EXECUTIONS OF REAL & PERSONAL PROPERTY
Governed primarily by Florida Statute § 56 the levy and execution process in Florida is an effective collections tool for recovering an unpaid judgment. Unfortunately, many creditors (and their attorneys unfamiliar with this area of practice) miss crucial initial requirements for properly recording their judgment, which inhibit and delay execution proceedings. These recording requisites are found in Florida Statute §55. In order to properly effectuate a lien on the real property of a judgment debtor, the creditor must record a certified copy of the final judgment in the county where the creditor believes the judgment debtor owns real property. Many litigants get confused and believe the initial recording of the judgment (which is done automatically by the clerk of court of the county where the judgment is entered) satisfies the recording requirement. Such is not the case. The creditor must obtain a certified copy of the final judgment (which can be obtained from the clerk of court), and take that certified copy to the county recording office. Then and only then does the creditor possess a lien on the judgment debtor’s real property. The certified copy of the judgment will be assigned a new book and page number, and will then act as a lien on real property the debtor owns in that county.
LEVY ON REAL PROPERTY
Another mistake made by many litigants is the failure to list the judgment creditor’s address in the body of the final judgment. Without the creditor address in the judgment, the judgment does not act as a lien on the debtor’s real property, regardless of whether a certified copy of the judgment is recorded. This oversight can be remedied by a simultaneous recording of an affidavit of judgment creditor address at the time of recording a certified copy of the final judgment. However, proper recording of the final judgment should be done with dispatch, as a judgment debtor with many creditors may have another creditor record its judgment in the interim. Priority of the judgment liens is from the time of recording, not entry of the judgment, so it will be of no consequence that your judgment was entered first if not recorded properly. In order to properly levy on a judgment debtor’s real property, the Sheriff’s court services department (who controls the levy and sale process) will require a properly recorded certified copy of the judgment. The sheriff will also require a litany of other paperwork (which is beyond the scope of this article). Hiring a seasoned debt collection attorney is the most effective way to make sure this process is done right. If you have an uncollected judgment, give us a call and we can provide a consultation. At Law Offices of Paul A. Humbert, P.L., we consistently utilize real property levies and seizures to recover judgments for our clients.
EXECUTION OF PERSONAL PROPERTY
Regarding personal property of (i.e. a vehicle, equipment, inventory) a judgment debtor, an often overlooked but important hurdle is recording of a judgment lien certificate with the Florida Secretary of State. This process is relatively new (the statute was revised in 2005), so there is very little case law interpreting this issue. The good news is the statute (55.202 and 55.203) is well written, so there should be no difficulty properly recording a lien for the creditor who follows the statute. Judgment lien certificates can be registered at Sunbiz.org. A creditor can also search Sunbiz.org for evidence of pre-existing judgment lien certificates against a judgment debtor. Prudence would dictate also searching for UCC financing statements registered against the judgment debtor. UCC financing statements evidencing a lien on the debtor’s personal property may indicate a tougher road for collections. While the holder of a subordinate judgment lien certificate is still entitled to levy and sell the non-exempt personal property of the judgment debtor, the buyer at a Sheriff’s Sale will likely take subject to the lien of the UCC creditor. This understandably will lessen the expected sales price (and distribution to the judgment creditor at a sheriff’s sale) and most likely will result in no bidding at all at the Sheriff’s Sale (with the exception of the levying creditor).
DEBT COLLECTION LAWYER
Like the levy and sale of a judgment debtor’s real property, levy and sale of personal property is very nuanced, and there are a lot of moving parts involved in reducing a judgment debtor’s property to recovered funds for the judgment creditor. Consultation with the Law Offices of Paul A. Humbert, P.L., can provide guidance on these issues.