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How to Put a Lien on the Debtor’s Personal Property

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If the judgment debtor has not paid the judgment debt when it is due, or made arrangements to pay it over time, California law gives the judgment creditor the right to put a lien Opens new window on the debtor’s personal property -- for example, an automobile or boat. (See California Code of Civil Procedure, Sections 697.510 through 697.670) Opens new window

With a lien you will not get paid automatically, but because liens inform potential buyers (or others who might be entitled to have the property) that the title of the property is not strictly clear, liens tend to be paid off in the order of recording.  Therefore, usually you will get your money, with interest, if the debtor tries to sell the property, or to give someone else an interest in it, since most buyers (or other potential new owners) don’t want property with unclear title 

  • You may put a lien on the debtor’s personal property located in any county in California. 
  • The lien is good for 5 years. It may be renewed for another 5 years if you have not been paid. 
  • If the property is transferred to someone else while the lien is in effect, the judgment lien continues even though the property is sold, exchanged, or disposed of until you get paid in full.


To put a lien on the debtor’s personal property


Step 1.
Get and fill out California Secretary of State form: 

  • Notice of Judgment Lien (Form JL-1) Opens new window


Step 2.
Make 2 copies - one for your file and the other to file with the Secretary of State.


Step 3.
File Opens new window the original and 1 copy of the Notice of Judgment Lien with the California Secretary of State’s Office by mailing the two documents, together with a check to pay their filing fee, to:

Secretary of State’s Office
P.O. Box 942845
Sacramento, CA 94235-0001

IMPORTANT:  When you are fully paid you must remove the lien and file an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment (Form EJ-100) with the court. 
See the section on Satisfaction of Judgment.


To learn how to remove liens see the section on How to Remove a Lien.



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