Abstract of Judgment as a Lien on Real Property


You have obtained a judgment against someone, and now it is time to collect. How can you make sure you'll get paid? One simple way is to place a lien upon the judgment debtor's real property. This can be done by filing an abstract of judgment in the county where that person's property is located.

What is an abstract of judgment?
Basically, it is a one-page document that states:
Title of the case
Case number
Name and address of the debtor
Name and address of the creditor (you)
Date the judgment was entered
Amount of the judgment

The abstract of judgment should also contain the debtor's drivers license number and Social Security number, if known. If these are not known to you, and you discover them later, you can file an amended abstract of judgment. To have any valid effect, the abstract of judgment must be recorded in any county recorder's office (in any county), where it will become a public record.

What does the abstract of judgment do?
If the person who owes you owns property in the county where the abstract is recorded, it creates a lien on the property and "clouds" the title. If he or she sells the property, the judgment must be paid, unless the purchaser is willing to take the property subject to the lien. Abstracts usually provide for accrual of interest, so the longer the debtor waits to sell the property, the higher the judgment amount becomes.

Completing and recording an abstract of judgment is relatively inexpensive, and should be done whenever a valid judgment is obtained and has yet to be satisfied.

It expires 10 years after the judgment date (instead of the date it's recorded), and can be renewed every 10 years. To renew, a certified copy of the renewal of judgment must be recorded.