5 ways to collect on a judgment

Written on April 17, 2019 by

Collecting on a JudgementThe bad news: your tenant left owing you money.

The good news: you just won a money judgment in court against that tenant.

Time to celebrate?

Not really.

Although you’re supposed to get the money your tenant owes you after you win a money judgment, actually getting the money is another matter.

It’s not always easy to collect money on a judgment.

The court’s job ends with the judgment. Collecting on that judgment is on you. Your ex-tenant might pay you immediately, and if so, great. Now it is time to celebrate. But what do you do if they don’t?

Related: How to file a small claims lawsuit against your landlord or renter

1. Ask for it

This simple solution often works. Draft a letter to your ex-tenant requesting the money.

  • Let this person know what they owe you.
  • Tell them if they don’t pay by X date, you will begin a collection process.
  • Mention that if you begin a collection process, the transaction will appear on their credit report.
  • You might wish to remind your ex-tenant that having a collection on their credit report will make it difficult to rent another place or to obtain a mortgage.

Many tenants, not wanting their credit affected, will pay.

2. Garnish wages

Almost every state allows wage garnishment, a process that allows creditors to take up to 25 percent of a debtor’s wages until the debt is paid. You must know where your ex-tenant works to do this. You might have this information on the application your ex-tenant filled out. The rest of the procedure varies by state, but typically, you do the following:

  • Go to your local courthouse and ask for a garnishment order.
  • This goes to your ex-tenant’s employer.
  • The employer then withholds money from your ex-tenant’s paycheck until the debt is paid to you.

3. Garnish bank account

Similar to wage garnishment, you must know something about your ex-tenant—in this case where they bank—and ideally, their bank account number. You might have some bank information on the application your ex-tenant filled out, or you can get the information from a cancelled check. If your tenant paid you by check, then you have it. If not, you might be able to find someone who has received a check by your ex-tenant. You then go to your local courthouse and follow the procedure for garnishing the bank account.

4. Request information from the court

If you don’t know where your ex-tenant works or where they bank, you can request a formal procedure at your local courthouse, usually called a “debtor’s examination.” Your ex-tenant might then be ordered to fill out a form that lists their employer and bank information. Or they may be subpoenaed to appear before the court at a hearing to answer your questions. You will have the opportunity to find out the information you will need to collect money:

  • Where they work
  • The contact information of their employer
  • Where they bank
  • Their bank account number

5. Hire a collection agency

You’ll have to pay to use a collection agency, but recovering some of your money is better than receiving nothing. Unfortunately, the odds of a collection agent being successful in collecting money your tenant owes you are not that good. But you can increase your chances by hiring a recommended and reputable collection agency that specializes in working with landlords. Ask your lawyer, accountant, or other professional you know for a referral.

Related: The problem with collection agencies

The bottom line

Sure, you can collect on a judgment. But there’s no guarantee you’ll be successful or whether it will be worth your time and effort to pursue the money. Only you can make that determination based on how much your tenant owes you and on how busy you are. In most jurisdictions, you have between five and 20 years to collect. So if you’re not up to the job now, or if your ex-tenant has no assets at this time, you might be able to collect your money in the future.

The best course of action is to screen your tenants before renting to them. There’s no guarantee you won’t be burned when you screen tenants, but your chances of renting to a deadbeat tenant are lessened. Keep in mind that the Cozy tenant screening process is free for landlords, and I highly recommend it.

Related: 6 Ways to Find Your Deadbeat Ex-Tenants

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24 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Eden

    Reviewing this site it’s obvious to see that it’s for the Landlords benefit only.Falsely making tenants think this is a site for help reference. WHERE?I have read the many sad unanswered questions.Any tenants reading this I hope you find a site geared to help. This isn’t it. I wouldn’t subscribe or put anymore energy or popularity into COZY. No renter solutions here. You see for yourselves that your problems aren’t important as a renter. I’m so sorry about the situations you all are going through. There are State landlord/Tenant Court’s buildings. You can go there and ask legal questions for free. I witness cases all day. I’m a clerk not a legal professional. I hate seeing good tenants lose because they lack knowing their rights & protocol.

    • cathie

      Eden,
      this is mostly for landlords starting out. The majority of the issues come from tenants, please don’t act like you take care of the property like it is your own, like your car for example, MANY landlords get screwed out of money/investment because the tenants destroy the property.

      this site helps with PROTECTING landlords from scumbags.

      • Marlene

        There are some honest, good, hard working tenants out there. But there are some deadbeat, scumbag tenants who lacks integrity and feel they can screwed whoever they can – including myself out of rents and destroyed my investment.

        We, landlords provide a roof over their heads for a fee, but yet some tenants feel they are entitled to live there for free and destroyed the property because they are angry when told to pay or get out! Good tenants don’t get kicked out of the property if they are properly follow procedures a service for a fee. I don’t know why it is hard to understand that concept.

        • Carla

          Agree100%..Blame it on Holidays..and NOW CV…then fridge went out and I had told him that it wasn’t originally furnished all other tenets firm all there APPLIANCES..Beautiful YARD looks like Crap…says he’s not working .I said well if you can’t pay my 75yr old Husband 550$ a month at least keep it Clean…Many more complaints..Thanks.best regards
          Carla

          • Sunny

            I feel for you.Most tenants that are still working are paying rent.Its when they don’t keep up the property that makes it a double wammy.

    • cathie

      Eden,
      this is mostly for landlords starting out. The majority of the issues come from tenants, please don’t act like you take care of the property like it is your own, like your car for example, MANY landlords get screwed out of money/investment because the tenants destroy the property.

      This site helps with PROTECTING landlords from certain types of tenenats.

    • Brenda

      Nothing false about it.While it is a site for landlords there is plenty of information for tenants. Is there anything that stops a tenant from reading a landlords perspective? I don’t see anything that would stop them.Not should there be. By reading a landlords perspective they can see not everything is rosy for landlords. They can figure out what type of tenant not to be. This translates to a tenant that is worked with by a landlord rather than evicted. I know at least two tenants that have read this site and are truly grateful for the type of landlord they have. They were able to see how some landlords become bitter and resentful.

  • Costumelooks.com

    Putting a lien on your real property The creditor can file a lien on your property. This can convert the judgment from an unsecured debt to a secured debt. This way when you try to sell or refinance your home, the creditor can get paid the judgment plus accrued interest from the escrow. If the creditor chooses not to wait for you to sell or refinance the property, the creditor can try to “foreclose” on the judgment lien. This means that the creditor forces you to sell the property and pay what you owe with that money. This only works when there is enough equity in the property to pay all the liens as well as the costs of foreclosure.

    • Brenda

      Sorry to tell you that isn’t the case. It depends on state law. Most states won’t allow you to convert. What you are thinking about is a mechanics lien. This allows you to get paid when the debt is unsecured. Rental property isn’t exactly unsecured. Furthermore you must present evidence where the alleged unpaid bill is from and it must be presented where the supposed debtor is at. You don’t get to just swoop in and receive money. Otherwise any one could do this. Its a system of checks and balances designed to make sure you are actually owed and not just trying to screw someone. If its found you did so wrongfully and willfully you can be prosecuted for it both criminally and civilly.

      • Carla

        I’m going to put a Lien/Judgment on property that a tenet of mine hasn’t paid RENT going on 4mths,So YEAH if I don’t get my $2800 I’M gonna make IT AS FKN HARD AS Possible for the POS SYSTEM RIDING BASTURD!!!!😠

        • Sunny

          If someone has a rent to own its a different contract.If someone is renting property as in merchandise rental tools rental car exc then yeah you might be able to do so.Otherwise you won’t get very far with your lawsuit.Rental property is a service and isn’t exactly unsecured.If there was a crime to your property by your tenants then you can get a judgement but that isn’t the same as failure to pay rent or damages.Criminal charges may make you eligble for attachment but not always.Please study the laws in your state before you get in a world of trouble and possibly lose money you might have been able to collect

  • Isabelle Johnson

    If you are in need to settle a debt visit the website http://www.judgmentminnesota.com. A reliable consultancy to sell judgements.

    • Lucas Hall

      Please don’t spam this site.

      • Marian scott

        Im very grateful for this site. I never intended being a landlady. Im 82 and live on the same property. My current tenant has harrased, insulted, lied, kept me awake, upset other tenants and friends. He is not paying tent and is sheltering under the current covid crisis. I retained an eviction attorney set for when Courts begin again.

  • Susie

    My tenant died owing back rent. He just began collecting SSID, and is due funds retroactively. An estate has not been established, but a claim for back rent has been filled with the Surrogate. How do I claim the back rent from Social Security.

    • Jason litwin

      I appreciate if you can please email me and tell me more about your situation because I’m facing a similar situation I’m not sure if you can garnish wages from SSI or SSDI?

      I live in the city California and this is gonna be a real mess I’m facing right now but do you have any feedback or resources I’d be very grateful if you can guide me in the right path. Theft Most painful part is that I live with these people And somebody’s now I’m trying to place a restraining order against me in my own home; and they are currently squatting When I’ve been nothing but good to them.

      Thanks,

      Jason

    • Jason litwin

      I appreciate if you can please email me and tell me more about your situation because I’m facing a similar situation I’m not sure if you can garnish wages from SSI or SSDI?

      I live in the city California and this is gonna be a real mess I’m facing right now but do you have any feedback or resources I’d be very grateful if you can guide me in the right path. Theft Most painful part is that I live with these people And somebody’s now I’m trying to place a restraining order against me in my own home; and they are currently squatting When I’ve been nothing but good to them.

      Thanks,

      Jason
      Email: Jason.litwin@gmail.com

    • Brenda

      This isn’t legal advice but personal advice opinion.SSDI is almost judgement proof and the lump sum from SSDI would have to be returned by the estate. To the best of my knowledge they cant keep it.If it were company disability or even insurance it might be different. I suggest you consult an attorney. My gut instinct tells me you wont receive anything.At least based on what you have stated.

  • Brenda

    You can save yourself from some of this by meeting your tenants and getting to know them. Keep the lines of communication open. Have them call you if things aren’t right.While you would think that your management company is protecting you, they aren’t always. There is a difference in can cant versus will wont.Your management company doesn’t care, They make money through the eviction process. If your tenant is in dire straights and the management company treats them like a deadbeat, then they are far more likely to drag out the eviction. Double cost. Avoid it by being willing to release them from lease and help them store their stuff especially if they have been a good tenent.This saves both of you from eviction and for them the credit ding.

  • Sunny

    What can be done when a stalker is holding you and your life hostage?They claim to be police but aren’t. Lies that you are wanted in Puerto Rico[never been there even as a tourist]Arizona never lived there never been in trouble there. Florida never lived in west palm beach or Deltona Beach nor been in trouble when I did live in fla.Lied that I was a drug addict I am not I was a plasma donor. They have destroyed generations to come.All because some wench who believes in prophecy, at least this is what I was told. I cant even get the name to take out a protection order.Rumor has it she thinks I am a refugee.I am not.How do you operate in an environment with this going on?How How?

    • Brenda

      Oh forgot they sent a message that I could get rid of them for a mere 50000.Called extortion. Threatened to disappear me through the army ranger program. Called it operations Tannenbaum beautiful weapons and dreamboat evidence. Keep in mind they never confront me directly. They are cowards and thieves that’s all they are. Operation bull@@@@ is what I have dubbed it.How do you make a living in this backdrop? Working for yourself or others. Everyone you come into contact with could be harmed by them.[include tenants]They are like fleas and jump off onto them. I have heard the excuses they send they want counseling for you[they need to be locked up rather than you needing counseling] to turn yourself in [no charges to turn yourself in for]

  • Capital Smart City

    Thanks for sharing such helpful information.

  • Capital Smart City

    Thanks for sharing such helpful information

  • Carla

    I KNOW WHAT you going THRU Ms Marian!!!We SHOULD be ABLE TO SUE OUR STATE FOR THE LOSE AND MENTAL ANGER ISSUES IT’S CAUSING!!!😡😵😠😱😬😤😭

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