What is a writ of execution?
Congratulations! The Judge awarded you money. Now what? If you are lucky, the defendant will voluntarily pay you via lump sum or pursuant upon an agreed upon fee schedule. Unfortunately, some defendants, called judgment-debtors, avoid paying judgments. One way to collect that judgment is by obtaining a writ of execution. Our New Jersey collections attorney can help you accomplish this.
A writ of execution is when the court grants an order to put in force a judgment of possession the plaintiff obtained from the court. Put simply, it is a judicial order to enforce a judgment by taking (or “levying”) some of the judgment-debtor’s property.
In New Jersey, depending on the court, the following officer will enforce the writ of execution:
- Special Civil Part court officer – for cases before the Small Claims Court (controversy is less than $3,000), Special Civil Part (controversy is less than $15,000), or Civil Part (controversy is more than $15,000) pursuant to the Judge’s order.
- Sheriff – Civil Part
To learn more about how a writ of execution works, contact an experienced debt collection attorney in New Jersey at Snellings Law LLC. With over a decade of experience in this area of law, we can help you with your collection issues.
What can I take?
The writ of execution can place a levy on the judgment-debtor’s:
- Bank accounts, except for exempted funds
- Wage garnishment;
- Real estate equity;
- Personal property, if there is more than $1,000 worth.
- Motor vehicles, if the vehicle is registered in the judgment-debtor’s name
Below, we will discuss these in more detail.
Bank levies and writs of execution
A bank levy allows a judgment creditor to freeze money within the bank account of a judgment debtor in the amount of the debt they owe. They can then transfer that money to their own bank account in order to repay the debt. However, certain funds are exempted including government-issued benefits.
In order to execute a bank levy, you must have first obtained a judgment against the debtor. Additionally, the court is required to inform the debt prior to the execution of the levy. The debtor may respond by saying that some of the funds in the account are exempt which would then require the court to render a determination on which funds should be exempted. Additionally, the debtor has the chance to file for bankruptcy during this period. Moving quickly here is the key to success.
Writs of execution and personal property and motor vehicles
In cases where a judgment debtor has personal property valued at over $1000, you can get a writ of execution on their personal property. In other words, you liquidate their property to recover the debt. On the one hand, this can be effective, but on the other hand, you and your attorney will have to know what personal property they have in order to execute the writ. This includes presenting to the court a detailed description of the property.
Essentially, a writ of execution against personal property requires more steps than a writ of execution against bank accounts. And because it requires more steps it is both more time consuming and expensive. The court will auction the property off and then return the money to the creditor minus their service charge.
If the personal property is a motor vehicle, the vehicle must be registered to the judgment debtor in the State of New Jersey. If it isn’t, a judgment creditor will not be able to make a move against it.
Wage garnishment and writs of execution
Wage garnishment is the most common method used by judgment creditors to force a debtor to repay a debt. States have differing opinions when it comes to garnishing wages. In some states, wage garnishment is prohibited by statute. In other states, wage garnishment is prohibited for some types of collections. Neither of these are true in New Jersey. But there are limitations on how much money a creditor can recover from a debtor’s paycheck.
The can be found in N.J.S.A. 2A: 17-56. Unless the debtor’s income is 2.5 times greater (or 250%) than the poverty level (considering the size of the debtor’s family), a judgment creditor may only recover 10% per paycheck. If the debtor’s income is more than 2.5 times greater than the poverty level, the creditor can take up to 25% of the check provided that (by doing so) the debtor’s income does not drop below 2.5 times greater than the poverty level. In other words, the amount would be adjusted such that the debtor is right at 250% of the poverty level.
The judgment debtor must receive a notice of the intent to garnish wages and will have a chance to fight the garnishment in court.
Writs of execution and real estate liens
Whether or not the lien is placed on an individual’s homestead property or another parcel real estate will determine whether or not you can force the sale of the property to recover the debt. In New Jersey, you can place liens on homestead real estate, but you cannot force the sale. The lien is paid when the owner of the property either removes it by repaying the debt or sells the property. Filing for bankruptcy will not automatically vacate a lien. The lien stays on the property for the next 20 years.
Technically, judgment liens are created against a judgment debtor’s real estate as soon as a creditor receives a judgment against the debtor. In other words, a creditor who successfully sues a debtor has liens automatically placed on the debtor’s property, even their home.
Seek the help of a Parsippany NJ collection attorney
Our collection attorney in New Jersey is available to assist you in enforcing your judgments. Contact Snellings Law LLC at (973) 265-6100.