Florida debt collection laws are rules that govern how debts can be legally collected in the state of Florida. These laws allow for the collection of debts through court judgments, set limits on how much and how often a debtor’s wages can be garnished, and protect certain assets of the debtor from being seized.

Florida law allows a creditor to begin collecting once a final judgment is entered. The statute of limitations for debt collection is five years. After five years from the last payment, a creditor cannot sue to collect on a debt.

How Debt Collection Works in Florida

Debt collection does not start immediately after the issuance of the final judgment. There is a 10-day period after the date of the judgment, during which either party can request a rehearing. Rehearing requests are usually denied, but if a request is approved, it stays the enforcement of the judgment until the court rules on the rehearing motion.

A court’s final judgment does not provide the prevailing judgment creditor any money. Nor does the final judgment, by itself, take any of the debtor’s property. If the debtor is unwilling or unable to pay the judgment voluntarily, the creditor must use legal tools to collect the judgment from the debtor’s assets. Debt collection laws provide legal tools by which a judgment creditor finds and takes the debtor’s property to satisfy a money judgment.

Effective asset protection planning requires understanding the tools judgment creditors may use to discover and take non-exempt assets.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay a Judgment?

If you do not pay a judgment, the creditor will use legal tools to find and take your assets in order to satisfy the debt. The judgment creditor can (1) garnish your bank account and your wages, (2) require you and your spouse to reveal all of your financial information, and (3) place a lien on any non-homestead property.

People who pay their debts on time have little experience dealing with debt collection or money judgments. They are unaware of the problems they will face if a business failure or personal financial problem leads to a creditor obtaining a court judgment for money damages.

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Is It a Crime to Not Pay a Judgment?

It is not a crime in Florida to not pay a civil money judgment. A creditor cannot have you arrested for non-payment of a debt or for your inability to pay a court judgment.

Sometimes, a creditor may obtain a judgment and not actively try to collect money thereafter. This is common when the creditor has reason to believe that you do not have the financial ability to pay, believe that your assets are exempt from collection, or if the creditor does not want to force you into bankruptcy, where the debt would be discharged. Creditors do not want to spend “good money” in futile attempts to collect “bad debt.”

Most money judgments against individuals or small businesses are settled for amounts significantly less than the face amount of the judgment. Preventative asset protection maximizes your exempt assets and puts you in the best position to leverage a successful debt settlement.

Debt collection law in Florida

How to Collect a Judgment in Florida

Here are the main ways:

  1. Record a judgment lien.
  2. Use execution and levy.
  3. Seize the debtor’s vehicle.
  4. Levy on business interests.
  5. Garnish the debtor’s bank account.
  6. Garnish the debtor’s wages.
  7. File for proceedings supplementary.

How Do Judgment Liens Work?

Judgment liens work as a legal claim on a debtor’s property. Here’s a brief overview:

  1. Court Judgment: First, a creditor must win a court judgment against the debtor, proving the debtor owes a specific amount of money.
  2. Lien Attachment: Once the creditor obtains the judgment, they can attach a lien to the debtor’s property, such as a house, land, or other valuable assets. A lien on personal property can be filed with the Florida Secretary of State.
  3. Securing the Debt: The lien doesn’t immediately collect the debt but secures the creditor’s interest in the debtor’s property. If the debtor sells or refinances the property, the lien ensures the debt is paid from the proceeds before the debtor receives any money.
  4. Enforcement: If the debt isn’t paid, the creditor may enforce the lien by initiating a foreclosure or forced sale of the property to collect what’s owed.

What Is Execution and Levy?

Execution and levy are collection remedies used to force the sale of your tangible personal and real property and then apply the sale proceeds to satisfy a judgment.

In Florida, your judgment creditor uses the process of called execution and levy to seize your personal property, including (1) automobiles, (2) stock in private companies, and (3) valuable home possessions. The creditor can also execute against any property you gave to a third party, such as a friend or family member.

Your creditor must identify the property they want to subject to execution and levy in advance. The county sheriff executes the levy by physically seizing property identified by your creditor and which the sheriff finds in your possession. The sheriff sells your property at a public auction. The sheriff applies the sales proceeds, minus expenses, to satisfy the judgment. Any preexisting liens on the property must be paid before any money is available to pay the judgment creditor. You can bid for your own property at the auction, and the money you pay will be given to your creditor to satisfy the judgment.

Judgment Creditors Can Levy on Your Vehicles

A Florida judgment creditor can seize your cars and other motor vehicles through a sheriff levy and execution. Creditors frequently direct the sheriff to levy upon automobiles you own free and clear. The sheriff can tow the car from a public parking lot or a public street. The sheriff will sell the car at a public auction. The judgment creditor will be entitled to the proceeds of the sale minus sheriff fees, storage costs, and auction fees.

Creditors typically do not levy automobiles subject to significant car loans and liens because few people will pay significant money to buy a car subject to a lien at an auction. In addition, the lender on the vehicle must be paid first from the proceeds of any sheriff sale. A car with significant debt is not a good collection target.

People anticipating a money judgment are better situated if they lease their motor vehicles instead of owning them. Leased vehicles are not your assets, so a leased vehicle cannot be subject to levy and execution for a judgment.

I Need My Car to Go to Work. Can A Sheriff Still Take the Car?

Florida law does not give you an exemption for a work vehicle. Needing a car for your job or to commute to work is not a legal defense against a sheriff’s levy of your vehicle.

Creditors’ Rights to Levy on Your Business Corporation

Creditors can use execution and levy against your shares of stock in your private business.

The sheriff can sell your company stock at auction. The creditor can bid the amount of its judgment for the stock at the auction. The party that purchases the stock at auction steps into your shoes as a stockholder. If you owned one hundred percent of issued stock, the successful auction bidder gains control of your company and all company assets, including, for example, company bank accounts.

Suppose your privately held corporation has not issued stock, or that you have misplaced the stock certificates. In that case, the creditor can obtain a court order directing your corporation to reissue stock certificates. The court can hold you in contempt if you willfully do not comply with the order to issue stock. The court may order you to retrieve already issued stock certificates outside the court’s jurisdiction.

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Can Creditors Take Your LLC in Florida?

A creditor may not execute and levy upon your membership interests in a partnership or multi-member LLC. The creditor may not levy assets owned by your partnership or LLC.

The creditor’s sole remedy is a charging lien on partnership or LLC profit distributions payable to you, the owner. Assuming a properly drafted partnership agreement or LLC operating agreement in Florida, your membership interest in a partnership or multi-member LLC provides better asset protection than a traditional small business.

How Garnishment Is Used to Collect a Judgment

Creditors use garnishment to seize any money or property owed to you by a third party. For example, money in your bank account constitutes a debt the bank owes you. Your employer owes you wages and salary. A judgment creditor may garnish payments of these debts.

writ of garnishment authorizes the judgment creditor to intercept and collect money and property payable to you by a third party. Garnishment writs are used to collect judgments from your bank accounts, future wages and commissions, financial accounts holding publicly traded securities, or any debts or rights to money someone else owes you.

How Does Garnishment Begin?

Garnishment actions begin with the clerk of the court issuing a garnishment writ. The creditor serves the writ upon your employer, bank, financial institution, or other person who owes you something.

A garnishment writ notifies the third party that they must retain an asset or money owed to you and thereafter pay the money to your creditor as directed by a court.

Advanced Notice of a Garnishment Is Not Required

Your creditors are not required to provide you or your attorney advance notice prior to serving a writ of garnishment.

What Are The Requirements of a Garnishment?

There are several conditions for effectively garnishing money:

  1. Money subject to garnishment must be in the actual possession and control of the garnished third party.
  2. The money must be owed to you without condition.
  3. The amount owed must be liquidated (fixed) in amount.

Does a Garnishment Writ Apply to Future Payments?

In most instances, a writ of garnishment pertains to debts and obligations currently owed to you, not future debts. Only debts owed when the writ is served are frozen and subject to garnishment. The writ of garnishment does not attach to money that may be owed you in the future, except for wages and salary, as discussed below.

How Wage Garnishment Works

A continuing wage garnishment served upon your employer garnishes all your future non-exempt wages, salary, and commissions payable. The garnishment continues in effect until either the judgment is paid, you leave your employment, or you file bankruptcy.

A creditor cannot get a continuing writ of garnishment against any other form of payment owed to you for your personal services and labor. For example, money a business pays to you working as an independent contractor or rents owed you by your tenant are not subject to continuing writs.

Are There Things That Cannot Be Garnished?

Florida law exempts some types of debts from garnishment. For example, wages payable to a head of household are exempt without limitation of amount from continuing wage garnishments. Periodic payments from social security, annuities, and retirement plans also cannot be garnished in Florida.

Garnishment procedures are complicated, strictly construed, and enforced in Florida courts. Some debtors defeat garnishments by finding procedural flaws in the garnishment writ and application.

Get advice for your specific situation.

You’ll learn which assets are at risk and how to protect them. We help people throughout Florida by phone or Zoom.

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How Do Creditors Find Your Assets?

Florida debt collection laws provide judgment creditors numerous means to find your income and assets. Discovery in aid of execution in Florida describes the legal process by which a judgment creditor finds (discovers) assets that may be subject to collection of a money judgment.

Legal Tools Creditors Employ to Discover Your Assets

A judgment creditor can use the same discovery tools available to parties in general litigation to discover assets after a judgment is entered. After a creditor locates your assets, the creditor applies collection tools to seize and liquidate the assets that are not exempt from execution. Discovery of your previously owned assets provides clues about your fraudulent transfers or conversions of assets to avoid collection.

After a court issues a money judgment, the judgment creditor is permitted to ask you detailed and extensive questions about your financial affairs. The creditor can demand that you disclose all assets in which you have any legal or equitable interest, including assets owned jointly with a spouse, family members, or business associates. The creditor can ask you broad questions about past asset sales or transfers.

The creditor can also seek information from third parties, such as an examination under oath of your spouse and other family members.

How Does a Creditor Creditor Find Out What You Have?

A creditor has many ways to find out what you own. Here are the main ways:

  • Depositions
  • Document requests
  • Financial statements
  • Real estate records
  • Public business records
  • Other creditors
  • Private investigators
  • Social media

How Creditors Use Deposition in Aid of Execution to Discover Your Assets

The main way a creditor can find out what you own is by taking an oral deposition. A creditor can require you to appear before a court reporter while the creditor examines you under oath about your financial affairs and assets.

You must answer all the creditor’s questions under oath during the deposition. Creditors are allowed to ask a very broad range of questions. Any question that might lead to asset discovery is permissible. It is difficult to object to a creditor question on the grounds of relevancy during a deposition in aid of execution.

In most cases, your deposition occurs in the county where you live. A creditor may not force you to travel outside your residential county to the creditor’s place of business or to the creditor’s attorney’s law firm in another county. A creditor may take several depositions during the life of a judgment so long as the frequency does not amount to unreasonable harassment.

Do You Have To Respond to a Request for Production of Documents?

Creditors use requests for production to obtain tax returns and other financial records. You must furnish documents that the judgment creditor reasonably requests regarding your assets and financial affairs. Florida’s asset discovery laws allow creditors to request copies of your bank statements, check registers, canceled checks, credit card statements, insurance policies, and tax returns.

A creditor can request documents up to at least four years old. Upon request, you must produce all documents that could lead to the discovery of your assets available to satisfy the judgment.

However, you are required to supply only requested documents that are in your custody or control. You do not have to provide documents that you do not have or cannot easily obtain.

How Creditors Use Your Financial Statements To Find Assets

Creditors often use your own sworn financial statements submitted
to third parties in the course of business to document your asset
ownership and asset values. When an individual borrows money to start a business or personally guarantees a commercial loan to an existing business, the bank typically requires the individual business owner to submit a personally signed personal financial statement.

In addition, lenders typically require individual borrowers or guarantors to periodically update their financial statements during the life of the loan.

A judgment creditor will often request copies of your loan applications and updated financial statements previously submitted to lenders. Some borrowers exaggerate their assets when they apply for a loan. A judgment creditor may use your inflated valuations and asset descriptions on lending documents to contradict attempts to minimize your assets during a deposition in aid of execution.

How Judgment Creditors Can Find Your Real Estate

Judgment creditors can easily find your real property ownership in
public records. Real estate deeds are filed in the county where the real estate is situated. Each Florida county maintains an index of real estate ownership. Florida counties have digitized their legal records so that property ownership is available by online search. Online property records are centrally linked to state and national databases.

For a small fee, a creditor can search real estate records throughout Florida. Computer searches quickly provide your property ownership and other information such as date of purchase, mortgages, and property value. The same property search can identify whether you hold any mortgages on someone else’s real estate to secure a promissory note payable to you.

The judgment creditor can garnish the underlying note and payment stream if it finds you are a mortgagee from seller financing.

Creditors Can Search and Find Your Business Interests

Creditors can search state business records to discover your business interests. Florida public records do not include or reveal any entity’s ownership interest. Still, they do disclose if you are an officer or director of a corporation, manager of a limited liability company, or a registered agent.

Most owners list themselves in at least one of those capacities when filing annual reports with the Florida Division of Corporations. Once a creditor discovers that you are involved in a business in some capacity, the creditor will then focus on your ownership interests.

The extent and nature of your business entity ownership are usually revealed through tax returns or other discovery tools, such as an oral deposition.

Do Creditors Help Each Other Find Assets?

Yes, creditor agents often cooperate with one another in asset searches. Collection agents working for institutional lenders and large collection agencies develop personal contacts in banks and other financial institutions.

The creditor’s personal contacts are an excellent source of financial information about judgment debtors. Any contact person accessing a company’s computer records can quickly tell a collection agent whether you have a financial account at its institution. The judgment creditor can then serve a writ of garnishment on any institution where they suspect you have an account with a significant balance.

Professional Investigators Assist Judgment Collections

Finding non-exempt assets to satisfy judgments is a substantial part of a private investigator’s business. Private investigators perform asset searches as a service to judgment creditors. Some private investigation firms specialize in searching for bank accounts, while other firms provide broader searches. Access to internet and social media information has made investigator’s asset searches easier and more accurate.

Private investigators have several sophisticated methods of asset discovery at their disposal. For example, a private investigator can access your phone records. The investigator can use reverse lookup tools to see whether you have made or received toll-free calls from financial institutions where you may keep funds. Some creditors employ private investigators to verify you actually reside at the property you claim is your exempt homestead.

How Technology and Social Media Help Debt Collection

Social media has made it easier than ever for creditors to discover the nature and location of your assets. People often refer to their assets and income in social media discussions. Social media is a revealing source of information about your finances and things that you may have done to evade judgment collection.

How Can I Effectively Hide Assets From Creditors?

Asset protection does not involve hiding assets from judgment collection. People facing the collection of a judgment should resist the urge to hide or misrepresent their assets during the creditor’s asset discovery procedures. Most of the information you provide a judgment creditor during discovery in aid of execution must be certified as true under oath.

Hiding assets, misrepresenting asset values, and lying about prior transfers of assets amounts to perjury. Perjury is not only a crime; once discovered, it severely diminishes your credibility before the judge. Judges tend to rule against any party who has previously lied to the court or the adverse party.

The better option is to engage in asset protection planning to make any assets you are concerned about more difficult to collect.

Get expert help by phone or Zoom.

Schedule a consultation online to get advice about your specific situation.

Alper Law attorneys

Do Florida Judgments Ever Expire?

A Florida judgment lasts for 20 years. After 20 years, the judgments expire and are no longer enforceable.

The time runs from the day the judge signs the final judgment. This 20-year timeline is established by section 55.081 of the Florida Statutes. A creditor can collect a judgment any time during the 20 years after its issuance.

If a judgment originates out of state and is domesticated in Florida, the timeline begins when the original court enters the judgment.

What is the difference between the expiration of a judgment and the expiration of a judgment lien?

People often misunderstand the difference between the length of a judgment and the length of a judgment lien. A judgment is an order entered by the court ordering you to pay a creditor an amount of money. A judgment lien is a document filed with the Florida Secretary of State giving the judgment holder priority in attacking your non-exempt.

While a Florida judgment lasts 20 years, a judgment lien is valid for only 10 years unless it is renewed. If the lien is not renewed, the creditor loses its priority against subsequent judgments.

Does Florida Have Pre-Judgment Collection Remedies?

Some pre-judgment remedies are available in most states, including Florida. What makes the U.S. government’s pre-judgment remedies powerful is the absence of a bond requirement. Section 28 U.S C. 3101(C)(3) states that no bond is required by the United States as a condition of pre-judgment actions against a defendant’s assets. For this reason, federal agencies often seek an immediate freeze of a defendant’s assets upon filing a civil action.

Under Florida law, a creditor wanting to freeze assets before a judgment must post a bond to compensate you if you prevail in civil litigation or your frozen assets are found to be exempt. The cost of a pre-judgment collection bond is significant. The bond cost, plus liability risks, deter most state court civil creditors from seeking a pre-judgment asset freeze.

How Credit Card Companies Collect Their Judgments

If a credit card company gets a judgment against you for unpaid credit card debt, you need to prepare for the creditor’s attempts to collect the judgment.

Often, a creditor will not make any attempt to collect a small judgment because the legal costs of collection are greater than the creditor’s probable recovery. Most court money judgments do not reimburse the creditor for its own legal fees incurred in trying to collect the judgment.

Some people faced with a credit card judgment immediately think they will have to file bankruptcy. This is a mistake. The judgment creditor has more leverage in bankruptcy court, and bankruptcy law strips away some of your asset exemptions. Bankruptcy should be your last resort to escape credit card debts.

Example of How Creditors Use Florida Laws to Collect a Judgment

Assume a hypothetical Florida resident named Amy. Amy is married with two minor children. Amy is employed for an annual salary of $80,000. Her husband makes at least $100,000 annually. Assume there is a judgment against Amy for old credit card debt for $50,000.

The credit card company wants to collect on its judgment. The creditor schedules an oral deposition in aid of execution. Amy must attend, and she must bring with her various financial documents that the creditor requested. The documents typically include personal tax returns, bank statements for all her financial accounts, and W-2 statements for both her and her husband.

After the deposition, the creditor obtains a writ of garnishment against Amy’s joint bank account and a wage garnishment against Amy’s employer. Amy’s bank account was opened as tenants by the entireties, so Amy can successfully defeat the bank account garnishment by filing the appropriate claim of exemption.

However, Amy’s salary is not exempt and is subject to a continuing wage garnishment. She makes less than her husband, so she cannot claim that she supports her children and, therefore, cannot assert a head of household exemption from wage garnishment. A continuing wage garnishment compels her employer to give the creditor 25% of Amy’s after-tax take-home pay.

Not wanting to work for 25% less, Amy negotiates a settlement agreement with the judgment creditor to settle in full.

In most situations, the creditor would rather get a lump sum payment now than rely on payments from a wage garnishment over time. However, in this example, the creditor used the wage garnishment as leverage to make Amy come to the table with a lump sum settlement.

Amy’s other option would have been to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Bankruptcy discharges the judgment and terminates the wage garnishment so that Amy does not have to forfeit 25% of her income until the judgment is paid. Bankruptcy could expose other assets, and it has a worse impact on credit ratings than does a civil judgment. A good settlement is usually a better option than bankruptcy.

Consumer Collection Practices Act

Florida debt collection laws and procedures are governed by the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA). This law prohibits both debt collectors and creditors from using certain types of abusive, deceptive, and misleading debt collection tactics. The FCCPA supplements the protections the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides. The FCCPA applies solely to collection of consumer debts.

Prohibited Practices

The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) prohibits a range of practices in the collection of consumer debts. These prohibited practices include:

  1. Communication with Debtors: Collectors cannot communicate with debtors at unusual or inconvenient times or places. They also cannot communicate with a debtor if they know an attorney represents the debtor.
  2. Harassment or Abuse: The use of violence, threats of violence, obscene or profane language, and repeated phone calls with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass a debtor are prohibited.
  3. False or Misleading Representations: Collectors cannot falsely represent the character, amount, or legal status of the debt. They also can’t falsely represent themselves as attorneys, government representatives, or as operating or working for a credit reporting agency.
  4. Unfair Practices: Attempting to collect any amount not expressly authorized by the agreement or permitted by law, soliciting postdated checks to threaten criminal prosecution, and depositing or threatening to deposit postdated checks before the date on the check are all prohibited.
  5. Disclosure of Debt: Collectors are forbidden from disclosing information about a debt to anyone other than the debtor or their attorney, except as permitted by law.
  6. Communication with Third Parties: They are not allowed to communicate with third parties about the debtor’s debt except under very specific circumstances, such as with the debtor’s or their attorney’s consent, to obtain location information about the debtor or as otherwise permitted by law.
  7. Communication at the Debtor’s Place of Employment: Collectors are not allowed to communicate with debtors if they know or should know that the employer prohibits such communication.
  8. Threatening Legal Action: Making empty threats to sue or take legal action that is not permitted or contemplated is also prohibited.

Violations of the FCCPA can result in civil penalties, including statutory damages, actual damages, and, in some cases, punitive damages. Debtors who believe their rights under the FCCPA have been violated may seek legal advice or contact their state’s consumer protection office for assistance.

What can you do about unfair debt collection?

Consumers have several options if a debt collector violates Florida debt collection laws. They can sue the debt collector in state court, report the action to a government agency, report it to the state attorney general, or use the violation as leverage in debt settlement negotiations.

You can sue for damages if you lost wages or had medical bills because of things a debt collector did illegally. If you can’t prove damages, a judge can still award you up to $1,000 plus reimburse you for attorney’s fees and court costs.

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Schedule a consultation online to get advice about your specific situation.

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FAQs about Florida Debt Collection Laws

How does debt collection law work in Florida?

Florida debt collection law governs how creditors can pursue unpaid debts. The law includes methods creditors can use to contact you and the time frame they have to legally collect the debt. Florida judgments are enforceable for 20 years.

How long does a judgment last in Florida?

A Florida judgment lasts for 20 years. The time runs from the day the final judgment is signed by the judge and entered by the court. This 20-year timeline is established by section 55.081 of the Florida Statutes. A creditor can collect a judgment at any time during the 20 years after its issuance.

People often misunderstand the difference between the length of a judgment and the length of a judgment lien. A judgment is an order entered by the court making the debtor liable to the creditor for an amount of money. A judgment lien is the recording of a monetary judgment with the Florida Secretary of State, giving the holder of that judgment priority in attacking property owned by the judgment debtor. The priority is against any other judgment creditors that subsequently record their own judgments.

While a judgment lasts 20 years in Florida, a judgment lien is valid for only 10 years. The judgment creditor’s lien loses priority against other creditors after 10 years,  but the creditor retains a valid judgment for the remainder of the 20-year lifetime of the judgment.

If a judgment originates out of state and is domesticated in Florida, the timeline begins on the day the original court enters the judgment.

Can you become judgment-proof in Florida?

Judgment proof refers to a situation where a civil monetary judgment creditor cannot collect any of a debtor’s assets or income. Asset protection will not make you judgment proof in Florida. With enough time and money, an aggressive and skilled collection attorney can attack at least some assets of any judgment debtor. Do not believe an attorney that promises to make you judgment proof.

A more realistic goal of asset protection is making it more difficult for the judgment creditor to collect a money judgment, thereby increasing the debtor’s position in settlement negotiation. Being effectively judgment-proof means protecting your assets and income to such a degree that it is difficult for a judgment creditor to collect a judgment from any of your assets. Proper asset protection requires a complete understanding of the legal tools a creditor has available to collect a judgment and then positioning assets in a way to defeat the same collection tools.

People sometimes ask whether they should send a “judgment-proof letter” to tell the creditor that collection efforts would be unsuccessful. Such judgment proof letters are not persuasive unless the debtor is willing to provide the creditor with a sworn affidavit describing all assets of the judgment debtor.

What personal property can be seized in a judgment in Florida?

A judgment creditor can take any non-exempt personal property you own. This includes your furniture, collectibles, and other personal property in your home, your safe deposit boxes, and your financial accounts.

However, you may be able to claim exemptions for some of your personal property. For example, personal property belonging to a married couple is exempt from seizure so long as the judgment is against only one of the spouses.

What happens to a judgment after 20 years in Florida?

After 20 years, the creditor can no longer take any action on the judgment, pursuant to Florida statute 95.11.

Can a creditor seize the personal property inside your house?

The Florida homestead exemption does not apply to personal property inside the homestead. A judgment creditor can seize all non-exempt personal property inside your home. A creditor must direct the sheriff to seize specific items of personal property. Therefore, a creditor cannot get a blanket attachment against “all the stuff” in the debtor’s house. Creditors cannot break into a debtor’s house and grab property without court permission.

If the creditor identifies non-exempt assets within the debtor’s house, a court may issue a “break order” to assist the sheriff’s seizure of these assets. Some courts will issue break orders without advance warning to the debtor.

Can creditors take your house in Florida?

No. In Florida, up to 160 acres of contiguous property in a county, and up to a 1/2 acre in a city, is completely protected from civil judgment creditors. This protection originates from Article X, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution.

Can a creditor take your car in Florida?

A creditor can take your car to collect on a debt. The creditor can have a sheriff’s officer seize the vehicle through a sheriff’s levy, and then sell the car at a  public auction. The creditor will get the sales proceeds minus fees.

Florida statutes give the debtor a $1,000 motor vehicle exemption. The exemption increases to $4,000 for debtors not also claiming a homestead exemption. Furthermore, most creditors will not go after a car that is financed and is subject to a recorded lien in favor of the finance company.

Can you go to jail for debt in Florida?

You can’t go to jail for not paying a judgment in Florida. Not paying a money judgment is not a crime. While the law gives creditors many opportunities and tools to collect on its judgment, it is up to the creditor to use those tools to collect. You could face jail for refusal to comply with court orders during the creditor’s collection efforts.

Can a hospital put a lien on your house in Florida?

A hospital cannot put a lien on your house in Florida if you do not pay medical bills. Your home is an exempt asset that is not subject to forced levy and sale.

How long can someone collect on a judgment?

20 years. Under Florida law, judgments are enforceable for 20 years. A creditor can collect at any point during that timeframe.

What happens if you are sued about your property?

In a lawsuit about your property, a creditor will first record a lis pendens against the property in order to prevent its sale during the lawsuit.

Jon Alper

About the Author

Jon Alper is a nationally recognized attorney specializing in asset protection planning. He has over 35 years of experience and graduated with honors from the University of Florida Law School.

Jon has been recognized as a legal expert by media outlets such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He has helped thousands of clients protect their assets from creditors.

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