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Executing on a judgment targets the debtor’s non-exempt property

If you are involved in a payment dispute with a customer or tenant, or any kind of commercial dispute in Texas, your goal isn’t just to get a judgment against the non-paying party. It’s to obtain payment.

You might try an alternative dispute resolution process through an organization such as:

  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
  • Texas Department of Insurance

However, you may want to seek a judgment against your debtor. Unfortunately, even a court judgment won’t force all debtors to pay. You have to collect on your judgment.

Basically, this involves two steps. First, you wait for the deadline to appeal to pass and then obtain an abstract of judgment. You file this with the county clerk in any county where the debtor owns real property. This creates a lien against the owner’s real estate in that county. You can file in more than one county, as appropriate.

After that, you wait 30 days and then obtain a writ of execution and attempt to seize the debtor’s non-exempt property. If you can locate non-exempt property, you can force the sale of the property and take your payment from the proceeds on that sale.

The unfortunate truth is that many debtors, especially consumers, may not have any non-exempt property for you to seize. Exempt property in Texas includes:

  • The debtor’s homestead (a house, along with up to an acre of land in an urban area or up to 200 acres in a rural area)
  • Current wages, certain commissions and certain health aids
  • Personal property worth no more than $60,000 (family) or $30,000 (single adult), including home furnishings, family heirlooms, consumable provisions, farming or ranching vehicles and implements, including boats and motor vehicles used in trade, clothing, jewelry worth no more than 25% of the total personal property exemption, two firearms, athletic and sporting equipment, one motor vehicle for every family member who holds a driver’s license, certain farm animals and their forage, household pets, and the cash surrender value of certain insurance policies

If your debtor has no non-exempt property, you cannot use a writ of execution to seize their exempt property. You will need to seek another debt collection remedy.

If your debtor is a company, these exemptions could still apply. Depending on the type of entity the debtor is operating, you may have the right to seek payment directly from the owner or owners of the company. In other cases, you may only have the right to seek payment from the company’s assets.

It is a good idea to seek help from an attorney who has experience collecting on judgments.