More Ways to Collect

In addition to the more common ways to collect a judgment from the debtor's property, there are other things you can try. Remember, you can use several ways to collect at the same time so try these ways together with other rmethods.

Click on the topic below that applies to your situation to get more information. You can also ask your small claims advisor for help.


Collect From a Retail Business

If the debtor is a business, there may be different collection methods you can try.

Bank levy
If you wrote a check to the business, you may be able to look at the back of your canceled check to find out where the debtor's business bank account is located. You can then collect by putting a levy on the debtor's bank account.

"Till tap" or "keeper"
If the judgment debtor is a business and the business has lots of cash on the premises, you may send a sheriff out for a till tap or a keeper.

A "till tap" is when a sheriff's deputy goes out to the business and collects all cash on the premises at that moment. The sheriff's deputy empties the cash register up to the amount of the judgment. When you ask for the sheriff to do a till tap, think about what time of the day the business is likely to have the most cash on site. The fee for this service is about $85, but ask your local sheriff's office what the exact fee is.

A "keeper" is when you send a sheriff's deputy to a business for 4 or 8 hours to stay at the business and collect all cash and checks that come in during that time period. It is much more expensive than a till tap, and the fee depends on the number of hours the deputy sheriff is asked to stay at the debtor's business premises.

If the business is the type that has a lot of transactions and brings in a lot of cash in a day, a keeper can help you collect all or most of your judgment and recover the fee you paid for the keeper itself. A keeper can also make the debtor pay you voluntarily because the debtor may not want to have a deputy sheriff sitting at his or her business all day long, possibly driving business away.

For both a till tap and a keeper, you need to ask the court to issue a Writ of Execution (Form EJ-130). Click to learn how to ask for a Writ of Execution. Take the writ of execution to the sheriff's department with instructions, including the name and location of the business and the best time to go (when you think the most cash will be in the register).

Suspend the Debtor's Real Estate, Contractor's, or Driver's License

Use these procedures when your judgment is against a licensed professional and the dispute is about their professional services.

Make sure the judgment says that the money owed relates to the license (like a contractor's or real estate broker's license). Then, send a copy of your judgment to the relevant licensing agency in your case. Click for a list of California licensing agencies (other than real estate licenses). Click for the Department of Real Estate which handles real estate licenses.

For contractors, you may be able to have the contractor's license suspended. Read the information for judgment creditors offered by the Contractors' State License Board in A Consumer's Guide to Using the Small Claims Court.  

It may also be possible to have a real estate professional's license suspended if the small claims judgment says the court found evidence of fraud or other intentional misconduct. You may be able to file a claim with the California Real Estate Recovery Account in order to get paid. Check the Department of Real Estate's website to see if your judgment can be paid from the recovery fund.

If your judgment is against the driver of a car that caused an accident on a California highway

If the judgment was for damage to property of $750 or less, you have to wait for 90 days after the judgment becomes final. Fill out DMV form called a Notice of Unsatisfied Judgment of $750 or Less (Form DL-17).

The debtor then has 20 days after the DMV gets your Certificate of Facts on DL 17 to pay the judgment. If the debtor does not pay within the 20 days, the debtor's driver's license will be suspended. The suspension can last for a maximum of 90 days. It can end sooner if the debtor pays off the judgment, gets a court-ordered payment plan, or proves that he or she had enough car insurance to cover the amount of the judgment. For more information check out Code of Civil Procedure section 116.880.

If the judgment was for more than $750 or for any bodily injury or death, the debtor's driver's license can be suspended for a maximum of 6 years. If you have not been paid and more than 30 days have passed since the judgment became final, you can file a DMV form called Certificate of Facts Re Unsatisfied Judgment (Form DL-30) with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The form is also available at the court clerk's office.

For more information, check out Vehicle Code sections 16370 through 16381 and Code of Civil Procedure section 116.870.

Get a Seizure, Turnover, or Assignment Order

These orders require a hearing before a judge.

  • A "seizure order" lets the sheriff/marshal take property from a private home. (Generally this is used for large property, like a piano or stereo system.) For more information about seizure orders, check out Code of Civil Procedure sections 699.030 through 699.090.

  • A "turnover order" requires the debtor to give property to the sheriff/marshal. (Generally this is used for small property, like a valuable watch or a coin collection.) For more information about turnover orders, check out Code of Civil Procedure sections 699.040 through 699.090.

  • An "assignment order" requires the debtor to assign ongoing payments to you. (Generally this is used for continuing royalty payments, sales commissions, or rent payments.) For more information about assignment orders, check out Code of Civil Procedure sections 708.510 through 708.560.

  • In most counties you should be able to use the small claims form Request for Court Order and Answer (Form SC-105) to ask for any of these orders. You will probably need to fill out a proposed order for the judge to sign. You can use the Order on Request for Court Order (Form SC-105A) for this. Contact your small claims advisor for more information.

  • Your local law library should have resources that are helpful in seeking these types of orders. Click to find a public law library.

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