Reducing Claim to $3,500 – “Judge Judy” Small Claims Court
Question: When we purchased our home in Apache Junction six months ago, the seller said in the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement (“SPDS”) that there had been no roof problems. After the first monsoon rain we had significant water damage in our master bedroom due to a roof leak that we paid $4,800 to repair. Our roof repairman said that there had been prior roof repairs in the same location on the roof. In addition, our neighbor said that the seller had constantly complained about roof problems. After using all of our money to buy our home and repair our roof, we have no money left for a lawyer. Is there anything that we can do?
Answer: If you contact the seller and the seller denies having had any roof problems, the purchase contract initially requires mediation between you and the seller, unless the claim is less than $3,500. The Arizona Association of REALTORS® has a packet for information on buyer-seller dispute resolution that is available online (www.aaronline.com/buyer-seller-disputes).
If the mediation is unsuccessful, you can then file a lawsuit for $4,800 in Justice Court. Any civil lawsuit where the amount in dispute is less than $10,000 can be filed in Justice Court. Although you do not need a lawyer and Justice Court is less complex than Superior Court, prosecuting a lawsuit in Justice Court is still not a simple process.
As I said, however, the purchase contract does not require mediation for any claims under $3,500. These claims under $3,500 can be filed in the Small Claims Division of the Justice Court. Therefore, you have the option, either in lieu of mediation or after unsuccessful mediation, to reduce your claim from $4,800 to $3,500, and then file your claim for minimal cost in Small Claims Court. The procedure in Small Claims Court is basically the same format as TV’s Judge Judy–no attorneys, no jury, and no appeal. At the hearing before “Judge Judy,” your roof repairman and your neighbor can testify for you.