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You’ve obtained a judgment in a civil case. If you think your judgment debtor owns real property or could potentially own real property, you need to obtain and record an abstract of judgment in the county you believe they own real property in as soon as possible.

What is an abstract of judgment?

An abstract of judgment is a document that you record to create a lien on any interest in real property your judgment debtor owns. Once properly recorded, your judgment debtor will not be able to sell or refinance the property unless they pay off the lien or get your approval to subordinate or release the lien. If you record the abstract in the county where they acquire real property after the abstract is recorded, the property will automatically be covered by the abstract. Typically, when a judgment debtor refinances or tries to sell a property, I will receive an escrow demand for a full payoff and when the sale or refinance closes, we release the lien. For more on how to remove the lien after paying off a judgment, read this blog post on removing judgment liens.

The process of recording an abstract of judgment

Once you have a judgment entered, you need to fill out the abstract of judgment form. If you know them, you’ll need to include the last four digits of any of your judgment debtors and their driver’s license number. You will submit the abstract to the court clerk’s office. If everything is in order, they will issue you a stamped abstract. You will need to take it or send it to every county you believe your judgment debtor has or might acquire real property in. You can obtain multiple abstracts of judgment at once if you need to record in several counties.

Why is it important to record an abstract as soon as possible?

It will not likely result in you getting paid immediately, but it is important to record an abstract as soon as possible because the priority of the liens in most instances is determined by the timing of recording. Meaning that most of the time, the lien recorded first in time gets paid before other liens. It will establish priority in liens if there is a short sale or foreclosure on the property or if you ever want to force an execution sale to get paid.

An abstract of judgment is an important and effective tool to collect your judgment. Interest accrues on California civil judgments at the rate of 10% per year.

If you need help recording a lien in California, contact our office HERE