Collecting Your Small Claims Judgment
After you obtain a judgment, you will need to take action to collect it if the other party will not voluntarily pay the judgment amount. The court does not collect your judgment for you and cannot help you locate the other party’s assets. However, the court will issue the orders and other documents required to force the debtor to pay. The answers to the questions below should help you start the process of collecting your judgment.
The answers to the questions below should help you start the process of collecting your judgment.
Must I collect the judgment on my own?
How long do I have to collect my judgment?
How can I make the debtor pay me?
What property may I attach through a writ of execution?
How long is the Writ of Execution in effect after it is served?
How can I find out what assets and/or income the debtor has so that I can execute on my judgment?
What can I do if I cannot find the debtor?
While the court will not collect the money for you, you can ask a lawyer or collection agency to help you collect your judgment. Be aware, however, that you may have to pay a percentage of the judgment in fees or you may be asked to assign the right to your judgment to them. Click here for tips on collecting a judgment.
Your judgment will expire within 6 years from its entry unless it is renewed. In order to renew a judgment, review NRS 17.214 and file an Affidavit of Renewal of Judgment with the clerk of the court where the judgment was entered within 90 days before the date the judgment is to expire. Be aware that any liens placed on the debtor’s property pursuant to the original judgment must also be renewed.
While there are several devices to compel a debtor to pay you, these can often be time consuming. Moreover, if you begin to garnish a debtor’s wages or attach his or her bank account, you could cause the debtor to file for bankruptcy which may, in turn, reduce the amount of money that you can obtain from the debtor and may even result in your judgment being discharged.
Here are a few tips to encourage the debtor to pay you voluntarily:
- Accept a payment plan.
- Accept less than what the court ordered.
- Allow the debtor pay you with property or work instead of money.
If the debtor will not pay you voluntarily, you have several options available including:
Garnishment. You may be able to get a court order called a Writ of Garnishment to obtain a portion of the defendant's wages. In order to garnish wages you must know the name and address of the employer of the person you have the judgment against. You cannot obtain more than 25% of the defendant's check or 50 times the minimum wage (currently $362.50 per week), whichever is higher.
Attachment. If garnishment is unavailable, you may seek a different kind of court order called A Writ of Attachment to obtain some of the defendant's property, If possible it is best to attach cash. To attach money in a bank account you need to know the defendant’s bank name, address and, ideally, the account number (Hint: find someone who wrote a check to the business to look on the back of the canceled check). If the business has a cash register, you can execute against any cash on the property. You'll need the business' name and location.
Record a Lien. If the defendant owns a home, you can attach it. You'll need a legal description of the property which you may obtain from the Clark County Assessor's Office, 500 Grand Central Parkway, Las Vegas, NV. The defendant can "homestead" (protect from collection) his primary residence up to $550,000. Another option is to record the judgment against the defendant's property. You may file the judgment with the Clark County Records Office at 500 Grand Central Parkway, Las Vegas Nevada, 89155. The judgment is valid for six years and you can re-file. When the property is sold or foreclosed upon, you may receive your money.
You can attempt to attach the defendant's automobile, if you have the vehicle's description and location plus a printout listing the legal owner, and any outstanding liens. You maintain these documents from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Bonds/recovery funds. Occasionally there may be a bond or recovery fund from which you can collect your judgment.
Manufactured Housing. Consumers victimized by dealers, servicemen, installers, and manufactures and other persons licensed by the Division of Manufacturing Housing may collect from a recovery fund maintained by the Division under NRS 489.4971. If you are unable to collect the judgment go back the court and request the judge to order that the judgment must be paid from the recovery fund. Note: you should first file a complaint with the Manufacturing Housing Division at 486- 4135.
Vocational Schools. If your judgment is against a vocational school which is closed, some schools are often required to post a bond or set up a recovery fund. Students should call the State Division of Post Secondary Education at 486-7330. (NRS 394.553 and 394.480).
Contractors. Some licensed contractors may have a bond to make a claim against. Call the Contractors Board at 486-1100 to see if there is a bond posted.
Car dealerships, Body Shops and Emission Shops. These types of businesses (unfortunately, not repair shops) are required to post bonds.. To make a claim call the Division of Enforcement of the Department of Motor Vehicles at 486-8620. The Division will tell you the name, address and phone number of the bonding company, who will explain the procedures for filing a claim.
Collection agencies, Escrow Companies and Money Order businesses must post bonds. For collection agencies call the State of Nevada Division of Financial Institutions at 486-4120.
Other. Certain other types of entities are required to post bonds. Employers on construction jobs (NRS 338 and 608150). Employment agencies (NRS 611) are required to post bonds. Nursing homes must post bonds to cover loss of patients' property. Call the State of Nevada Division of Aging Services at 953 East Sahara, 35-B, Suite 208, Las Vegas Nevada 89104.
Certain property is exempt from execution meaning that you will not be able to use this income or property to pay your judgment. It is important to familiarize yourself with these exemptions before going to the time an effort of attaching the debtor’s property.
A writ of execution against the debtor’s wages will remain in effect for 120 days. Wages are collected each payday for 120 days, unless the judgment is paid in full. If attaching property such as an auto or house, or for a money item such as the contents of a cash drawer or bank account, the execution is a one-time action, and must be Re-Filed until the judgment is paid in full or satisfied.
The Court can order the Examination of a Judgment Debtor for the purpose of allowing you to determine what income and assets the debtor has. This allows you to bring the debtor into court and require them to answer questions under oath regarding the nature and location of their income and assets. Click here for information about the Examination of a Judgment Debtor.
Some ways to try to locate the debtor include:
- Using the Internet and its search tools: white pages, reverse look-up, etc.
- Checking with the County Assessor to see if the debtor or the debtor's spouse owns real property.
- Search the city or county licensing departments to find if the debtor has a fictitious business name statement on file with an address.
- Check with the court to see if there are any other lawsuits filed against the debtor or the debtor's spouse and see if an address is listed in that file.
However, you may not need to know the debtor's location if, for example, you know the bank branch where the debtor has his or her accounts.