Judgments and liens are governed in part by California of Civil Procedure Code Title 9 Sections 697.510 – 697.670. A judgment lien can attach to both personal property and real property. Judgments in California are valid for ten years and then can be renewed. A request for renewal of judgment must be filed with the superior court. In a perfect world you would not want to have to renew a judgment because that means you have received payment. The good news is that the renewed judgment will include the interest that accrued over the last ten years and you can now collect interest on the accrued interest plus the amount of the judgment. See California Civil Procedure Sections 683.010 – 683.220.
Real Property Judgment Liens
A powerful tool to enforce a judgment is to record the judgment with the county in which the judgment debtor owns property. To determine where the judgment debtor owns property some research will have to be completed. Some county recorder’s office will give information over the phone. Most now have on-line services to search the county records. Once the judgment is recorded and the judgment debtor tries to refinance the real property or sell it you will satisfy the judgment, plus interest, by making demand from the escrow. It is also possible to foreclose on the property to satisfy the judgment lien. This is an expensive process though. You will be forcing the judgment debtor to sell the real property to satisfy the judgment lien and all other liens. If there is no equity in the property then forcing a foreclosure sale of the property is pointless. To record the judgment and create a lien an abstract of judgment must be obtained from the Superior Court.
Personal Property Judgment Liens
For a judgment lien to attach to personal property it must be recorded with the California Secretary of State and notice sent to the judgment debtor of the filing. Personal property like televisions, golf clubs, audio equipment, antiques and much more can be seized to satisfy a judgment. Even the judgment debtor’s car can be seized to sell at auction. Attempting to enforce a judgment with the personal property of the judgment debtor is risky though. The costs of obtaining court approval, then possession of their personal property and finally auctioning it off usually does not cover the costs of going down this road. The sheriff’s department has fees to accomplish all of this and the court fee for the filing of the necessary documents adds up quickly. Sometimes taking this approach will may force the judgment debtor into agreeing to a installment agreement to satisfy the judgment.
Whether you have a judgment for $1,000 or $200,000 there is a remedy available that is cost effective to attempt to satisfy the judgment in full plus interest and attorney fees. See Wage Garnishment and Levying On Bank Accounts for more information about these remedies.