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Collecting on a judgment: Enforcement in Florida

| Jul 14, 2021 | Collections |

If you run a business and win a lawsuit or if you’re involved in a lawsuit of any kind where another party isn’t paying what they owe, it’s important to look into enforcing the judgment. Normally, judgments are pretty straightforward. They state who has to pay and how much. Unfortunately, the losing party doesn’t always pay up.

When you win your case, you are called the judgment creditor and are awarded an amount by the court. The judgment debtor, the party that lost the case, is ordered to pay what they owe to you. But the court doesn’t take any action to collect the debt for you. You have to know what procedures are available to seize the debtor’s property if they do not pay.

How can you get a judgment enforced in Florida?

To get a judgment enforced, you need to ask the court to step in. To start with, you can file a Judgment Lien Certificate with the Department of State, which will help you collect the debt. Remember, if more than one person is trying to collect, the party that filed the judgment lien first will get priority.

What happens when the debtor won’t pay?

If the debtor won’t pay, one way to collect the debt is to levy the debtor’s property (“levy” is a term that means the sheriff will seize the property to sell at an auction). The sheriff will levy the debtor’s personal property so long as the property is located within the state and you know where it is. The sheriff does not locate property for people.

When you know where the property is, go to the Clerk of the Court and ask for a Writ of Execution. That document will go to the sheriff, and the sheriff will go to collect the property. You do need to cover fees and costs associated with this service. You also need to tell the sheriff exactly where the property is located and describe it carefully for them. This is typically done by providing the sheriff with several different sets of instructions and affidavits, and varies from county to county in Florida.

After that property is levied, the property will be sold at a public auction. Then, the sheriff will pay back the debtors in the order in which they filed their liens. The sheriff’s department also takes a cut of the money that is earned from the auction, which is something to keep in mind if you would like to have your lien enforced.

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