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5 Steps How to Collect a Judgment in Pennsylvania.

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This article will help readers understand the five (5) steps necessary to collect a judgment in Pennsylvania.

Step 1: File your Judgment (in any and all counties where the debtor resides or owns property).

Step 1 to collect a judgment in Pennsylvania is to file the judgment IN EACH COUNTY where the debtor resides or owns real property. Real property means a house or land.

Judgments in Pennsylvania act as an automatic lien against real property. This means that the debtor cannot sell their property without satisfying the judgment first. These judgment liens on property are valid for twenty (20) years.

Although a judgment may act as a lien against real property for twenty (20) years, you cannot seek to execute on your judgment unless it is revived every five (5) years.

Also, be careful about magistrate judgments. Magistrate judgments are not always identified by credit reporting agencies and will often not show on credit reports. Thus, you may have a judgment that is NOT acting as a lien.

If you have a magistrate judgment, you should always file the judgment with the county courts where the debtor resides or owns property.

Step 2: File a “Writ of Execution”.

Step 2 to collect a judgment is to praecipe for a writ of execution.

Once the judgment is filed, you can ask the department of court records to issue a “Writ of Execution”. This writ of execution is then taken to the sheriff’s office. The writ authorizes the sheriff’s office to take certain action to collect the monies against the debtor.

These actions consist primarily of:

  • Seizing a bank account;
  • Selling personal assets, and/or vehicles; and
  • Selling a house, land or real property.

Step 3. Seize Bank Accounts.

collect a judgment

Seizing bank accounts freezes the accounts immediately.

Step 3 to collect a judgment is to seize money from banks or third parties who may owe the debtor money.

To seize a bank account in Pennsylvania, you must take the following steps:

  1. Enter the judgment;
  2. Obtain a writ of execution;
  3. Deliver the writ of execution and “interrogatories to the garnishee” to the sheriff; and
  4. Have the sheriff serve the writ of execution and interrogatories to the garnishee.

The garnishee is the bank or other party who may have money owed to them from the debtor.

The “interrogatories to the garnishee” are a legal pleading asking the bank whether or not they are holding any money of the debtor.

The best part about seizing bank accounts is that the debtor’s accounts are immediately frozen once the sheriff serves the writ of execution. You should note that marital bank accounts are exempt from attachment.

Step 4. Have the Sheriff Levy and Sell Assets and Vehicles.

In addition to seizing bank accounts, you can also have the sheriff levy and sell assets to collect a judgment in Pennsylvania.

The procedures are similar to seizing a bank account.

  1. Enter the judgment;
  2. Obtain a writ of execution;
  3. Deliver the writ of execution and “sheriff direction forms” to the sheriff; and
  4. Have a sheriff serve the writ of execution.

With personal assets, the sheriff serves the writ of execution and then takes an inventory of all assets to set for a sale. The procedure is called a levy. Once the levy is performed, it is illegal for the debtor to remove any of the items listed and can face criminal charges if they do.

The sale of the assets is usually scheduled within a few weeks of the levy. If no one shows at the sheriff sale, then the creditor can bid the amount of the costs as an offer for the assets.

You can also collect a judgment by seizing vehicles.

When executing on vehicles, you can pay the sheriff extra (about $150) to tow the car at the moment they do the levy, rather than setting a sale date. This is usually a good idea.

Step 5. Force a Sheriff Sale of any Land or Real Property Owned by the Debtors.

Finally, you can collect a judgment in Pennsylvania by forcing a sheriff sale of the defendants real property.

This is significantly more costly than seizing a bank account or levying on personal property (est. $2,000 to $3,000 more in court costs).

Before considering a sheriff sale of real property, you must ALWAYS do a title search first (estimated cost $150).

It is quite possible that other creditors have liens ahead of your judgment. That means that they would get paid first at your expense.

Sheriff’s sales are a great idea when there is equity in real property owned by the debtor. This must be verified by a title search first.


debt collection in PA

The goal is getting paid.

The best way to collect a judgment in Pennsylvania is to:

  • Enter Your Judgment
  • Issue a Writ of Execution
  • Have the Sheriff Serve the Writ Of Execution to seize bank accounts, sell assets, or force a sheriff sale.

If you have questions about a Pennsylvania debt collection case, please feel free to call our offices at (412) 802.6666 or email us at

We offer free consultations and would be happy to help.

Read more:Pennsylvania Debt Collection FAQ’s.

This article is written for entertainment purposes only. It should not be relied upon for legal advice. Please read full legal Disclaimer.

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About Noah Paul Fardo

Noah Paul Fardo, Esq. is a Pennsylvania trial lawyer and the managing partner of Flaherty Fardo, LLC. His legal practice focuses in medical malpractice, personal injury, business litigation, and property tax appeals. You can find him on Google+.


  1. Michael Hemphill

    Hello Noah,
    In the state of PA is there a way to find out where someone is banking so one can levy against an individual’s bank account for a judgment?

    If the judgment is against a person who has an account at Federal Credit Union, can the Sheriff serve any credit union with the Writ of Execution and the Interogitories?

  2. Tom Little

    Thanks for the overview of debt collection against deadbeats. I have a case where I will be contacting you.

  3. Margaret

    On your blog, you list steps to follow for seizing bank accounts for a debt owed. If I understand the article correctly, after I get the writ of execution, I give it to the sheriff to deliver the writ and interrogatories to give to a bank. This can get very costly to find the correct bank. Is there something I can do to find the correct bank before sending the sheriff in to present the interrogatories?

  4. Noah Fardo

    Obviously the best source if is you have past cancelled checks from the debtor. Also pull a credit report and sometimes based upon the identity of the creditor, it can lead you to find accounts. Finally, if a bank employee is willing to tell you, that may also work. You do need to be careful about attempting execution at a bank without any reasonable basis to believe the debtor may have banked there. Meaning if you try to shotgun every bank in the state, without any reasonable basis, not only would it be expensive, but in theory the banks could try to ask for costs in responding. Good luck.

  5. J.B Miller

    I have a judgment against a municipality they have failed to pay the judgment. Do these same rules apply to a government entity?

    I know what bank institutions they use.

  6. Kelly

    Hi Noah – I am the plaintiff and the judgment has been entered against the defendant in my case. The defendant, as far as I know, only owes property in one county, where the judgment was entered. According to the steps to collect – it says to file the judgment. Is this different than it being entered on the docket by the court? Or, is it considered filed once it has been entered? The court never sent me a copy of the judgment – I had to call them to find out. Thanks so much for your help.

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      They should be the same. If the judgment was entered on the docket, your next step is to issue a writ of execution. You should not need to file the judgment again.


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