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Enforcing Judgment Liens in California

Enforcing Judgment Liens in CaliforniaAfter obtaining a judgment against a party, the next step for the judgment creditor is to enforce the judgment against the judgment debtor. If the judgment debtor owns real estate in California, a creditor can record a judgment lien against the judgment debtor’s real property. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 697.340. A judgment lien gives the creditor priority over unsecured creditors , and secures the right to be paid from the proceeds of a sale of the debtor’s real property or from the debtor’s monetary award in another lawsuit assuming there is equity in the property.

To obtain a judgment lien on the debtor’s property, a judgment creditor must first request the Superior Court clerk issue an abstract of the judgment. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 697.310. The judgment creditor or its counsel must complete form Cal. Jud. Council Form EJ-001 and then file it along with a file-endorsed copy of the judgment, and a file-endorsed copy of a Memorandum of Costs after Judgment (MC-012), if any was previously filed. These documents must be filed in the county that entered the judgment.

A judgment creditor can request that the clerk issue multiple abstracts of judgment. The reason being that an abstract could be filed in multiple counties in California—basically anywhere that the debtor owns real property or may later acquire or inherit real property. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 697.340

After the Court issues the abstract of judgment, the judgment creditor must record it with the appropriate county recorder's office. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 697.310.  

Once recorded, the judgment lien encumbers both real property owned by the debtor at the time of recording or acquired after recording at any time while the lien is valid. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 697.340. A judgment lien remains valid for up to ten years from the date of entry of judgment. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 683.020. However, if the judgment is not satisfied during this ten-year period, a creditor may renew the judgment which would be valid for another ten years. To obtain an extension the judgment creditor must renew the judgment and record a certified copy of the application for renewal of the judgment before the expiration of the judgment lien. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 683.180.

As discussed, this is only one of the many options to securing payment after a judgment is entered. Knowing what options are available to a judgment creditor can make the difference. Please contact us by email or call us at 408.971.6270.

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