Failure to Pay a Judgement in Small Claims Court

Posted on Jan 13, 2020

If you have lost a small claims case, you are required to pay any amount you owe to the winning side. Sometimes people can’t afford to pay or just don’t want to, hoping that the consequences will disappear quickly, but this does not happen. The judgement creditor is often given (by the state) a set amount of time to collect the debt owed to them – for example, California allows ten years. 

If you fail to pay, interest will accumulate at a rate of 3% to as high as 12% annually. Depending on the state you live in will determine how much you owe and the longer you wait to pay, the more money you will owe. 

Collection Tools Used Against You

If you fail to pay, there are several avenues the judgement creditor can travel to force you to pay your debt. These tools include the following:

  • Bank levy. A bank will be instructed to withdraw funds in your account to go toward the balance you owe until the judgement is paid off. 
  • Wage garnishment. Your employer can be required (and forced by law) to deduct money from your check every month until your judgement balance is paid in full.
  • Till tap. Law enforcement may be instructed to enter into your business and empty your cash register to pay toward your debt.
  • Seizure. The judgement creditor can take personal possessions, real estate or other forms of property to sell at an auction to earn money to go toward your judgement. This is less likely for a creditor to do because it takes a lot of time and expense but if you own valuable property that is paid in full, it is a possibility.
  • Keeper. Similar to a till tap, an officer is instructed to take customer funds for a longer duration of time, such as an entire day’s worth of cash earnings.

The only way to avoid the above methods being taken against you is to communicate with the judgement collector and work to pay your debt off.