Has anyone had success Locating and Collecting from a Debtor in Los Angeles County? Judgement

7 Replies

Hi we have a few Judgements from evictions in Los Angeles that are a few years old (here judgement last 10 years and can be renewed again for another 10 years).  Here the rents are high and evictions can take months so the Judgements are actually substantial amounts in the tens of thousands.  

Anyways does anyone have experience with both locating debtors and actually collecting from them first hand?  

I'd at least like to locate or skip trace them so that I can file an Abstract of Judgement and at least report them to the credit agencies... does anyone have suggestions for both locating debtors, and companies for reporting them?

I have some specific questions too -- For filing an Abstract of Judgement would I have to serve them the summons?  Or could I simply mail it to the last known address (which is our property) Also any other tips on filling out the abstract of judgement that I should know before proceeding? (Abstract of Judgement)

I understand that some will recommend that we pass this on to collection lawyers or debt collectors.  I haven't ruled that out. But I've heard that filling an abstract of judgement and skip tracing are relatively cheap and that's the majority of what lawyers/ collectors do.  The majority simply send letters to the debtors and report them to the credit agencies.

Anyone have experience collecting on a Judgement?

Or recommend a good debt collector / skip tracer

Or has anyone had experience with a lawyer who is responsive for collecting a judgement.  I've heard from other landlords a lot of lawyers just do a skip trace then start sending letters but don't follow up with collections.  Most lawyers I've researched charge 50% and will just do an abstract of judgement and letters. If I do go the lawyer route. I'd like a lawyer who will actually actively seek out the debtors funds and garnish wages etc.  Any suggestions?

Usually the best source for information on your ex-tenant and/or their assets comes from their initial application.  For instance, mine asks for their next of kin, emergency contacts, friends/relatives, employer, where they bank, etc.  Someone knows where they went.  You can also try Googling them and/or checking social media sites like Facebook. 

An Abstract of Judgment is used to put a lien on property they own.  You first have to obtain one from the court, and then you just file it with the county Recorder's office for the county where their property is located.  All you need to know is the county where the property they own is located.  You don't have to know the actual address for the property. 

Here's some more info on collecting on judgments:

Collecting a Judgment: How do I collect?

Guide to Small Claims Procedures: Collecting the Judgment

As for turning them over to collections and/or reporting the debt on their credit report, you don't need an attorney to do that.  You can do it yourself through companies like these: Debt Reporting Service or Rent Recovery Service.

Best of luck.

Hey Kyle. Thanks for the reply. Sorry I haven't been on here in a while.

Great info.  

The problem I'm having is I don't even have a current address for them to serve or put down for the Abstract or to sue them in small claims.  

I just don't know where they are

They're not on any google searches or social media.  The initial application might not have been correctly filled out.  I tried using past addresses to search for them but to no avail.  Perhaps they are aware of the judgement and are in hiding.

I think one of the 2 tenants (who are supposedly married) may not have put down their SS# correctly

I'm also having trouble locating them so do you have any recommendations on locating using SS or drivers license #?   

Most tenants who move out knowing they owe money aren't going to provide a forwarding address.  But you don't necessarily need to know where they live to serve them. 

Do you know where they work?  Serve them there. 

There's also ways to accomplish proper service through "substituted service" where it's not necessary to personally serve the defendant.

Some people are just hard to find though - usually because they want to be hard to find since they know they owe people money.  If the information on their initial application wasn't accurate, that just makes it that much harder.

For those who you already have a judgment against, you don't need to serve them again in order to file an Abstract of Judgment or to send them to collections or to report the debt on their credit report.  In fact, you don't even need a judgment at all to send them to collections or to report the debt on their credit report.  

For those things that do require you to serve them (like suing them in small claims court), if you tried the other things I previously suggested and you still can't find them, then you have several options depending on how far you want to take it. 

For instance, you can go through the Postal Service to see if they have filed a forwarding address.  Or you can pay a few bucks and conduct an online "people finder" search via one of the many companies that offer that sort of service.  (An example of one would be PeopleWise which uses LexisNexis data.)  Or you could hire a private investigator or skip tracer to find them for you. 

The point is, there's lots of ways to go about it.  It just depends on how much time/money you want to spend. 

Hope it works out for you in the end. 

Thanks.  

That's good info, I guess I could just put the address of my rental as "last known address".  I was trying to figure that out before even filling out the Abstract, but I just haven't been able to.

If I file an Abstract of Judgement but don't have their address, how will the Abstract be enforced?  Will the Abstract show up on credit reports as well?

I've tried the online people searches and have found nothing on them.  The Judgement is actually from several years ago.

Does anyone know a good private eye or skip tracer or where to even find one?

Thanks so much. I guess I've been putting this off because of the stress

Originally posted by @Will F. :

Thanks.  

That's good info, I guess I could just put the address of my rental as "last known address".  I was trying to figure that out before even filling out the Abstract, but I just haven't been able to.

If I file an Abstract of Judgement but don't have their address, how will the Abstract be enforced?  Will the Abstract show up on credit reports as well?

I've tried the online people searches and have found nothing on them.  The Judgement is actually from several years ago.

Does anyone know a good private eye or skip tracer or where to even find one?

Thanks so much. I guess I've been putting this off because of the stress

The point of filing an Abstract of Judgment is that it will put a lien on any land, house, or other building the debtor owns in the county where the abstract is recorded.  It can also put a lien on any property the debtor may buy in the future and prevent the debtor from refinancing the property until the debt is paid. 

If the person doesn't own any property, and you think it's likely they never will (i.e. a perpetual renter), than there may be no point in filing an Abstract. 

The Abstract will not show up on the debtor's credit report.  However, like I said in my first post, you can report the debt to their credit report yourself.  You don't even need an Abstract to do that.

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