Put a lien on property

If the other side owns real estate in California, you can put a lien on that property so that if they ever sell or refinance the property you might get paid. To do this, you first need an Abstract of Judgment

About liens

A lien is like a public mark put on property that shows up in government files. Banks look for liens when they’re financing (for example if the property sells) or refinancing a property. So, if there’s a lien you will probably get paid when whoever owes you money sells or refinances their home or other real estate they own. 

A lien doesn't mean you will be paid right away, 

but if whoever owes you money refinances or sells their property, you may get paid your money.

If you don’t want to wait for the other side to sell or refinance their property, you can look into "foreclosing" on the judgment lien. This means that you force the debtor to sell the property and pay you with that money. This doesn't work if the money owed is a consumer debt (debt taken out for personal or household use). And, it only works when there is enough equity in the property to pay all the liens (including mortgage) and the foreclosure costs and the owner isn't eligible for a homestead exemption. Visit the law library or see an attorney for help with this process.

How to put a lien on someone's property

  • Fill out Abstract of Judgment

    • Abstract of Judgment Civil and Small Claims (form EJ-001)

    An Abstract of Judgment is a summary of the full judgment from small claims court.

  • Get Abstract certified and pay fee

    Bring the Abstract of Judgment to the small claims court clerk. The clerk will certify it. There is a fee (about $25) for this. 

  • Make a copy

    Make 1 copy of the Abstract of Judgment Civil and Small Claims.

    If the other sides owns property in more than one county, make more copies. You will need one for each county.

  • Record the Abstract

    Take the certified Abstract of Judgment and the copy to the county recorder's office in the county where you think the debtor owns real estate. Find a county recorder.

    If the properties are all in the same county, you only need to record 1 Abstract of Judgment in that county. 
    If the properties are in different counties,
    you need to record 1 Abstract of Judgment in each county where there's property.

    There is a recording fee.

    The county recorder will let the debtor know that you recorded the Abstract of Judgment.

You've put a lien on the property in that county (if they have any). If the debtor refinances or sells the property, you may get paid your money.

Small claims collections

What's next?

If you aren't paid, you can keep trying to collect other ways and have some of the costs of trying to collect added to what's owed.

If you were paid the full amount, you must let the court know by filing an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment (form EJ-100).

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