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Judgment Liens: How owing money can become a lien against your property

Posted by Kristina Gonzalez | Oct 21, 2022

A credit card company filed suit against you, and you didn't act. The credit card company obtained a judgment against you, and you forgot about it. Years later you decide to sell your home. The sale of your home is going smoothly, then right before closing you are told that a credit card company has a lien against your property! The sale of your home is now derailed. How did this happen?

A monetary judgment in Florida gives a judgment creditor the power to forcibly collect against the debtor the money owed under the judgment. Aside from being able to garnish wages and bank accounts, the judgment creditor can also create a judgment lien that would attach to real property owned by the debtor.

Judgment lien creation in Florida is a fairly simple process for the creditor. To create a judgment lien, the creditor obtains a certified copy of the judgment and then records the certified judgment in the public records of any county in the state. Once the certified judgment is recorded, the judgment automatically attaches as a lien to all real property owned by the debtor in whatever county the judgment was recorded. There is no such thing as a state-wide judgment lien. If the creditor wishes to attach to all real property in the state, they will need to record a certified copy of the judgment in every single county in Florida.

In Florida, the life of a judgment is 20 years from the date of entry. A judgment lien expires ten years after the certified copy of the judgment is recorded in the public records. A creditor can re-record the judgment and extend the lien for another ten years, but the life of the lien can never exceed the 20-year life of the underlying judgment.

Luckily, a judgment lien cannot force the sale of your homestead property. However, it can lurk in the shadows and rear its ugly head when you try to sell your home. Since judgment liens are part of the public record, the lien is likely to appear on a title commitment. Like having a mortgage lien, the judgment lien would need to be resolved before you can convey clear title to the buyer of your home. This means you may even end up paying the unexpected judgment lien at closing (which has continued to grow in value thanks to accruing interest). Inaction could leave you with a judgment lien taking a big bite out of the proceeds you expected from the sale.

The key to preventing judgment liens is to be proactive! Act promptly when you find out that a lawsuit has been filed against you to prevent the creditor from obtaining a judgment. If a creditor already has a judgment against you, it may be best to resolve the judgment now before it continues to accrue interest over its 20-year lifespan, or even worse, it becomes a judgment lien against your real property. There are ways to resolve these judgments ahead of time and even options to remove judgment liens from your homestead property. Reach out to an experienced attorney who can assist you in deciding what the best course of action is for you. 

If you need assistance resolving a judgment lien or a debt collection lawsuit, contact the professionals at Holland Law Group today at (941) 744-5450. We offer a free consultation and are available to assist Floridians across the state, whether you live in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, or anywhere else in between.      

About the Author

Kristina Gonzalez

Kristina is a native of Miami, Florida. Born to Cuban immigrant parents, she is the first in her family to go to college and obtain a law degree. She graduated in 2007 from the University of Florida summa cum laude with a Bachelor's Degree in English and Political Science. Kristina remained at th...

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