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Using Florida’s Lien Laws to Collect on Judgments

If you win a judgment for money damages, whether by trial or by default, your next order of business is to collect. This can be more problematic than obtaining the judgment itself. Fortunately, you have a potent legal remedy: attaching a judgment lien to the defendant’s property.

How you obtain a judgment lien depends on whether the asset you wish to seize is real or personal property. In either case, the goal is to force a sheriff’s sale of the property so that the proceeds can be applied to satisfying your judgment.

Real property includes any land, building or part of a building solely owned by the defendant (known as the judgment debtor). You may create a lien on real estate of the judgment debtor by filing a certified copy of the judgment, order or decree you are trying to enforce in the office of recorder of the county where the real estate is located. If it doesn’t state your address, you also need to file an affidavit containing that information at the same time. The lien lasts for 10 years, but may be renewed by refiling it.

Personal property is any other physical assets they own, such as vehicles, jewelry and other things of value. Fixtures (personal property attached to real estate) and certain types of commercial instruments, such as checks, promissory notes and mortgages, aren’t subject to a lien. You may create a lien on personal property of the judgment debtor in Florida by filing a judgment lien certificate in the proper form with the Florida Department of State. The lien lasts for five years, but may be renewed once by filing a new certificate.

Judgment liens don’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll be able to collect your judgment against all of the debtor’s property. If other creditors have older liens on the property, they will be paid before you.

In addition, some of the judgment debtor’s property might be exempt from sale to pay their debts. For instance, your lien probably won’t apply to the debtor’s home. Certain types of personal property, such as motor vehicles, might also be exempt up to certain amounts of money, meaning that the debtor might be able to keep all or some of the sale proceeds.

Florida lien law can be complex, and you need the services of a lawyer who understands how to perfect your lien, what property it will affect and how best to use it to obtain as much of the judgment as possible.

If you need to enforce your rights to collect on a Florida judgement, H. Clay Parker, Esq. in Orlando can help you obtain and enforce available liens. Call us at 407-216-2504 or contact us online to learn more about your options.

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