Posted by: Collections Attorney | May 9, 2012

How to Place a Lein on a Home

Do you want to enforce your judgment by placing a lien on real property?

Getting a lien on someone’s home or other real property is usually a good first step in collecting your judgment.  However, it’s never easy, and in some cases it’s not even an option.  Here’ s some of what you need to know:

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Do you have a judgment against the person?  You need a judgment against the owner of the property to place a lien on it.  Just because you have a judgment against his Corporation or her LLC, does not mean you have a judgment against them.
  2. Is the property protected?  Sometimes, professional deadbeats will put their house in the trust to make it harder for the people they owe money to collect. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be impossible to put a lien on the house but it does make it harder.
  3. Where is the property?  In order to place a lien on real property (land), you need record an abstract of judgment in the office of the county recorder in the county where the property is located.
  4. Is your judgment from a different state?  If the judgment was issued by an out-of-state federal court you will need to register it in California by filing a certified copy of the judgment in a California federal district court. See 28 USC § 1963.  If it was issued by a different state court, you will need to domesticate it in California.  See Sister State Money Judgment Act, California Code of Civil Procedure § 1710 et seq.  After that, you can record the abstract of judgment.

How to Get the Lien:

Create an Abstract of Judgment – The abstract of judgment is a summary of the judgment, including the parties, the amount owed, and any applicable interest.

  • Use the EJ-001 – Be sure to use the proper California Judicial Council form for an abstract of judgment (EJ-001) and also to use the proper cover letter when filing in a county other than the one where the abstract was issued. A phone call to the County recorder’s office can save you a lot of time.
  • List the SSN – If you happen to know the judgment debtor’s Social Security number, be sure to listed in the abstract of judgment form in the appropriate place. The lien of abstract is voidable if you don’t list the Social Security number if you know the number or if it is “immediately accessible” to you.
  • List multiple names / aliases – if the judgment debtor is known by more than one name, you may need to file an affidavit of identity to add those additional names. This is not, however, a procedure that allows you to add additional judgment debtors.

Record the abstract of judgment – You need to record the abstract of judgment with the county recorder’s office in whichever county the property you seek is located.

Provide notice – Finally, you must give notice to the judgment creditor of the judgment lien. This is either done by the county recorder or by you. If you’re the one doing it, you can do it by having a process server personally deliver a copy or by mailing it registered or certified mail or through a procedure known as substitute service. You need to follow the statute to the letter and you need to file proof of service with the county recorder where you filed the abstract. Don’t assume the recorder will do this for you. Ask!


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