Get the Debtor to Pay You Voluntarily

There are several ways you can encourage a debtor to pay you voluntarily. You can:

If these methods do not work and the debtor will not pay you, try other ways to collect from the debtor. And you can get help from your small claims advisor.

Write a letter

Write a letter to show the debtor it is in his or her best interest to pay the judgment as soon as possible.

In your letter, you can say that if the debtor does not pay:

  • The amount the debtor owes will increase daily, since the judgment accumulates interest at the rate of 10 percent per year.
  • You will seek reimbursement from the debtor of any reasonable and necessary costs of collection. For the law that provides for 10 percent interest and for costs, check out Code of Civil Procedure sections 685.010 to 685.040.
  • Credit reporting agencies will know the debtor has not paid the judgment because the debtor's name will appear on the court's "Judgment Roll" which is a public record. The credit reporting bureaus go to each courthouse and get that information for their records.
  • If the debtor does not pay, you can ask for:
    • A wage garnishment against the debtor, and maybe the debtor's spouse, or the debtor's domestic partner;
    • A levy on the debtor's bank account or safe deposit box;
    • Liens on real property (like a house or land) or personal property; and
    • Suspension of the debtor's professional license, like a real estate, contractor's, or driver's license in certain situations.

Click to see a sample letter. Click for a computer program to help you write a letter.

Help the debtor find assets to pay the judgment

Sometimes debtors honestly believe they do not have any way to pay this debt.

Encourage your debtor to consider sources of assets like:

  • Using an income tax refund;
  • Taking a personal loan;
  • Having a garage sale;
  • Auctioning personal items on the Internet;
  • Borrowing against a retirement account (401(k)); or
  • Getting a credit card cash advance (but if you are the debtor, realize that this can result in high credit card fees).

Be flexible about payment terms

Sometimes, being flexible will pay off.

Here are some ideas:

  • Accept (weekly or monthly) payments.
  • Accept less than what the court ordered.
  • Let the debtor pay you with property or work instead of money.
  • If the debtor is out of work, help the debtor find work.

Accept installment payments

If you decide to accept installment payments, write a letter to the debtor. Explain how you want the judgment to be paid. Include payment of interest and costs, if any.

Click to see a sample letter.