Collecting a Judgment
Once the court enters a judgment against the defendant, the titles of the parties changes. The plaintiff becomes the creditor or lienholder and the defendant becomes the debtor. The first step in obtaining the money owed is to record the judgment in the court. Once recorded, the creditor may use any of the following tools to seek the repayment of the debt:
These tools may require additional court fees and costs. The basic judgment also earns 10% interest per year except interest on a money judgment for rent of a residential property earns 6% per year. Read the Law: Md. Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 11-107
Once a judgment is recorded in court the creditor is able to attach a lien onto any property owned by the debtor. A lien is a right that prohibits the debtor from transferring their interest in a property until a debt is satisfied. The lien may be attached to any property or properties located within Maryland. Once filed, a lien will remain in force for 12 years unless removed by you after receiving payment from the debtor. Read the Law and Rules: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 5-102. Md. Rules 2-621 (CC); 3-621 (DC)
Often, attaching a lien to a property can spark a debtor to satisfy a lien and its corresponding judgment. As many property owners do not want to have a lien prohibiting the transfer of a property, a lien can provide the necessary motivation to the debtor to pay the debt. After 12 years, the lienholder, is permitted to renew the lien as long as the debtor has not paid the money owed under the judgment. Read the Rules: Md. Rules 2-625 (CC); 3-625 (DC)
A wage garnishment requires the employer of the debtor to withhold a portion of the judgment debtor’s wages each pay period and forward the money to the creditor until the judgment is satisfied (paid in full). For more information on garnishments, see the People’s Law Library’s article on Garnishments.
To seek a garnishment of wages, the creditor must seek a court order and a judge must approve. Wages cannot be garnished if the judgment debtor’s disposable wages are less than 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage per week ($217.50 per week). In any event, no more than 25% of your disposable wages for a week can be garnished. For an in depth discussion of exemptions, see the article on Garnishments.
Once a garnishment is sought by a creditor and served upon the employer becomes known as the “garnishee.” The garnishee must file an answer within 30 days of being served with the writ or risk being held in contempt and possibly being required to pay attorney’s fees and court costs. While the garnishment is in effect, the employer must remit all garnishable wages to the creditor (or to the court, if the employer or debtor has asserted a defense). Read the Law: Md. Rules 2-646 (CC); 3-646 (DC)
While a garnishment is in affect, the creditor, must keep records of all payments credited to the defendant. After each month in which any payment is credited, the creditor must prepare a written statement of all payments and send this statement to the garnishee and to the debtor. While the creditor is not required to send a copy of the statement to the court, it is wise and very recommended to keep a copy of each statement until 90 days after the end of the garnishment case.
When requested, the creditor has an obligation to make the statements available for review by the court or any party. If the creditor fails to provide statements to the debtor disclosing the payments, and the manner in which they were credited, the debtor can request that the court dismiss the garnishment case and order the creditor to pay the debtor’s attorney’s fees and costs. Read the Law: Md. Code, Commercial Law § 15-601.1-607, Md. Rules 2-646 (CC); 3-646 (DC)
Examination In Aid of Enforcement of Money Judgment
After recording a judgment, many creditors do not know the full extent of a debtor’s assets. In order to help creditors enforce the judgment, a creditor may request an examination before the Court. Under this procedure, the Court will order the debtor to appear before a judge and testify, under oath, about their assets and money resources. From there, a debtor can request a Writ of Execution, as explained below, to seize the property and use the proceeds from the sale to satisfy the judgment. The Court may require a creditor to show good cause for any additional Examinations In Aid of Enforcement of Money Judgment.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 11-404
Note that examination in aid of enforcement is prohibited in a small claims case.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 11-704
Writ of Execution
A writ of execution and asks a court to order that the debtor’s assets be sold in order to pay the debt. It is important to note that certain items are exempt from attachment, including, but not limited to, clothing, tools of trade or profession, and small amounts of property including money. Read the Rules: See Rules 3-644 thru 3-646
If the defendant resides in another state, the court for that state may be petitioned to enforce the Maryland judgment by garnishing wages or implementing other forms of attachment.