Evictions 101: Possession Judgments Vs. Money Judgments

One of the more confusing aspects to the eviction process for landlords involves whether to seek a possession judgment, money judgment, or both when evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent.  But in order to understand which type of judgment a landlord should seek, it is important to first know what they are and how they work.

Possession judgments are often called “pay to stay” judgments.  They are not prorated and the amount owed extends through the end of the month no matter when you file.  If a tenant pays the amount owed on a possession judgment within the allotted time, then the tenant can remain on the leased premises and cannot be forcibly evicted.  If a tenant does not pay the amount owed on a possession judgment within the allotted time, then the landlord can file an order of eviction to have the tenant forcibly removed by a court officer.  A landlord will always seek a possession judgment when filing a claim against a tenant for nonpayment of rent.  Personal service is not required to obtain a possession judgment.  Most importantly, possession judgments do not entitle a landlord to seek legal remedies, such as garnishments, to collect any amounts still owing.

Money judgments, however, do entitle a landlord to collect on amounts still owing under the tenancy.  A landlord must specifically request a money judgment at the time of filing the complaint for nonpayment of rent and pay an additional filing fee.  Money judgments must be prorated in many, but not all, courts.  If the landlord wins, they will be entitled to seek any and all legal remedies to collect on their money judgment.  Mostly, collection includes wage, tax, and bank account garnishments.  Whether or not a landlord decides to seek a money judgment depends mostly on whether the tenant’s whereabouts are known.  This is because the only real snag in obtaining a money judgment is that a landlord must personally serve the tenant.  Mailing or posting notice will not suffice.  If the landlord is unable to obtain personal service over the tenant, then the money judgment can be adjourned to a later date or the landlord can file again at a later date against the tenant in small claims or district court.

If you ever need assistance in evicting a tenant, whether for nonpayment or any other reason, Kreis Enderle can help.  Please call or email me for more information JWheeler@KreisEnderle.com

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