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Q. I just won my small claims case against my landlord for wrongfully withholding my security deposit. Does the court collect for me?
A. The court will not collect the money for you. The court can issue the orders and other documents you may need to collect your judgment from the debtor. You can start the collection process when the time to appeal runs out (30 days after entry of the judgment); or if there was an appeal and you won, after the appeal decision (judgment) is sent back to the small claims court, usually about 10 days after the appeal decision.
Encourage the debtor to pay you voluntarily and don’t resort to harassment or illegal collection methods. Some of the most common collection techniques include: placing a lien on real property, placing a lien on business property, seizing wages and seizing bank accounts.
If the judgment debtor does not pay within 30 days after the court clerk mailed the Notice of Entry of Judgment the debtor must send you for SC-133 Judgment Debtor’s Statement of Assets. This form will tell you what property the debtor has that may be used to pay the judgment.
Sometimes the debtor won’t send the completed form and then you can file SC 134 Application and Order to Produce Statement of Assets and Appear for Examination. This summons the debtor back to court and you can ask the debtor questions about his or her assets or property. You can ask about things like where he or she works, how much he or she earns, bank accounts, stocks, other income sources, property and belongings, and anything else that can be used (or sold) to pay the judgment.
Once you know about the judgment debtor’s income and property you can ask the sheriff to take that property to pay you. To do this fill out and ask the court clerk to issue Form EJ-001 Writ of Execution. Take the form to the Sheriff’s civil division with a description of the debtor’s property that you want to levy on.
Click on the link for more information on collecting your judgment. The law library has information on this too. One good resource is Nolo’s How to Collect When You Win a Lawsuit in California.
Lastly, keep in mind that not all judgments are collectable because the debtor may not have any income or property of value.
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