Lien on Real Property
This method of collecting your judgment puts a lien on real estate, usually the judgment debtor’s home or rental property. It often prevents the debtor who owns any interest in real property for (i.e., a plot of land, a house, a commercial building) from being able to sell or refinance property without first paying off the judgment.
An Abstract of Judgment (form EJ-001) must be issued with the court. You must wait at least 30 days from the date the judgment is entered.
Starting the Process of a Lien
1. Complete the abstract form and pay the fee to issue the Abstract of Judgment form. File the original and 2 copies of the EJ-001 with the Clerk’s Office. The Clerk will issue and give you back the original and filed copies.
2. Take or mail the Abstract of Judgment to the county recorder’s office in the county where you believe the debtor owns real property. They will record the abstract, which places a lien on the property. The recorder’s office will then give you back a recorded (stamped) copy. (The recording fee should be about $20).
You will not be paid automatically, but if there is a refinancing or sale of the property, you should get paid your money with interest. (CCP § Sections 697.310 through 697.410) Some county assessors will confirm if a debtor owns real property over the phone.
Even if the debtor doesn’t own property now, you can still record a filed copy of the Abstract of Judgment form at the county recorder’s office. This accomplishes two things:
1) Credit reporting agencies routinely check for recorded abstracts to find out if people have unpaid judgments against them.
2) If the debtor ever owns any interest in real property in the future, the pre-recorded abstract will adversely impact the debtor’s ownership interest until the judgment is paid off
Liens last up to 10 years, the same amount of time your judgments lasts. Before the 10 years run out, be sure to renew your judgment.
Can I Have the Debtor’s House or Other Real Estate Sold at Public Auction?
Yes. You can have the sheriff/marshal take the debtor’s real property and have it sold at public auction. For more information, check out Code of Civil Procedure §700.015, §§701.540 through 701.680, and §§704.710 through 704.850. This is a relatively complex way to collect a judgment. If you still want to do it, follow these steps:
1. Start by getting information about the real property from the county assessor’s office and the county recorder’s office. Does a bank or other lender have an interest in the property? Are there other owners of the property?
2. Have the court issue a Writ of Execution (EJ-130) to the sheriff/marshal in the county where the real property is located.
3. Give the sheriff/marshal written instructions and their fees. The sheriff will probably have a form of Real Property Levy Instructions. The fees will probably be approximately $1,000.
4. An officer will then serve a Notice of Levy on the debtor and you.
5. If the real property is a dwelling, you must ask the court for an order of sale. You must do this within 20 days of receiving notice that the levy has been made.
6. After 120 days, an officer will then serve a Notice of Sale on the debtor. The notice will be posted in a public place and on the property. It’s served on the occupant of the property, if there is one. The notice also is published in the local newspaper and mailed to any lien holders.
7. Proceeds from the sale are to be distributed within 30 days after the sal