In every state that we are aware of, judgment liens are a tool that creditors can use to collect from debtors. A judgment lien is a lien placed on a debtor’s property following a judgment being entered against them. But in Washington state, judgment liens are a bit different compared to some other states.
Understand that most judgments are rendered by state courts. That makes them subject to state law. And with 50 states in the union, there is quite a bit of room for differences. This is to say that judgment liens do not work exactly the same way in every state.
Only Real Estate in Washington
One of the things that makes judgment liens different in Washington state is the fact that they can only be filed against real estate. Judgment creditors in Washington cannot put liens on personal property like jewelry, collectibles, etc. Only real estate is up for grabs.
On the positive side, Washington isn’t among those states that forbid judgment liens against a debtor’s primary residence. But there is a caveat: Washington does have a homestead exemption. This means that a certain value of a debtor’s primary residence is protected against collection efforts.
Judgment liens remain on a debtor’s property for a maximum of 10 years or until the debt is paid, whichever comes first. It is interesting to note that a judgment lien will remain attached even if the property changes hands. So a debtor could transfer property to a family member but that would not have any impact on the lien attached to it.
Why Judgment Liens Are Utilized
Why would a judgment creditor utilize a lien in Washington? Because the tools available to judgment creditors are limited. Assuming a judgment debtor makes no attempt to pay what he owes, creditors have only so many options to work with. One of them is the judgment lien.
Granted, a judgment lien can be very persuasive. If a debtor is faced with the choice of finding a way to pay an outstanding judgment and losing a potentially valuable piece of property for failure to pay, he might be more motivated to settle up with the debtor.
As a case in point, we once worked on a judgment involving a debtor who had an airplane hangar that he didn’t originally tell us about. We uncovered it during a property search. Once he knew we had knowledge of the hangar, he was motivated to work with us to get things squared away.
There Are Other Avenues to Pursue
Fortunately, there are other avenues judgment creditors can pursue before resorting to judgment liens. Under Washington law, there is an expectation that judgment debtors will pay up right away. If they don’t, courts have the option of ordering a payment plan.
Payment plans are a good option because they immediately reduce the tension between debtor and creditor. As long as the debtor makes good on his payments, there is no need for further collection efforts.
If a payment plan fails though, Washington judgment creditors can also garnish wages and bank accounts. Garnishment is a step above a payment plan but not nearly as drastic as a judgment lien.
We Are Happy to Review Your Case
If you are struggling to collect an outstanding judgment in Washington state, we would be happy to review your case to see if we can help. You may be looking at a judgment lien if all other avenues have failed. At any rate, you do have multiple options to look at. So if you’re ready, let’s get started.