9 Tips on How to Collect a Judgment

Updated 8/28/20

9 tips on how to collect a judgment

Congratulations! You have finally finished the eviction process and have successfully won a judgment against your previous tenant in small claims. Now what? Do you know how difficult it is to collect a judgment successfully in California? It can get difficult and frustrating at times, but if you follow our 9 tips on how to collect a judgment, you can make life a little easier on yourself.

Collecting Judgments Lingo

Judgment Creditor – Usually the landlord or plaintiff who was awarded the legal right to receive money from another person or company.
Judgment Debtor – Usually the tenant or defendant who was ordered by the court to pay the judgment creditor.
Small Claims – A request you make through the courts when you believe you have a legal right to obtain small amounts of money from another person or company.
Money Judgment – The court order the judge issues in the favor of the creditor to legally collect money owed.

How to collect a judgment

Collection agency or lawyer

By far the easiest and most convenient way for a debtor, or in this case a landlord, to collect a judgment is to hire an experienced collection agency.

The pros:

  • Collection agencies have far more experience in collecting than your average landlord and have time tested methods in knowing how to collect judgments and getting positive results quickly.
  • If you don’t like constantly calling people and possibly having awkward and heated conversations, then hiring a collection agency is the way to go!
  • Lower your liabilities. Collection agencies know the federal and state laws that govern the debt collection industry. This will lower the risk of you violating these laws and having a debtor sue you.
  • Having the support of a collection agency means you can get back to what matters most; running your business without distractions.
  • Collection agencies also have more tools available to them to help easily find “lost” debtors, file necessary paperwork to get the courts involved to further the efforts of collecting your money once all other methods have failed.

The cons:

  • Collection agencies charge a commission fee for helping you collect your judgment.

Communicate with your debtor

The first option you should try when wondering how to collect a judgment is to try to speak to the debtor or tenant. The point in your favor here is that you have some sort of previous relationship with them and should feel comfortable enough to approach them.

The best way is to do it face to face, preferably right after exiting the court room. Ask the debtor what their plan is to pay you. A lot of times you can come up with some sort of agreement such as a payment plan or a pay by date right there and then.

If this method works out and the debt has been paid, hurray! If you received nothing but smoke and not a single dime after the agreed upon date, then other methods must be used.

Bank levy

A bank levy is a more aggressive way when figuring out how to collect a judgment in California. This method is a legal action taken against a debtor where the bank is forced to freeze their account and send money owed to the creditor.

Again, this is a method where collection agencies excel at after exhausting more conventional ways of trying to collect your judgment.

Wage garnishments

Just as it sounds, you can get the court to grant you a wage garnishment against the debtor. Every time the debtor gets paid, you get a percentage of their pay check. This is one of the easiest ways to collect a judgment and ensures you get paid the total debt gradually over time.

Payment plan or installments

Another popular way to enforce your small claims victory is to have the court force the debtor to pay the debt in installments. Another way to slowly but surely recover your money.

Execution of assets

This will allow you to get a court order to allow a sheriff to enter the debtor’s current residence and seize anything of value. The property seized will then be sold at a public sale in an attempt to cover the amount of your judgment.

What to keep in mind while collecting your judgments

Keep things legal

The last thing you want to do is to get yourself in legal trouble while attempting to collect money owed. Some of the things you shouldn’t do include:

  • Lie or give false information to collect a debt.
  • Harass the debtor.
  • Harass acquaintances or family of the debtor to know their whereabouts.
  • Discuss the debtors’ debt with third parties unless legally required to do so.
  • Make phone calls before 8 AM or after 10 PM in California.
  • If you know a certain time frame is not convenient for you to call the debtor, you should oblige and not try to contact them at that time such as when they are at work, etc.
  • You should never threaten debtors or their family in any way. Physically or Criminally.

Read more about fair debt collection practices.

Keep yourself organized

Once you have started to figure out how to collect a judgment, you should take extra measures to keep yourself organized in case details are needed in the future. Some tips include:

  • Keep dated copies of any letters you send to your debtor and copies of any correspondence. Physical or digital. (Letters, email, text messages, etc.)
  • Keep a spread sheet of the times you attempt to contact your debtor with notes on what was talked about.
  • Keep track of any expenses you make while attempting to collect your judgment. Some expenses can be “tacked” on the judgment, or reimbursed.
  • Keep track of any partial payments made by the debtor. If it was paid by check, make a copy since the bank account info could be useful in the future when you try to obtain a bank levy.

Renew your Judgments

Last and definitely not least; do not let your judgment expire! Judgments are only enforceable for 10 years then must be renewed after that. A judgment can be renewed every 10 years but it is important that you don’t let it expire. Once a judgment has expired (or ran out) it is no longer enforceable.

If your judgment was granted outside the state of California, you must first register it within the California courts before you attempt to collect it.

Learning how to collect a judgment is not rocket science. It can be easy if you are patient, consistent and stay within the boundaries of the law. Remember, Fast Evict Law group has a collections department ready to help you recover what is legally yours. Contact us if you have any additional questions.

Learn more info on how to collect a judgment in California

Additional tips for collecting your judgment.

At Fast Eviction Service, help on any of the issues discussed in this article is simply a click or phone call away. Email intake@fastevict.com or call our office at (800) 686-8686 to discuss your questions for a free evaluation of your case.

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