Collecting in Small Claims Court

How Do I Collect if I Win a Small Claims Judgment?

In recent posts, we’ve discussed some of the issues involved with small claims court in Connecticut. As these posts have shown, small claims court can be a viable option for certain plaintiffs, though not for all. If you have a relatively simple case and the amount you’re seeking doesn’t exceed $5,000, small claims court may be a good choice. If you decide to pursue your matter in small claims court in Connecticut, and you win your case, you must then deal with the next issue: collecting your judgment. Contrary to what some may suppose, the small claims court isn’t responsible for collecting the judgment you win. Although the court can assist with collection in some ways, you are ultimately responsible for seeing that you receive the payment.

Once a judgment is entered, the court will order the individual that lost the case (the judgment debtor) to make periodic payments to the person who won the case. If the judgment debtor is a business or landlord, no periodic payments will be ordered, the full amount of the judgment is due. If the person fails to make the required payments as ordered, there are several options available for collecting your small claims court judgment. Any one of these options may be the correct one; everything ultimately depends on the precise nature of your situation.

Option #1: File an Application for Execution

An execution is a legal hold on someone’s property so it cannot be sold or used. It is important to note that an execution will not be issued if the judgment debtor is making the periodic payments required by the court. But if not, then there are three types of executions:

  1. A wage execution can be used against a person who has a job if that person is not self-employed. You must find out where the debtor works.
  2. A property execution attaches the personal property, not real property, to pay the judgment. You must know where the property is kept.
  3. Financial institution executions attach certain accounts at banks, credit unions, or other financial institutions. You must find out where the account is located.

There is an additional fee associated with applying for an execution. You must do your homework or hire someone that can help you, the court cannot do it for you. You must then follow the proper procedure for serving the execution. Failure to follow proper procedure can be fatal to enforcing it.

Option#2: Hire a Debt Collection Agency

Another option is to hire a debt collection agency. A debt collection agency is a company which specializes in pursuing debts from individuals or corporations. One plus about hiring such a company is that this type of company will have experienced professionals who possess skills in the area of debt collection. The company will have people who know how to communicate with debtors and arrange payment. Collection agencies will be able to easily contact credit bureaus in the event that a debtor refuses to pay; this will increase the likelihood that the debt is paid. The downside is that, if you hire such a company, you will likely only receive a certain percentage of your judgment, as you will need to pay for the services of the collection agency.

Option #3: Collect the Judgment Independently

The other option you have is to collect the judgment yourself. You can contact the debtor yourself personally and try to obtain the full judgment, or work out a payment plan. This is where the court can be of assistance: if you make a request, the court may be able to help you create a payment plan for the debtor. This isn’t the same as obtaining a seizure of property order or a wage garnishment; it is simply the court stepping in and offering assistance. Most people don’t want to have a blotch on their credit report, and so most debtors will be willing to work with you directly to get the judgment paid off. If, however, the debtor isn’t responsive, you may need to turn to one of the other options.

Contact the Apex Law Firm for Additional Information

Winning in small claims court is enough work on its own, but, as we can see, collecting the judgment can also be a challenge as well. If you’re heading to small claims court in the near future, or if you’d like more information, give Apex Law Firm a call today at 860-900-0900. We can help you navigate both the court process and then the collection process in a hassle-free, straightforward fashion.