What if you need to serve legal papers on your judgment debtor, or want to know their address, but you do not know where they live? How can you find their address?
One of many judgment articles: I am a judgment broker, not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.
First, to recover a judgment, you do not always need to know where your debtor lives, unless you are trying to levy their vehicle or some other physical property. Most judgment owners first try to recover judgments with bank levies or wage levies. If you do need to learn your judgment debtor’s address, this article lists some ways, in no particular order:
1) Schedule a judgment debtor examination, and subpoena their electric company for records that show their service address.
2) Send your debtor a letter with your return address on the envelope, and “Address Correction Requested” printed under your return address. Or, send a certified letter with a mandatory signature receipt.
3) Pay a process server to deliver an envelope to the debtor, and let the server know there is no proof of service needed; all you are trying to do is verify their address.
Most process servers will not give you a discount for a delivery without a proof of service, however some might. A place to find process servers is NAPPS. Or have the process server attempt to serve your judgment-related document on your debtor.
4) Knock on the door of either your debtor’s former address, or the address you think they might be at, and ask for them; and then perhaps how to contact them. Either you, or someone else can do this.
5) Drive by the suspected place your debtor lives, and copy the license plates of any vehicles at that address, then pay a private investigator to run the license plate numbers.
6) At around 3:30 PM, walk to, and talk to the kids in the neighborhood. Most kids will not lie to you if you ask nicely about your debtor, and stay clearly back from them, so not to be threatening. This works best if you are female. Or, you can ask the neighbors if your debtor lives around there, without saying they owe a debt.
7) Check at the court if there are other lawsuits or judgments against your debtor. Check to see if any proofs of service have your debtor’s address. Also, if you can identify the opposing parties in those cases, you can ask them if they know where the debtor now lives or works.
8) If a lawyer currently represents your debtor, the attorney-client privilege applies, except perhaps in Texas. If the lawyer no longer represents your debtor, then the attorney-client privilege does not apply, and you can subpoena them with personal service for information about your debtor.
Clients of an attorney are privileged, until they file their case. Then, then are public recoreds. A judgment debtor examination may be successful finding out what ongoing cases they have, and then doing an assignment order for a % of what is paid to the attorney by their clients. There is a usually an client trust fund which is usually the property of the clients.
In theory, one can levy the attorney for any money held on the books belonging to the debtor in the form of a retainer; however in real life, most often the attorney will answer that the retainer has already been spent. Because of Business and Professional Code 6149, you cannot subpoena the retainer agreement, or contract between the debtor and the attorney, because that is privileged information.
If you can subpoena the debtor’s attorney, ask for copies of all checks, and other evidence of financial transactions between them and the debtor. Financial transactions (especially checks) between a lawyer and their clients are not communications, they are financial instruments. Even if checks were privileged, so many people have access to them (bank tellers, accountants, bookkeepers, office assistants, etc.) there is a good chance that any privilege is waived anyway.
If an attorney says such an information request would be a FDCPA violation (if a consumer debt) and says you cannot contact 3rd-parties about a debt, politely remind them that the FDCPA also includes the phrase, “Except in so far as it would further a post-judgment remedy”.
One cannot legally contact 3rd-parties about a debt except “as reasonably necessary to effectuate a post-judgment judicial remedy”. That covers almost everything a judgment enforcer does.
9) If you think your debtor lives somewhere, however are not sure, send the debtor a FedEx or UPS package with signature required. Do not be cheap, use a bubble pack envelope and put something thick inside (perhaps an old paperback book) so they are eager to sign, and open the package. You can even use an out of state return address, and see the results online.
10) Using public records (or the recorder’s office), see who owns the property where you suspect your debtor lives. Who knows, maybe your debtor owns that property. If someone else owns the property, ask them if they know your debtor. You may have to subpoena them.
11) Call, visit, or subpoena one or more of these people or entities: Previous landlord, previous or current employer, their relatives, neighbors, friends, or resume references; the water company, bankruptcy court records, criminal records, their spouse or public records for their spouse.
12) Only if you are a process server, if the debtor uses a PO box, one can use the PDF form at http://about.usps.com/who-we-are/foia/coa-or- boxholder-form.pdf, to find the current mailing address of the debtor for the price of a stamp. Note that the post office returns the mailing address, however does not verify the person lives there.