The following is a summary of the steps required to enforce a personal money judgment against a delinquent owner. Associations should not attempt this on their own. Instead, they should consult with legal counsel for assistance collecting a debt.
A. Applicable Law, Timing, and Notice. A court retains jurisdiction to enforce a judgment it originally made and has broad authority to adopt suitable processes to do so. (Code of Civil Proc. §§ 410.50(b); 187.) Enforcement of virtually all civil judgments, including money judgments, is generally governed by the Enforcement of Judgments Law (EJL) (CCP § 680.010 - § 724.260.) A judgment is generally enforceable immediately upon entry and expires after ten years unless it is renewed in some way. (CCP §§ 683.010; 683.020; 683.120, 683.150.)
Unless he or she requests service on his or her attorney, all notices and papers must be served on the judgment debtor. (CCP §§ 684.020(a); 684.020(b); 1011(a); 684.040.) Service of legal process upon a judgment debtor must be made in the same manner as a summons in a civil action. (CCP § 684.110(a)(1); 684.110(a)(2); 415.10 et seq.)
B. Procedure for Enforcement. Assuming the existence of an enforceable judgment under the above rules, these steps may be taken to enforce it.
1. File and serve a memorandum of costs. Use Judicial Council Form MC-012. Costs and fees incurred post-judgment, including those spent on enforcement, must be noticed by filing a Memorandum of Costs with the court. (CCP § 685.090.) Post judgment costs not noticed upon the debtor at the time of enforcement are waived.
2. Record an abstract of judgment. Use Judicial Council Form EJ-001. Recording an abstract of judgment will generally create a judgment lien on all real property owned by the judgment debtor within a county. (CCP § 697.310.) Debtor will not be able to sell any real property until the lien is satisfied.
3. Discover any other assets subject to enforcement. Debtors often try to hide assets from creditors. Property subject to enforcement can be discovered by several methods:
A. Investigation conducted prior to suing;
B. Information known to, and obtained from, the Board, e.g., copy of check used to pay assessments/fees;
C. Responses to formal discovery during litigation;
D. Post-judgment investigation by third party agencies for work information, bank accounts, etc.
E. Formal post-judgment examination of debtor and/or third parties (CCP § 708.110 et seq.) Use Judicial Council Form EJ-125.
A post-judgment exam is akin to a deposition and can be expensive. Other means of discovering assets should be explored first.
4. Writ of Execution. Use Judicial Council Form EJ-130. For a period of 180 days, a writ allows for immediate seizure of a broad range of debtor’s property specifically identified. (CCP §§ 699.510 et seq; 699.510(a).) Include with Form EJ-130 an updated Memorandum of Costs (see above). Prior to filing the writ, contact the levying officer in the county/area for service and ask what information is required and what form the required written instructions should take. (CCP §§ 687.010(a); 684.130.)
5. Wage Garnishment. Must use Judicial Council Form WG-001 (application) and WG-002 (order). Obtain an “earnings withholding order” by filing Form WG-001 and a copy of the Writ with the levying officer or a registered process server. (CCP §§ 706.022(b); 706.025(a).) Once obtained, serve the order and other required papers on the debtor’s employer within 180 days of issuance of the writ. (CCP §§ 699.530(b); 706.103(c); 706.108(c).) The order is effective 10 calendar days after service and remains in effect until the full amount is withheld, termination by the court, or termination by the levying officer. (CCP §§ 706.022(a).)
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