This article is my opinion, about how to renew judgments, and topics related to renewing judgments. This article is based on my experience in California.
Most of the laws concerning judgment renewals in California are the (CCP) Codes Of Civil Procedure, sections 683.110 to 683.220. Laws are different in every state, so be sure to check the laws of your state. Nothing in any of my articles should ever be considered legal advice.
Most judgments expire after a certain number of years, often requiring the current creditor or assignee of record (or their lawyer) to renew them. The reasons why laws specify that judgments expire after a certain period of time, and why they are not so easy to renew, are not fully obvious to me.
Perhaps the reasons include providing revenue for the courts, reducing the number of case files open, giving the debtors another chance to hide assets or to vacate the judgment, or maybe even to punish inattentive creditors.
Similar to judgments, liens (that often depend on judgments to exist) also expire. In California, Abstracts Of Judgment are recorded in each county where the debtor now has, or may inherit property in the future. When the underlying judgment expires (or is vacated) the lien expires with it.
When one renews a California judgment, one must pay for a certified copy of the renewal of the judgment and record it at the County Recorder to keep the existing lien alive. You must record a certified copy of the judgment renewal before 10 years of the date of the original judgment - not within 10 years of recording of the first Abstract Of Judgment.
If something changes and you want to record those changes on a lien, always amend the previous lien, and make sure the amended abstract lists the date and the recording number of the previous abstract in the correct places. If you do not amend a previous lien and record a new one, it will lose its original recording priority.
It's always a good idea to renew judgments early (and get a certified copy of the judgment renewal, and record a certified copy of the judgment renewal for any existing property liens), long before the judgment expiration date.
Another reason to renew a judgment, is in case the debtor has something to drag out, to try to eliminate the judgment. With old judgments, it is best to renew them quickly, as everything might later depend on the success of the renewal process and the time periods that may be required.
More reasons to renew judgments early are because courts are reducing staff and getting slower at processing paperwork, and renewing early can compound the amount of interest earned. California has a 10% simple interest, and when the judgment is renewed, it earns interest on the new amount owed, which can include previous interest earned and costs.
There are limits on how often you can renew judgments, and also sometimes on when you can start renewing them. In California, there is no restriction on when you can first renew a judgment, but once you renew it the first time, you cannot renew it more often than every 5 years.
Renewing provides notice to the debtor by mail, that you are renewing the judgment. The element of surprise is sometimes an important factor in a successful judgment recovery.
Renewing gives the debtor a small chance at vacating the judgment (if they can prove they were not served properly) within about 40 days of being served by first-class mail. Some situations and States require you to wait a certain period of time, before enforcing the judgment while it is being renewed.
The forms and procedures are different in each State. In California, a judgment is renewed by taking these steps:
1) Find and fill out the EJ-195 and EJ-190 forms, and make 2 copies of each.
2) Fill out a Memorandum Of Costs (MOC) MC-12 form for the current interest owed, and previously allowed costs, make a copy of it. Check your local laws, if there is only interest on a MOC, one does not need to notice the debtor.
3) File (bring 2 copies) the MOC and the filled-out EJ-190 and EJ-195 forms with court, this costs about $20.
4) After your EJ-195 is court-stamped, make a copy of it.
5) Serve the renal forms by mail to the debtor with a "home made" proof of service. Proof of service means that you cannot sign the form, a process server or another person needs to sign and date it. Make a copy of the completed proof of service.
6) Return the original court-stamped EJ-195 form, with the proof of service that it was mailed to the debtor, and a copy of each, to the court.
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