do I collect a judgment?
If you win a lawsuit for money, you will get a copy of the
court’s judgment stating the amount of money the losing party must pay
to you. The losing party is
called the judgment debtor/defendant, and
you, the winner, are called the judgment creditor/ plaintiff.
If the judgment debtor does not pay, you are entitled to have
the Sheriff seize the judgment debtor’s property.
The seizing of property by the Sheriff is called a levy.
Once the Sheriff has levied on the property, the Sheriff will
then advertise and sell it, and pay you out of the money the Sheriff
receives from the sale IF the sale brings enough
money to pay all concerned. This
process is called an execution.
There are a number of steps you must take.
steps do I have to take?
Once you get your judgment, there are two things you should do.
First, obtain a judgment lien by recording a
Judgment Lien Certificate with the Department of
State, which establishes priority of lien on the judgment
debtor/defendant’s personal property.
Next, you should obtain a certified copy of your final judgment
for recording with the Clerk of the Court in the county where the real
property is located. We
will explain below why it is a good idea and how you do it.
In order to have the Sheriff levy upon (seize) the judgment
debtor’s property, you must first locate the
property. The Sheriff will
not do this for you. Remember
that there are many kinds of property the Sheriff can seize in your
behalf. Land and buildings
are called real property.
Movable things, like cars, boats, furniture, and jewelry are
called personal property.
There are some kinds of property the Sheriff cannot
upon. The main kind of
property the Sheriff cannot seize is a person’s home. A person’s homestead is exempt from
execution. The judgment
debtor may also select personal property worth up to $1000.00 and one
motor vehicle worth up to $1000.00 as exempt property.
Only people have exemptions.
If your judgment is against a corporation or a partnership, the
Sheriff can seize all the property in the name of the corporation or
partnership. Of course, the Sheriff an only levy on property the
judgment debtor truly owns, not property owned by
someone else, such as leased property.
STEP 3: Once you have located the property,
you take a copy of your judgment to the Clerk of the Court that issued
the judgment and ask for a document called a Writ of
writ directs the Sheriff to seize property of the judgment debtor/
defendant, which is subject to levy under your Writ of Execution, you
then deliver the writ to the Sheriff’s Office in the county in which
the property is located. You
must also give the Sheriff written instructions called Instructions
For Levy. These
instructions specifically describe the property (real or personal) and
tell the Sheriff where it is located.
The Sheriff will require from you a cost deposit to pay the
statutory Sheriff’s fees and cost of levy.
You will get your deposit back if the
execution is successful and the Sheriff’s sale brings enough to pay all costs.
You are responsible for all costs of levy and sale if the
Sheriff’s sale does not bring sufficient money to cover the costs.
After the costs have been paid, your deposit will be returned to
STEP 4: On personal property levies, before the property can be
sold, you have to check the Department of State’s internet website at www.sunbiz.org
to see if there are any judgment liens filed under the name of
the judgment debtor. You
must also check for creditors who have filed UCC security interests in
the name of the judgment debtor at www.FloridaUCC.com
. You then give the Sheriff, pursuant to Chapters 55 and 56 of
the Florida Statutes, a signed Affidavit in which you
list the names, addresses, and filing dates of everyone who has filed a
judgment lien or UCC security interest.
Do not confuse this affidavit with the creditor’s
affidavit/Sheriff’s certification which covers Writs of Execution
docketed and indexed with the Sheriff prior to October 1, 2001, and is
required through the g race period of September 30, 2003.
Although you are required to check for UCC security interest on
record, the Sheriff does not pay UCC security interest from the proceeds
of the sale. You must also notify all of these people of the time and
place of sale by certified mail prior to the first date of publication.
These notices (Sheriff’s levy and Sheriff’s sale) will be
sent to you by the Sheriff for your compliance.
The Sheriff will ask for an Affidavit of Compliance of
Mailing in order to proceed with the sale.
STEP 5: once the notices have been sent
by the levying judgment creditor/plaintiff, the Sheriff in a newspaper
within your county must properly advertise the sale.
At the designated time and place, the Sheriff will sell the
property at a public Sheriff’s sale auction.
The highest bidder for cash in hand pays the amount
of their bid to the Sheriff and becomes the owner of the property
advertised and sold at Sheriff’s sale, subject to taxes, prior
recorded liens, and any other encumbrances that have been properly
recorded against this property.
STEP 6: The Sheriff will pay out the money received from the
sale in this order:
First, the Sheriff pays the Sheriff’s fees and costs of
levy and sale. If the sale
brings enough money to pay all costs, you will get your entire deposit
Second, the Sheriff pays you, the levying judgment
creditor/plaintiff, $500.00 liquidation costs pursuant to Florida law
(whether you spent that much or not) if the Sheriff’s sale brings
enough to pay all costs of levy, sale, and liquidation cost.
Third, if somebody obtained a judgment lien before you did
(by properly filing with the Department of State pursuant to Florida law
effective October 1, 2001), the Sheriff pays that person before paying
you because the filing of the judgment lien certificate sets the
priority of lien holders in regard to personal property levies.
If others have filed before you, the Sheriff must pay every lien
holder in the order of filing.
If the Sheriff runs out of money before getting to you, you
get nothing more. This explains why it is such a good idea
to obtain a judgment lien as soon as possible.
If no judgment liens have ever been filed, the Sheriff will pay
you first and anything left over will go back to the judgment
it is still a good idea to file as soon as possible.
If you do not, there is always a chance that somebody might file
their judgment lien certificate prior to your filing and come in ahead
do I obtain a judgment lien on the debtor's personal property?
You can obtain a judgment lien on all the judgment debtor’s
personal property located anywhere in the state by filing a Judgment
Lien Certificate with the Department of State.
To get the proper form, you must go on the Internet to the
department’s website: www.sunbiz.org
. You can download
the form from the website or have the form mailed to you.
Once you have filled out the form, you can either file it
electronically using a major credit card or mail it to the department
with the filing fee. Electronic
filing is recommended to avoid delay in getting your judgment lien
These liens do not last forever.
They lapse, meaning they are removed after 5 years.
If there are liens ahead of you, you will move toward the front
of the line as the others lapse. But
your lien will eventually lapse, too.
Because of this, do not procrastinate waiting for another
creditor/plaintiff to levy on the debtor’s property for you. After 5
years, you can file again (one time only) for a second Judgment Lien
Certificate, which will establish a new priority of lien holders.
do I obtain a judgment lien on the debtor's real property?
You can obtain a judgment lien on the judgment
debtor/defendant’s real property by recording a certified
copy of your judgment in the real estate recording section
of the county in which the property is located with the Clerk of Court. These liens last for 10 years and they can be continued for
another 10 years. At the
time you request a levy, the Sheriff will require an up to
date title search on the real property, which
reveals the priority of liens recorded on the real property.
Pursuant to the new law effective October 1, 2001, the Sheriff no
longer dockets and indexes Writs of Executions.
The execution is presented to the Sheriff of the county where the
property is located at the time the levy is requested. After levy and
sale or payment of the Writ of Execution,
the Sheriff will make his return to the Clerk of Court of issuance. IT
IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE JUDGMENT CREDITOR/ PLAINTIFF to
update the database of the Department of State with an Amended
Judgment Lien Certificate.
The Sheriff’s documents will be sent to the Clerk of Court of
the court of issue to keep the case file current.
NOTE: One (1) Writ of Execution is issued from the court of issuance
and sent to the Sheriff where the property is located for levy process.
If there is property in another county also, when the first levy
is completed and proceeds from the sale indicate a deficiency or the
levy is unsuccessful, the original Writ of Execution may be removed from
that Sheriff’s file by written request of the levying judgment
creditor/plaintiff and sent to the Sheriff of the county in which the
additional property of the judgment debtor/defendant is located to request
another levy process until the Writ of Execution is satisfied in full
either by levy and sale or by satisfaction of the writ by the judgment
you need information on filing of judgment lien certificates, call the
Department of State at: 1-850-245-6039.
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