You won your case, and the judge awarded you money. Throughout the years, you (the creditor) have tried to collect money from the debtor (person or business that owes you money) through different methods with no success. If you are still determining whether you have tried all the options, check out our article on How to Collect Money After a Judgment.
If you cannot collect from the other party, you still have some options since you have a court judgment.
Determine interest accrued on the judgment.
If you cannot collect your judgment from the other party, the other party likely owes interest on top of the original judgment amount. Determine how much interest has accrued to know how much the other party owes you. This rate can change per state; check with your local court for interest accrual policy.
Small Claims judgments in California accrue interest at 10% per year, with interest beginning to accrue from the date the court entered the judgment. If the judge has accepted a payment plan request from the other party, you can only charge interest on payments that have become due. If you do not renew the judgment, you cannot claim interest on accrued unpaid interest, and renewing the judgment will establish the new judgment amount.
You have a judgment for $10,000, and after nearly ten years, the debtor has not repaid any of the judgment. This judgment accrued a daily interest of $2.74 ($10,000 * 0.1 / 365).
You ask to renew your judgment after nine years and ten months, which is 3605 days. The accrued interest on your judgment is $9,876.71 (3605 * $2.74).
Read more about judgment renewals below.
Add this interest amount to your original judgment, and the new judgment will be $19,876.71. On the date of your judgment renewal, the new interest will accrue at a rate of $5.445 ($19,876.71 *0.1 / 365)
Determine costs accrued while going attempting collection.
When attempting collection against the other party, you may also have accrued additional costs due to the collection attempts. You can add these costs to the judgment, making them part of what the debtor owes you.
Some examples of costs that can accrue:
- Court fees, such as issuing a writ of execution and filing any documents related to the judgment.
- Costs for hiring the sheriff/marshall to help collect the money
- County recorder’s office fees for placing a mortgage lien on the debtor’s real estate
- Fees paid to the DMV to suspend a driver’s license
- Costs for unsuccessful levies on wages, bank accounts, businesses, motor vehicles, and other property
Keep records such as receipts of all these costs you have accrued so you can have them added to your judgment.
Adding interests and costs to your judgment
To get interests and costs added to your judgment, you can go about it two ways:
- Renewing your judgment with interest and costs added. Read more about judgment renewals below.
- Asking the court to get these costs added into the judgment.
Different states may have different requirements for adding costs to the judgment; check with your local court for details.
In California, you can have interests and costs added to your judgment.
- You must confirm your requested costs within two years after you have incurred the expense.
- The debtor has not yet fully paid for the judgment. After the debtor pays the judgment, you cannot request to add costs.
- File the MC-012 (Memorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest) with the costs and interest accrued.
- Have someone (not yourself) serve the filed form to the other party via mail or personally.
The court will add the costs and interest to your judgment, resulting in the new amount that the debtor owes you.
Renewing your judgment
You may be able to renew your judgment if it expires. Check with your local court for expirations and renewal processes on a court judgment.
In California, the court keeps a civil case judgment (including small claims) valid for ten years from the date of entry, and you can renew it for another ten years. To prevent your original judgment from expiring, you must renew the judgment with the court before the ten years run out.
Follow these steps to renew your judgment:
- File the EJ-190 (Application for and Renewal of a Judgment) with the court where you originally entered your judgment.
- It would help if you did this at least 3-4 months before the ten-year expiration date. If you have recorded liens against the debtor’s real estate, allocate even more time, so you can re-record those liens after renewing the judgment.
- Include any interest and costs you would like to add in the judgment.
- Have someone (not yourself) serve the EJ-195 (Notice of Renewal of Judgment) on the debtor by mail or personally.
- If you recorded liens against the other party’s real estate, take a certified copy of the EJ-190 that you filed with the court and file it with the county recorder’s office, where you originally recorded a lien on the other party’s property.
- After renewing the judgment, you cannot renew it again for another five years.
If the judgment is expired and not renewed, it will become permanently unenforceable, and the debtor will not have to pay you any remaining amount of the debt.
Taking a tax deduction if the debt is uncollectible
Lastly, if you do not expect to collect from the other party ever, you may be able to take a tax deduction on an “uncollectible” court judgment. A judgment may be considered uncollectible if you have failed at reasonable attempts to collect on the debt.
Different Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reporting rules apply to business and personal debts. Learn more about Bad Debt Deduction from the IRS.
Consult the IRS or a tax professional to learn important details about writing off uncollectible judgments on your taxes.