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Collecting a Judgment

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Collecting a Judgment

When you, as a tenant, have difficulty seeking the return of a security deposit from a landlord, the District Court of Maryland may serve as a useful tool to seek the owed money. Once the court declares that the landlord owes you money, the first step in obtaining the money owed is to record the judgment in the court. When you seek a judgment, you become known as the creditor or lienholder and the landlord becomes known as the debtor. Once recorded, you may use any of the following tools to seek the repayment of a debt: Property Lien, Wage Garnishment, Examination before Court, and Writ of Execution. Each of these processes is explained in more detail below.

Property Lien

Once a judgment is recorded in court, you, as a creditor, are able to attach a lien onto any property owned by the debtor. A lien is a right that prohibits the debtor from transferring their interest in a property until a debt is satisfied. The lien may be attached to any property or properties located within Maryland. Once filed, a lien will remain in force for 12 years unless removed by you after receiving payment from the debtor. After 12 years, you, as the lienholder, are permitted to renew the lien as long as the debtor has not paid the moneys owed under the judgment.

Often, attaching a lien to a property can spark a debtor to satisfy a lien and its corresponding judgment. As many property owners do not want to have a lien prohibiting the transfer of a property, a lien can provide the necessary motivation to the debtor to pay the debt.

Read the Rule:  Md. Rule 3-625(link is external)

Wage Garnishment

After recording your judgment and attaching a lien to the defendant’s property, you may unfortunately may find that a debtor still does not want to pay the judgment debt. A second option to enforce a debt is to seek a garnishment of the debtor’s wages. When sought by a creditor, wage garnishment requires the employer of the debtor to withhold a portion of the judgment debtor’s wages each pay period and forward the money to the you until the judgment is “satisfied”, i.e. paid in full.  For more information on garnishments, see the People’s Law Library’s Guide to Garnishments: Garnishments.

To seek a garnishment of wages, you must seek a court order and a judge must approve. When seeking a garnishment, the following rules apply:

  • In Baltimore City and all Maryland counties except Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Worcester, 75% of the disposable wages due to the debtor, or earnings at the rate of $145 weekly, whichever is greater, are exempt.
  • In Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Worcester counties, the greater of the 75% of the disposable wages due, or 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act in effect at the time the wages are due, is exempt.
  • A creditor cannot seek garnishment of wages used to pay for a debtor’s health insurance.

Once a garnishment is sought by a creditor and served upon the employer, otherwise known as the “garnishee,” the garnishee must file an answer within 30 days of being served with the writ or risk being held in contempt and possibly being required to pay attorney’s fees and court costs.  See Rule 3-646(e). While the garnishment is in effect, the employer must remit all garnishable wages to the creditor (or to the court, if the employer or debtor has asserted a defense). See Rule 3-646(i).

Read the Law: Maryland Rule 3-646(link is external)

While a garnishment is in affect, you, as the creditor, must keep records of all payments credited to the defendant.  After each month in which any payment is credited, you must prepare a written statement of all credited payments and send this statement to the garnishee and to the debtor.  While you are not required to send a copy of the statement to the court, it is wise and very recommended to keep a copy of each statement until 90 days after the end of the garnishment proceeding. 

When requested, you have an obligation to make these statements available for review by the court or any party.  If you fail to provide statements to the debtor disclosing the payments and the manner in which they were credited, the debtor can request that the court dismiss the garnishment proceeding and order you to pay the debtor’s attorney’s fees and costs.

Read the Law: MD Code Comm. Law § 15-601.1-607(link is external)Maryland Rule 3-646(link is external)

Examination In Aid of Enforcement of Money Judgment

After recording a judgment, many creditors do not know the full extent of a debtor’s assets. In order to help you enforce your judgment, you may request an examination before the Court. Under this procedure, the Court will order the debtor to appear before a judge and testify, under oath, to testify as to the amount and extent of assets owned. From there, a debtor can request a Writ of Execution, as explained below, to seize the property and use the proceeds from the sale to satisfy the judgment. Effective October 1, 2015, the Court may require you to show good cause for any additional Examinations In Aid of Enforcement of Money Judgment.

Read the Law: Md Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 11-404(link is external)

Writ of Execution

In addition to a property lien and wage garnishment, you may request a writ of execution and ask a court order that the debtor’s assets be sold in order to pay the debt. It is important to note that certain items are exempt from attachment, including, but not limited to, clothing, tools of trade or profession, and small amounts of property including money.

Read the Rules: See Rules 3-644(link is external) thru 3-646(link is external)

Should the defendant reside in another state, the court for that state may be petitioned to enforce the Maryland judgment by garnishing wages or implementing other forms of attachment.

Court costs or fees may apply in order to obtain a garnishment, to record a judgment lien or for any other reasonable and necessary expense.  The basic judgment also earns 10% interest per year except interest on a money judgment for rent of a residential property earns 6% per year.

Read the Law: Md Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 11-107(link is external)


BNI, Inc. Edited by

Originally posted by Anonymous on Jun 13, 2014, last updated by dlawadmin on Feb 7, 2017


How to Collect (Enforcement of Judgment)

The court will not collect the judgment for you. The key to enforcing a judgment is knowing where the judgment debtor's assets are located. Common sources of assets are bank accounts, employment income, rental income, and business receipts.

If You Do Not Have Any Information About the Judgment Debtor's Assets

If you do not have any information about the judgment debtor's assets, you may file an Application and Order to Produce Statement of Assets and to Appear for Examination (SC-134) with the clerk.

  • The Order of Examination is a hearing where you ask the judgment debtor questions about his or her assets. You may ask the judgment debtor questions regarding where the judgment debtor banks, works, and other questions which will reveal assets. There is a fee to file an Order of Examination of a Judgment Debtor.

  • If you file for an Order of Examination, you may request a Subpoena Duces Tecum from the court which, when served, will order the debtor to bring certain documents to the examination hearing. Documents that are generally subpoenaed include pay stubs, bank statements, accounts receivable, and any other documents that tend to show where there are assets.

  • Both the Application and Order to Produce Statement of Assets and to Appear for Examination and Subpoena Duces Tecum must be personally served on the judgment debtor.  For more information on personal service, see our Proof of Service page.

Wage Garnishment

If the judgment debtor is employed, his/her wages may be garnished to pay off the judgment. To begin the wage garnishment process, do the following:

  1. File both a Writ of Execution (EJ-130) and a Memorandum of Costs After Judgment (MC-012) and pay the filing fee to the clerk.
  2. Once the clerk has processed the writ, take the original writ to the Sheriff's office and request an Application for Earnings Withholding Order.  Note: Fill out the forms completely with the employer's name and address and the judgment debtor's full name.
  3. Pay the Sheriff Department fee to serve the wage garnishment.
The Sheriff's office can tell you how soon the garnishment should begin after it is served, and how much of the judgment debtor's wages may be garnished per pay period.

Rental Income Garnishment

If the judgment debtor owns rental property, you may garnish the rents paid by the current tenants. The procedure is the same as wage garnishment, except you instruct the Sheriff's Department to do a rent garnishment instead of a wage garnishment. There is a fee for the Writ of Execution and for the Sheriff's Department to serve the rent garnishment. 

Bank Levy

If you know the bank and branch where the judgment debtor (or spouse) has a deposit account, you may levy the funds in the account. To begin this procedure, you must file a Writ of Execution (EJ-130) and pay the fee with the clerk. Once the clerk has processed the writ, take the original writ to the Sheriff's office and request a bank levy. After the Sheriff's Department serves the levy, the bank account is frozen and the account holder is notified. The Sheriff's Department charges a fee for this service.

Till Tap/Keeper's Levy

If the judgment debtor owns a business that has a cash register, you may arrange for a Deputy Sheriff to go to the business and do either a Till Tap or a Keeper's Levy.

  • A Till Tap sends a Deputy Sheriff into the business to take all cash and checks out of the cash register.
  • A Keeper's Levy stations the Deputy Sheriff at the business for 4 or 8 hours to collect money as it is paid to the business.

The Sheriff's Department charges a fee to serve the Writ of Execution. Remember that the judgment debtor may close his or her business for the day and the Deputy Sheriff would be unable to collect any money.  

Certain money is exempt from levy, such as child support payments. If the judgment debtor files a Claim of Exemption from the levy, you will be notified and will have an opportunity to oppose any claim of exemption.

Judgment Lien on Real Property

  • If the judgment debtor owns real property, you may record an Abstract of Judgment with the County Recorder which will act as a lien against all real property owned by the judgment debtor in the county in which the lien is recorded.  Complete an Abstract of Judgment (EJ-001) and submit to the court to be issued.  There is a feefor the Abstract of Judgment. Once the Abstract has been issued by the court, record the Abstract at the County Recorder's Office.

  • The Abstract places a lien on any real property owned by the judgment debtor located in the county in which it is recorded. Before the judgment debtor's real property can be sold or refinanced, the lien must be satisfied. NOTE: You may record an Abstract of Judgment in any county in which the judgment debtor owns property.

Costs After Judgment

A judgment creditor is entitled to recover certain costs incurred in enforcing a judgment. The judgment creditor is also entitled to claim 10% simple interest on the principal amount of the judgment. Costs must be added to the judgment within two years of incurring them. Interest may be added at any time.

Accumulated costs and interest are added to the judgment by filing a Memorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest (MC-012) with the clerk. Complete the form and have it sent by first class mail or served personally on the judgment debtor by a non-party to the action who is at least 18 years of age.  After serving the judgment debtor, file the original with the clerk.

Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment 

Within 14 days of the judgment being fully paid, the judgment creditor must file an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment (EJ-100) with the clerk. The judgment creditor may be liable for $50 plus actual damages for failing to file the Acknowledgment of Satisfaction within 14 days of receiving a written demand to do so from the judgment debtor.