolk County Clerk.

You can read below for collection suggestions.

You may file a copy of the transcript of judgment with the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff is an "enforcement officer" authorized to take money or property from the judgment debtor to pay your judgment. Sheriff's Office personnel work for the county.

What do I say to the Sheriff's Office?

Say that you are the judgment creditor in a Small Claims case, give the Sheriff's Office a copy of the transcript of judgment filed with the County Clerk, and say that you want to an execution. An execution is a court order that allows the Sheriff's Office to take property or money to get your judgment paid.

Property Execution

When you file the original Transcript of Judgment with the Suffolk County Clerk, you may request the County Clerk sign and seal a Property Execution (Form 199). The Property Execution (Form 199) is available from the County Clerk’s office. The County Clerk collects a $5.00 fee to sign and seal the form.

The Property Execution directs the Sheriff’s Office to enforce the judgment by demand and through levy (seizure) of assets (such as a motor vehicle or bank account). You must provide information regarding assets subject to levy and prepay the statutory fees to the Sheriff’s Office. File a copy of the Transcript of Judgment, the original and 6 copies of the Property Execution form (9 copies if bank account assets are to be seized), and the appropriate filing fees with the Sheriff’s Office - call (631) 852-5627 for details.

Income Execution

When you file the original Transcript of Judgment with the County Clerk, you may request the County Clerk sign and seal an Income Execution form, like the Blumberg T439 revised 7/09. You can buy the Income Execution form online or from a legal stationery store. The County Clerk collects a $5.00 fee to sign and seal each Income Execution form.

The Income Execution directs the Sheriff’s Office to enforce the judgment through the attachment and garnishment of wages, salary, and commissions of the Debtor. You must fully complete the Income Execution form including Debtor’s estimated salary and complete address for the Debtor and Debtor’s employer. A separate Income Execution form is needed for each Debtor and each Debtor’s place of employment. File a copy of the Transcript of Judgment, the sealed original and 7 copies (front and back) of the Income Execution form, and the Sheriff’s Office fees with the Sheriff’s Office. The minimum filing fee is $72.50, but additional fees and paperwork may be required – call the Sheriff’s Office at (631) 852-5623 for details.

Do I have to pay the the Sheriff's Office?

Yes. If the judgment will be taken from the judgment debtor's income, you may have to pay a fee in advance. If the Sheriff's Office is taking property to pay the judgment, you must also pay the Sheriff's Office's mileage fees in advance. Sometimes these fees can be added to the judgment so the judgment debtor would have to pay you back.

If you and the judgment debtor agree to settle after you hire the Sheriff's Office, you must pay the Sheriff's Office 5% of the settlement amount, whether the Sheriff's Office helped you settle the case or not. In a settled case, you will not be able to recover any fees already paid.

How does the Sheriff's Office know what assets the judgment debtor has?

You must find out about the judgment debtor's assets and give that information to the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office will want to know about the judgment debtor's property, including:

  • Checking and savings accounts.
  • The type of property and the location of the property.

How do I find out about the judgment debtor's money and property?

Try to find the judgment debtor's bank.

You or someone you know may have paid the judgment debtor with a check. If so, look on the back of the canceled check for the bank's information.

If you can find the name and address of the judgment debtor's bank, the enforcement officer can seize (take) money from the account to pay your judgment.

Find out if the judgment debtor has a car.

Contact the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to find out if the judgment debtor owns a car. If s/he does, the enforcement officer might be able to seize (take) it, then sell it to pay your judgment.

Ask DMV for this information:

  • Vehicle year, make & model,
  • License plate number, and
  • Address where the vehicle is registered.

Caution! If the judgment debtor still owes money on the car, that loan must be paid before you can get any money. You will also have to pay the enforcement officer towing and storage fees in advance (about $150 or more).

Find out if the judgment debtor owns real estate.

Real property can be sold to pay your judgment. Go to the County Clerk in the county where you believe the judgment debtor owns property. If the judgment debtor does own property, ask the Small Claims Court Clerk for a transcript of judgment, pay the fee for the transcript of judgment, and then file it with the County Clerk.

Then you can ask the Suffolk Sheriff (or enforcement officer where the property is located) to sell the property to pay your judgment. You will have to fill out papers to sell the property. Then after it is sold, the officer's fees and expenses, as well as any mortgage, tax liens, and previous judgments owed by the judgment debtor will be deducted from the proceeds of the sale. If there is money left over, it can be used to pay your judgment.

How else can I find out about the judgment debtor's assets?

You can use an information subpoena. This is a legal document signed by the Small Claims Court Clerk that orders the judgment debtor and others to answer questions about the judgment debtor's assets.

Where can I get an information subpoena form?

You can get an information subpoena form with preprinted questions:

  • At a legal stationery store,
  • From a legal forms book from any law library, or
  • From the Small Claims Court Clerk ($2-3 fee)

Or you can write your own questions based on what you know about the judgment debtor, if you prefer.

Who should I send the information subpoena to?

Send it to the judgment debtor and anyone else who may know about the judgment debtor's assets, including the judgment debtor's:

  • Employer,
  • Landlord,
  • Phone or utility company, or
  • Bank.

Will the clerk deliver the information subpoena for me?

No. The clerk will sign the information subpoena, but will not deliver it for you. Send the signed information subpoena to the judgment debtor along with:

  • Two copies of the questions, and
  • A self-addressed stamped envelope. Make sure you put enough postage! You can use regular or certified mail, return receipt requested.

Are there other ways to make a judgment debtor pay?

Yes. In certain kinds of cases, you may be able to get the judgment debtor's driver's license or professional or business license suspended until the judgment is paid.

Here are some examples:

  • If your claim had to do with the judgment debtor's car or how s/he drove a car, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend the judgment debtor's driver's license and car registration until your judgment is paid. Your judgment must be for $1000 or more, and it must be unpaid for more than 15 days. Ask the Small Claims Court Clerk for more information.
  • If your claim was about the judgment debtor's licensed or certified business, notify the state or local licensing agency if the judgment debtor has not paid you. The agency may decide to revoke, suspend, or refuse to grant or renew a business license. It must be at least 35 days since the judgment debtor received notice of the judgment. See below for a list of some agencies that may be able to help you.
  • If a judgment debtor has 3 or more unpaid recorded judgments including yours, but s/he has the ability to pay them, you may be able to sue the judgment debtor for 3 times more than your original judgment. This is called treble damages. Ask the Small Claims Court Clerk if the judgment debtor is listed in the Small Claims Court's index of unsatisfied judgments.
  • If the Court finds the judgment debtor's business is fraudulent or illegal, you can notify the the Attorney General and, if the business is licensed, the appropriate licensing authority as well.

 

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IMPORTANT GOVERNMENT OFFICES


New York State homepage
Suffolk County homepage


SUFFOLK COUNTY CONSUMER AFFAIRS
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, NY 11788-0099
(631) 853-4600 (8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.)
The Department of Consumer Affairs enforces the Consumer Protection Law and weights and measures statutes. It also licenses various types of businesses and activities. The Department also conducts research about consumer issues, educates the public about consumer issues and resolves consumer complaints.

SUFFOLK COUNTY SHERIFF
Civil Bureau of the Enforcement Division
360 Yaphank Ave, Yaphank NY 11980
(631) 852-5600

SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
30 Yaphank Avenue
Yaphank, NY 11980
(631) 852-6000

If you are involved in an auto accident and need a copy of the accident report you can contact Central Records (631) 852-6015, allowing at least five days after the accident for the report to be filed.

To obtain an accident report after 30 days, contact the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles , (518) 474-0710 .

SUFFOLK COUNTY CLERK
310 Center Drive
Riverhead, NY 11901
(631) 852-2000
To obtain the correct or legal name of a business.

NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE & MARKETS

The Department's regulatory authority includes licensing of and the issuing of permits for:

  • Manufacturers, wholesalers, and handlers of frozen desserts;
  • Persons acting as dealers, brokers, or commission merchants for the sale of farm products;
  • Milk dealers;
  • Food processing establishments;
  • Refrigerated warehouses, locker plants, and fresh foods;
  • Operators of purebred dog kennels
  • Anyone who deals in, handles, or transports domestic animals, or operates a livestock auction.

NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF ALCOHOL BEVERAGE CONTROL - STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY

The Division issues licenses and permits authorized by the Alcohol Beverage Control Law for the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages within the State.

NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERALS OFFICE
120 Broadway
New York, NY 10271
(212) 416-8000
Regional Offices

NEW YORK STATE BANKING DEPARTMENT

The Banking Department regulates all state-chartered banking activities. They enforce laws and policies dealing with consumer credit, financial services, illegal lending, and other consumer abuses.


NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT

The Education Department licenses approximately 30 professions, including:

  • Accountants
  • Optometrists
  • Acupuncturists
  • Pharmacists
  • Architects
  • Physical therapists
  • Chiropractors
  • Physicians
  • Dental hygienists
  • Physician assistants
  • Dentists
  • Podiatrists
  • Engineers
  • Psychologists
  • Interior designers
  • Social workers
  • Nurses
  • Veterinarians
JUDICIAL BRANCH - APPELLATE DIVISIONS

The Appellate Divisions conduct proceedings to admit, suspend, or disbar attorneys who wish to practice or who are practicing in the courts of New York State.


NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES

The Department of Financial Services issues licenses and permits, conducts examinations, and administers fines relating to insurance companies, agents, brokers, and adjusters.


NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

The Department of Labor has regulatory jurisdiction in the areas of employee safety and health, employee earnings, and employee coverage under unemployment insurance.


NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES

The Department of Motor Vehicles regulates the registration and titling of motor vehicles and issues drivers' licenses. It also licenses or registers inspection stations, driving schools and instructors, repair shops, dealers and transporters, the vehicle salvage industry, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, motorboats, and unique motor vehicles.


NEW YORK STATE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

The Public Service Commission oversees all gas, electric, and waterworks corporations, as well as telephone and telegraph lines. Rates for privately owned gas, electric, steam, telephone, telegraph, radio-telephone, and waterworks corporations need Commission approval.


NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION & FINANCE

The Department of Taxation & Finance is responsible for the registration of Alcoholic beverage distributors; Motor fuel distributors; Diesel motor fuel retailers and bulk purchasers; Owners of diesel motor vehicles; Flea market promoters; Vendors required to collect sales tax; Organizations exempt from sales tax. The Department is responsible for the licensing of Wholesale dealers of cigarettes; State lottery ticket vendors. The department issues permits for motor vehicles subject to highway-use or fuel-use taxes. It also appoints cigarette tax agents.


NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

The Department of Transportation regulates railroads, buses and trucking companies. It also grants licenses to public utility companies for real estate rights on Department of Transportation-controlled property.

 

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COURTHOUSE LOCATIONS

Suffolk County District Court Small Claims Court Locations

If the party you intend to sue resides or does business in Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip, or Smithtown in Western Suffolk County, file your claim in the Suffolk District Court. You may use any of the five Suffolk District Court locations most convenient to you.

Small Claims Court is held in the District Court Courthouses in Hauppauge, Huntington Station, Lindenhurst, Patchogue and Ronkonkoma one or two days a week at 9:30 AM.

Evening Small Claims Court is held in Ronkonkoma on certain Wednesdays at 6:00 PM.

Schedule for Small Claims and Commercial Small Claims Court

 

If the party you intend to sue resides or does business in Suffolk County but is located in one of the five eastern towns of Riverhead, Southold, East Hampton, Shelter Island, or Southampton, file your claim in the Justice court within that town (see page 34 of Adobe Acrobat PDF DocumentYour Guide to Small Claims & Commercial Small Claims in New York City, Nassau County, Suffolk County (2010).

 

If the party you intend to sue resides or does business in Nassau County file your claim in the Nassau District Court (see page 32 of Adobe Acrobat PDF DocumentYour Guide to Small Claims & Commercial Small Claims in New York City, Nassau County, Suffolk County (2010).

 

If the party you intend to sue resides or does business in New York City, file your claim in the NYC Civil Court where you or the party resides or does business.

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