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“Judgment Liens” on Personal Property in Florida

“Judgment Liens” on Personal Property in Florida

Many creditors are mystified when it comes to actually collecting money on the judgment that they have recovered against a debtor in Florida. Some have heard of judgment lien certificates (JLC), but most don’t really know what they are or how they work. Chapter 55 of the Florida Statutes provides for the creation of a statewide personal property judgment lien, but what does that mean? Once the judgment is entered, you can file an electronic form and create a lien against all non-exempt personal property of the debtor. These liens are valid for 5 years and can be refiled for five more (but they do not relate back to the original filing).

This is where it gets interesting. If you do file a JLC, what property does it really cover? Generally, personal property is any property that is not real estate. Think household items,  watercraft, etc. You have to ask yourself whether this ‘stuff’ is something that you want to take to collect the debt. Is it worth the cost and effort? Unlikely.

How does a JLC really help you make a recovery? In our view, it doesn’t; unless you have the specific intent to levy upon (seize) that property. There are some downsides (particularly in regard to compliance) to this process from the creditor’s point of view. First, there are fees and responsibilities imposed by this statute. You must pay a filing fee to get the lien, and once the debt is paid, you must pay another fee to have it removed. If you do not, you can be fined or otherwise punished. When you consider that this process must be played out in a high volume of cases, it becomes apparent that the costs and potential liability are not justified in light of the minimal potential return. Sounds like a compliance nightmare, doesn’t it?

At Hiday & Ricke, our approach is to only get JLCs issued in those situations where they will be used in a levy for known property.

Bottom line: Why go to the cost and trouble if the return is questionable? This is one of those situations where creditors need to trust their legal counsel partners to make the right call. Here at Hiday & Ricke, we have been handling issues like this throughout the state of Florida since 1984 and are professionals on the matter. Please feel free to call us if we can be of assistance.

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