• Yin Seo

I Can't Collect Money from the Debtor on My Judgement

Updated: Nov 1


Plaintiff and defendant yelling at each other over money

You won your case and the judge awarded you money. Throughout the years, you (the creditor) have tried to collect money from the debtor (person or business that owes you money) through different methods with no success. If you are unsure whether you have tried all the options, check out our article on How to Collect Money After a Judgment.


If you are unable to collect from the other party, you still have some options since you have a court judgment.


Determine interest accrued on the judgment


If you are unable to collect your judgment from the other party, you are likely owed interest on top of the original judgment amount. Determine how much interest has accrued so you know how much the other party really owes you. This rate can change per state, check with your local court for interest accrual policy in your state.


In California, Small Claims judgments accrue interest at 10% per year, with interest beginning to accrue on the date the judgment was entered. If the judge has accepted a payment plan request from the other party, you can only charge interest on payments that have become due. You cannot claim interest on accrued unpaid interest unless the judgment is renewed, which then the new renewed amount is the new judgment amount.


Example:

You have a judgment for $10,000 and after nearly 10 years, the debtor has not repaid any of the judgment. This judgment accrued a daily interest of $2.74 ($10,000 * 0.1 / 365).

You ask to have your judgment renewed after 9 years and 10 months, which is 3605 days. The accrued interest on your judgment is $9,876.71 (3605 * $2.74). Read more about judgment renewals below.


Add this interest amount to your original judgment and the new judgment will be $19,876.71. On the date of your judgment renewal, the new interest will accrue at a rate of $5.445 ($19,876.71 *0.1 / 365)


Determine costs accrued while going attempting collection


When attempting collection against the other party, you may also have accrued additional costs due to the collection attempts. These costs can be added to the judgment so it becomes part of what the debtor owes you.


Some examples of costs that may be accrued:

  • Court fees, such as for issuing a writ of execution, and filing of any documents related to the judgment.

  • Costs for hiring the sheriff/marshall to help collect the money

  • County recorder’s office fees for placing a mortgage lien on the debtor's real estate

  • Fees paid to the DMV to suspend a driver's license

  • Costs for unsuccessful levies on wages, bank accounts, businesses, motor vehicles, and other property

Keep records such as receipts of all these costs you have accrued so you can have them added to your judgment.


Adding interests and costs to your judgment


To get interests and costs added to your judgment, you can go about it 2 ways:

  1. Renewing your judgment with interest and costs added. Read more about judgment renewals below.

  2. Asking the court to get these costs added into the judgment.

Different states may have different requirements in terms of how to get costs added to the judgment, check with your local court for details.


In California, you can have interests and costs added to your judgment by:

  1. Confirming the costs you are requesting is no later than 2 years after the cost was charged.

  2. The debtor has not yet fully paid for the judgment. You cannot ask for costs to be added after the judgment has been paid.

  3. File the MC-012 (Memorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest) with the costs and interest accrued.

  4. Have someone (not yourself) serve the filed form to the other party via mail or personally.

After the court has added the costs and interest to your judgment, that will be the new amount the debtor owes you.


Renewing your judgment


You may be able to renew your judgment if it expires. Check with your local court for expirations and renewal processes on a court judgment.


In California, a civil court case judgment (including small claims) is good for ten years from the date it was entered and can be renewed for another ten years. To prevent your original judgment from expiring, you must renew the judgment with the court before the ten years run out.


Follow these steps to renew your judgment:

  1. File the EJ-190 (Application for and Renewal of a Judgment) with the court where your judgment was originally entered.

  2. It is best to do this at least 3-4 months before the ten-year expiration date. If you have recorded liens against the debtor's real estate, allocate even more time so you can re-record those liens after the judgment is renewed.

  3. Include in the judgment any interest and costs you would like to be added.

  4. Have someone (not yourself) serve the EJ-195 (Notice of Renewal of Judgment) on the debtor by mail or personally.

  5. If you recorded liens against the other party's real estate, you can take a certified copy of the EJ-190 that you filed with the court, and file it with the county recorder's office where you originally recorded a lien on the other party's property.

  6. After the judgment is renewed, you cannot renew it again for another 5 years.

If the judgment is expired and not renewed, it will become permanently unenforceable, and the debtor will not have to pay you any remaining amount of the debt.


Taking a tax deduction if the debt is uncollectible


Lastly, if you really do not expect to collect from the other party ever, you may be able to take a tax deduction on an “uncollectible” court judgment. A judgment may be considered uncollectible if you have failed at reasonable attempts to collect on the debt.


Different Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reporting rules apply to business debts and personal debts. Learn more about Bad Debt Deduction from the IRS.


Consult the IRS or a tax professional to learn important details about writing off uncollectible judgments on your taxes.


 

NEED HELP WITH YOUR JUSTICE JOURNEY?


The quest for justice is never easy, particularly when it comes to getting your money back. However, thanks to advances in technology, it has become easier. Quest for Justice’s first app, JusticeDirect, is the only app of its kind designed to support people without lawyers resolve their dispute and get their money back, both in and out of court. The first step to getting money back is through a letter demanding payment from the other party JusticeDirect offers customizable demand letters for free. If the letter demanding payment does not work, then the next step is taking them to court. JusticeDirect* will guide users every step of the way through the small claims court process by helping them:

  1. Understand the legal process;

  2. Evaluate the pros and cons that come with taking someone to court;

  3. Generate small claims court forms; and,

  4. Avoid common mistakes when filing your forms and serving notice on the other side.

*Currently, JusticeDirect can only help litigants sue in California’s small claims court.


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