Executing on a judgment can be an effective way to collect. However, most people do not understand the process involved when using a writ of execution to attempt to take possession of real and/or personal property of a debtor. I get calls all the time from potential clients anxious to collect the debtors antiques or valuable artwork as well as inventory, computers and merchandise. The impression is that now that the creditor has a judgment, it’s easy to just go pick up the goods.
In reality, however, it can be very costly to execute on assets. The sheriff charges a fee of $90.00 to act on the writ and a deposit for the cost to pick up, store and advertise the assets until the sheriff sale. The deposit depends on the asset and can range from $500.00 for real estate and stock certificates, $2,500.00 for vehicles and $10,000.00 to empty a home or office. Granted, these are deposits and a portion may be returned to the creditor, but it is a rather large outlay at the inception.
The creditor must also research whether anyone else has a lien on the assets that has priority over the creditor. Creditors may file a judgment lien certificate with the Florida Secretary of State to record their lien. The priority of those liens will depend on when they were filed with the oldest lien having first priority. A creditor seeking to execute on a writ of execution must disclose all lienholders to the sheriff and any disbursements from the sheriff sale will be paid to the lienholders in order of priority. In addition, depending on the assets the creditor may also have to separately arrange for a mover and a locksmith to accompany the sheirff. It also helps to obtain a break order prior to executing on the writ in case the assets are behind lock and key. Finally, on average assets sold at a sheriff’s sale earn about 10 cents to a dollar.
These are just some issues to consider before choosing to execute on a writ. Execution can be extremely effective when the asset is valuable and there are no other lienholders. Executing on a writ may also “force” the debtor to “find” the funds necessary to pay off the judgment. (An attorney once tell me that he went to execute on a dog. As soon as he showed up at the debtor’s home, the debtor faced with losing the family dog in front of his children suddenly found the funds to pay off the judgment.)