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Unlawful detainer judgments (housing enforcement judgments) are awarded when someone does not pay their rent or fulfill the terms of their lease. This usually results in a court judgment for unpaid rent and sometimes damages to a property. When compared to other kinds of civil judgments, unlawful detainer judgments have 5 differences:
1) It is usually easier to identify the correct debtor. A big problem with most judgments is the debtor's social security number and date of birth are not on judgments. If the debtor has a common name, it can be difficult to enforce a judgment against them.
Usually, landlords know the debtor's social security number, their date of birth, and some previous addresses. One must be very aware of, and comply with all privacy laws on keeping social security numbers private. However, knowing the debtor's social security number is very important as often it is the only way to know for sure you have the right judgment debtor, and checking the bankruptcy status of a judgment debtor. One must never violate a debtor's bankruptcy-discharged debts.
Note that some landlords get temporarily blinded by cash. When a renter pays cash for the deposit and first two month's rent (or more), some landlords are happy - and sometimes does not check references, employers, or pull a credit report. Sometimes the renter never pays a dime more, and they are sued for unlawful detainer. The problem is that some debtor write on forms that their name was Jim Smith, however that was not their actual name. The landlord was blinded by cash, and so the unlawful detainer judgment will never be enforced.
2) The debtors are usually poorer, as least they were near the time of the judgment. People with money usually do not skip out on rent or leases. When the economy was doing well, it was common for debtor to have improved situations over time. Even now, sometimes debtors inherit money or get jobs, so their unlawful detainer judgments are not worthless. However, it is not a good sign that the debtor was broke or a scoundrel at the time of the judgment.
3) Landlords often are more likely to have more than one judgment. Some landlords enforce their own judgments, and only offer their most difficult judgments to judgment enforcers.
4) Unlawful detainer judgments are more likely to have debtors who claim they do not owe money on the judgment. There are several ways this can happen. For example, Bob, Joe, and Jack rented a house, all had jobs and good credit scores. As time went by, Joe moves out and Bob and Jack say "they will cover the rent, don't worry".
Later, there is an unlawful detainer judgment, where Bob, Joe, and Jack are all named as being liable. Joe got notice of the complaint by mail, but tossed it out as "he knew" it was not his problem. However, a default judgment will be entered, and Joe will become a judgment debtor. When a judgment is enforced against Joe, Joe may believe he does not owe money on the judgment.
5) Unlawful detainer judgments are for mostly rents and leases, so they are usually less than $10,000. Many unlawful detainer judgments are for amounts much less than that. However, they are not usually allowed in small claims courts. Even if the judgment is only $300, it usually must be heard in a civil court.
Besides these 5 differences, unlawful detainer judgments are just like all other civil judgments. May your judgment be collected.
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