How to Collect on a Judgment in California

You won the court case and have evicted a tenant in California. Often, this will be a tenant who failed to pay rent. As part of the judgment, the court may allow you to collect back rent and court costs. However, receiving and collecting on a judgment can mean two different things. Make sure you know how to collect on a judgment in California for evictions, including your legal rights as a landlord. 

Options to Collect on a Judgment in California for Evictions

The eviction process in California can take 30-45 days or more from the time you file for eviction. You have to give the tenant a written Notice before you start the process. Next, you would file a court case, ask for a trial date or default judgment, go to the trial, and, if you win the court case, file the paperwork to have the tenant move out, including the Judgment-Unlawful Detainer form (UD-110) and Writ of Execution (form EJ-130).  The Writ of Execution gives the sheriff legal permission to lock a tenant out of the home and to collect any money owed from the judgment. This does not, however, make it easy to collect the funds you are owed. 

1. Locate Assets

Identify the tenant’s assets for funds that can be used to satisfy the judgment. You may, for example, need to look over the court records for information about the tenant’s employment and financial status, including available asset information. Tenants who skip out on their rent may have hidden assets. You may not know what assets the tenant has or how to access them. If that’s the case, especially if you were awarded a large judgment, consider hiring a private investigator to find assets. 

2. Request Wage Garnishment

If the tenant does not have assets you can collect directly and they cannot pay, you may need to garnish the tenant’s wages to receive the compensation for lost rent named in the judgment. Complete and file the Writ of Execution with the court. Make sure you have the clerk issue, or stamp, the Writ to show its accuracy. Next, submit the Writ to the tenant’s employer. Once you have filed the Writ of Execution, the employer will need to withhold a portion of the tenant’s wages, as named by the court, to pay the judgment. 

3. File Bank Levy

Like a wage garnishment, a bank levy will require a Writ of Execution. Make sure you fill it out, complete all necessary items, and have the clerk’s office stamp the Writ to ensure its accuracy and legality. Submit the Writ of Execution to the tenant’s bank. The bank will be required to freeze the tenant’s account. If the tenant has assets in those accounts that can pay the judgment, the bank will have to transfer funds that satisfy the judgment.

4. Consider Other Collection Methods

While bank levies and wage garnishment are among the most common ways to collect judgments in California, you may have other options for collecting the funds you are owed: 

  • Place a lien on the tenant’s property. If the tenant owns any property, you can place a lien on it that will allow you to collect on the judgment. A lien is a public mark on the property that notes that the property owner owes you money. As long as the property owner does not sell or refinance the property, it may do little for you. However, if the property owner attempts to refinance or sell, you will often be able to collect on the judgment. 
  • Sell property the tenant left behind. If the tenant does not clear everything out after eviction, you may have the right to sell some of that property to collect the funds you are owed. Send the tenant notice in writing of your intent to sell or dispose of any abandoned property.
  • Start a personal property levy. If the tenant has a personal property with considerable value, including a vehicle or piece of equipment, you can file a personal property levy. This will allow the sheriff to seize the property, which you can then sell to help recover funds related to the judgment. 

SueYa Can Help

Collecting on a judgment in California can prove complicated, especially if the evicted tenant has limited assets or fights the claim. You may need to file a Writ of Execution and choose the method that works best for your needs, from garnishing wages to submitting a bank levy. At SueYa, we can help with the entire eviction process, from filing a Notice of Termination to managing eviction enforcement. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.