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5 Steps How to Collect a Judgment in Pennsylvania.

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I have a Judgment, How do I Collect?

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

First things first, if you can settle when money is owed, it is always worth considering. The goal of debt collection is to collect money. Collecting debt is about making smart business decisions and analyzing collectibility should be part of every preliminary debt collection process. This article is to help you collect money owed by deciding what to do after obtaining a money judgment.

The 5 Steps

  1. File Your Judgment With the County Courts
  2. File Your Writ of Execution (The Key for the Sheriff)
  3. Seize Bank Accounts by Sending Questions to the Banks
  4. Levy and Sell Personal Assets and Vehicles
  5. Levy and Sell Real Property / Land

More Help:

See Pennsylvania Debt Collection FAQ’s. or Ask a Debt Collection Question by Commenting Below:

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

A judgment is a legal determination by the courts that money is owed from one party to another. An award or verdict are not the same thing as a money “judgment”. Even if you win a lawsuit, you can not force collection remedies until a Praecipe to Enter Judgment is actually filed with the local county courts in Pennsylvania. This document called a “Praecipe to Enter Judgment” is governed in part by PA R.C.P. Rule 237.1.

File Your Judgment in each and every county the debtor resides or owns property. You could be paid years later.

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. There are 67 different counties in Pennsylvania, and it is important to actually file (meaning domesticate) your judgement in each and every county which the debtor owns property. This will often require a title search, credit report or other property background search to investigate what the debtor(s) actually own.

The reason that you need to domesticate a judgment in each county is because judgments in Pennsylvania only act as an automatic lien against real property if the judgment is properly filed in that specific county. This means that the debtor can not sell their property without satisfying the judgment first. These judgment liens on property are valid for twenty (20) years in Pennsylvania. However, if you file your judgment in Allegheny County, and the debtor owns property in another county (i.e. Beaver County), the judgment would not act as a lien in the neighboring county. Filing judgments can help you collect even years later, by remaining as a lien against the defendants property.

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. Therefore, we strongly encourage creditors to also revive their judgments at least once every 5 years  by filing a revival of judgment with the respective county department of court records or Prothontary’s Office.

Also, be careful about magistrate judgments. Magistrate courts are the lowest court system in Pennsylvania, and allow money judgments up to $12,500.00. However, 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 also always file the judgment with the county courts where the debtor resides or owns property. You need to make sure the judgment is filed with each and every county court where the defendant may own property or assets.


Step 2: File a “Writ of Execution”.

If entering your judgment with the county courts does not apply pressure to collect, then you can use the Sheriff’s Office of each specific county to help force the debtors to pay. Understand that the sheriff will not take action until a writ of execution is filed with the county and they receive the original writ and a Sheriff Instruction Sheet (sometimes provided by each respective Sheriff’s office).

Step 2 to collect a judgment is to file with the department of court records a praecipe for a writ of execution. The writ is the “key”which allows the Sheriff to execute on a judgment. Remember, the actual writ is filed with the county courts first, and then the original writ (with a stamped seal on it) must be delivered to the Sheriff’s office. The writ authorizes the sheriff’s office to take certain action to collect the monies against the debtor. When you file a writ of execution you are then directing the sheriff to take some additional action concerning the judgment.

These actions consist primarily of:

  1. Seizing a bank, credit union or monetary account; (this will require specific directions concerning the bank or garnishee)
  2. Selling personal assets, and/or vehicles; (one again, requiring a specific location to VIN #) and/or
  3. Selling a house, land or real property.

These are generally the most often used instructions associated with writs of executions directed to the Sheriff’s office and are more fully discussed below.


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. Direct the sheriff (through Sheriff instruction sheet) to 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. This could include tenants if the debtor has rental property or money owed from a lawsuit or otherwise.

The “interrogatories to the garnishee” are a legal pleading asking the bank whether or not they are holding any money of the debtor. An example of “interrogatories to the garnishee” can be seen by clicking on this link.

The best part about seizing bank accounts is that the debtor’s accounts are immediately frozen once the sheriff serves the writ of execution and interrogatories to the garnishee.

You should note that marital bank accounts are exempt from attachment. The garnishee (most often the bank) is required to answer the interrogatories within 30 days. This should specifically inform you as to whether or not the debtor actually has money at that bank. If they do, the bank should release the money voluntarily (less $300 statutory exemption). if the bank does not release the monies, then the creditor can actually enter judgment against the garnishee and follow the same execution procedures against the garnishee.


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 personal assets of the debtor to collect a judgment in Pennsylvania. Personal assets can include furniture, tv’s, jewelry, guns and firearms, other valuables or antiques. Typically, you cannot seize retirement accounts or pensions.

The procedures for selling personal assets of the debtor are similar to seizing a bank account.

  1. Record the judgment in the county where the assets are located;
  2. Obtain a writ of execution from the county Prothonotary;
  3. Deliver the original sealed writ of execution and a “sheriff direction forms” to the sheriff; and
  4. Direct the 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 (i.e. the Sheriff takes an inventory of the assets), it is illegal for the debtor to remove any of the items listed and can face criminal charges if they do. This includes any levy taken on personal assets and/or vehicles.

The sale of the assets is usually scheduled within a few weeks of the levy and third parties are allowed to file claim exemption forms objecting to the sale. If 3rd parties show for the sale, they can must bid a minimum of the judgment amount plus costs. If no one bids high enough or no one shows at the sheriff sale, then the creditor can bid the amount of the costs as an offer for the assets, retain possession and sell the assets as they seem fit. This includes taking immediate possession and then selling the assets directly at the sale who did not bid up to the judgment amount.

You can also collect a judgment by seizing vehicles in the same procedure. When it comes to vehicles, creditors have the option of having the vehicle towed at the same time the vehicle is levied upon. Consideration should take place considering whether the vehicles have liens before levying and/or towing them.

Most of the time assets (personal property or cars) are levied, debtors try to resolve the debt, but if they do not and the execution actually moves forward to sheriff sale, then the creditor needs to be prepared (usually with a large van or truck) to take possession of any and all assets which were levied on. Meaning the Sheriff will sell them to you for just the costs for the sale (typically very low), but you better be ready to take possession and transfer the assets as well.


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) but can very effective and profitable if the debtor owns real property. Each of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania have different costs, forms and policies as to how Sheriff Sales of real property are handled.

Before considering a sheriff sale of real property, you must ALWAYS do a title search first (estimated cost $150) and a mortgage search with the respective county.

The advantages of a real property sale is that in theory you can take possession of a debtor’s property for the cost of your judgment even if the property value exceeds the value of the judgment. This means you could actually profit on a potential resale of the property.

The possible disadvantage of a real property sale is that it is quite possible that other creditors have liens ahead of your judgment. That means that they would get paid first at your expense. It would make little sense to try to force a sale of a property if the property is already attached with a mortgage or encumbrance that exceeds the value of the property.

Sheriff’s sales are a great idea when there is equity in real property owned by the debtor. As stated, this must be verified by a title search and mortgage search first. It is also almost always a good idea to have an appraisal of any real property before proceeding with a sheriff sale against it.



debt collection in PA

The goal is getting paid.

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

  1. Enter Your Judgment, and domesticate your judgment in EACH AND EVERY COUNTY where the debtor resides or owns real property;
  2. Issue a Writ of Execution with the department of court records in that specific county;
  3. Have the Sheriff Serve the Writ Of Execution to seize bank accounts by serving interrogatories to any garnishee holding monies of the debtor;
  4. Have the Sheriff Serve the Writ Of Execution to levy and sell any and all personal assets or vehicles which the debtor owns; and
  5. Have the Sheriff Serve the Writ Of Execution to levy on any and all real property the debtor owns.

If you have questions about a Pennsylvania debt collection case, please feel free to call our offices at (412) 802.6666, email us at info@pghfirm.com or simply post a comment and question below. We offer free consultations and would be happy to help.

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


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?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Much delayed response:
      1. The best way is to obtain banking information of debtors is through written discovery and/or depositions. It may take effort, but you can force production of tax returns, bank statements, mortgages or any other financial information.
      2. Yes – any employee of a bank or credit union can be served.
      good luck

  2. 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?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Yes – you can do a notice of deposition in aid of execution and require the debtor to bring tax returns, banking information etc. Sometimes you can also look at their credit reports to see if they have any loans with banks etc, and that should point you in the right direction. Hope this helps. noah

  3. 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.

  4. Dean Langseder

    I have a $50,000 judgment from 2012 against my brother-in-law who lives in Florida and refuses to repay me. In 2014 he transferred the deed of some acreage of land he owned in the Poconos to his daughter. I would call it a fraudulent transfer to avoid paying me. He still hasn’t paid me back a dime. Can I somehow seize the property in Poconos? It is worth about $50K. I believe the statute of limitations is 4 years, so there should be 1 year left.

  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.


  7. Frederick

    If a deadbeat owns nothing today, will the judgement also apply to future property? If so, how would one know if the defendant tried to buy a house or new car or otherwise obtained property?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      The first question is a very good question. Does an old judgment apply to new assets or property? I would say yes. If I have a judgment against you, and you buy a property the following month, I believe the judgment would act as a lien against the property. Now be alerting of those new assets is more difficult and would require periodic credit searches.

  8. Mary Ann

    We have a money judgement on a tenant who vacated a rental property in Florida. They now reside in Crawford County, PA. Can you assist with collection?

  9. Steve

    I have a judgment against a person and they don’t owe real estate, I know where they live, can I do a sheriff sale of their personal property? This would be in Delaware Co.

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      You can do a sale on personal property in Pennsylvania, however, unless you have a judgment against both husband and wife, marital property is exempt and may not be collected upon.

  10. Eliza

    Hi Noah,
    Is the process you outlined above the same when collecting on a judgment issued as a result of a Landlord/Tenant complaint? If not, can you point me in the right direction?

  11. Abby

    If someone owes you $500 does it even make any sense to take them to small claims court?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      only if you are able to collect. If they are a deadbeat, then you are probably wasting your money, but if they have assets, then you should be able to collect the debt, plus costs of filing.

  12. Jessica

    In PA, after a writ of execution is filed, the garnishment is served on the garnishee bank by the county sheriff, and the answers to the interrogatories are sent to the applicable parties indicating the requested funds are available and a hold has been placed on the account, what is the next step? I am the plaintiff of this case, working pro se, and neither the sheriff’s office nor the legal process officer of the bank seem to want to be responsible for informing me how to actually receive the money due. Would appreciate your input.

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Contact the bank directly and tell them you are going to enter judgment against the bank (less $300) and to release the funds immediately to you. If you seize a bank (or credit union) account and want to garnish those funds, and they won’t voluntarily release them, then you need to enter judgment against the garnishee and if they still will not pay, then execute against the bank’s assets. They will pay. Can get more difficult if the garnishee is not an accredited banking institution. Good luck. noah

  13. Ray Chapman

    Am the plaintiff in a vehicle sheriff’s sale next week. What do I have to do? Do I bid? Do I have someone else bid? Are the titles signed at the sale? Can the vehicles be driven from the sale or must they be towed? Are there any fees or other monies that have to be paid at the sale?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      If someone else bids, they will have to bid your judgment amount and costs. At which point this is the best case scenario. If no one bids, typically (depending upon County rules) you or authorized representative can bid “sheriff costs” and obtain possession of the vehicle at the time of the sale. If you do not have keys you will be responsible for transport. Sheriff will provide bill of sale that will allow you to apply for title with the state. Hope this helps.

  14. Karen Stengel

    We won a case against our sister-in-law and she had a judgement issued against her to pay her 4 siblings a dollar amount that she could not do at the end of the case. She appealed the first decision and lost. She now cannot borrow some money they need and has decided to hire an attorney to contest the judgement. The case was heard over 5 years ago. How do we revive a judgement?

  15. Dan

    What if a person owns a single member LLC? Can I collect from the company on a personal judgement against the member? Can I seize company assets for the personal debt from the company?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Typically, no. If the LLC is properly set up and simply not a sham, then it should receive the corporate protection any corporation or LLC would receive regardless if it is a single member LLC or not. Thus, if your judgment is against the individual only, it will probably prove difficult if not impossible to sell the assets of a registered LLC. Hope this helps.

  16. Michele

    So the company i work for loaned an ex-employee money we took him to small claims court and won. Now we are trying to get the money. He is no longer at the same bank when he was working with us b/c i already got a writ for that bank. It seems he has moved a couple of times so we did an address search for new address. i was going to serve him at that address but he is married so i am guessing marital property is exempt and we are pretty sure he doesn’t own anything himself. How can i pull a credit report on him if he isn’t a tenant and no longer an employee? What would be our next options to collect this money? Can we some how garnish his wages? If the bank and property are our only options then what is the point of a judgement if you can’t get it. I know someone people have that information but what happens when you don’t.

  17. Michael

    How do I force a sale of a house, land or condo in the State of PA on Judgments which are in the Court of Common Pleas?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      If you already have the judgment, you would need to issue a writ of execution on real property. The Sheriff’s office would then post notice of the writ and schedule a sheriff sale of the real property. You need to conduct an accurate title search first to ensure you are aware of a lien holders including mortgages or taxes which may be owed on the property first. Good Luck. Noah

  18. Josh


    An individual owes me money (a personal debt). He has a business (a sole proprietorship). Can I seize company assets for the personal debt from his company?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      You may not seize company assets if the company is officially recognized as a corporation in PA (i.e. a P.C. or LLC), and the company can prove ownership of the assets. If the company is a D/B/A (doing business as) then yes you may be able to collect against those assets. Hope this helps.

  19. Mary

    I have a praecipe for writ of execution filed, the debtor sold his home after the praecipe was entered. Can the home still be sold by serving the writ of execution?

  20. Jim

    I am a teacher. The father of an old student asked to borrow $1000 to get out of a jam. I lent him the money. After months of ignored contacts attempts, I took him to small claims. I won judgement, still no payment. Was going to chalk it up, when I found out he has done this to 5 other teachers in the district. I paid for an order of execution. But the constable has made 6 attempts to serve the levy, with no luck. Would I get my fees back if he can’t serve it?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Unfortunately no. You are entitled to any excess costs not used by the Sheriff’s office though. I would file the judgment in the county where the debtor resides so as to ensure the judgement remains on debtors credit report. Good luck.

  21. Noah Paul Fardo

    If you had your judgment recorded in the state court where the property was deed, the sale should have recognized your lien. If the property transferred anyway, then you may want to make a claim against the new owners and potentially their title insurance will pay the claim. The title company should have done a title search, and should have recognized your lien. Hope this helps.

  22. Half Pint

    Hello Noah,
    Can I be asked to answer interogating questions about my assets if there was no judgment awarded as yet?

  23. Harry Daniels

    With all the legal matters that come with trying to collect money from bad tenants. The law really will not help because the law gives to much reason for them not to pay with all the hours spent in court and filing judgments and all the money it takes to get these people there and they never show up or they leave in the middle of the night with no new address to send the constable or sheriff to serve them and they jump jobs and close bank accounts so you cannot track them down and when you try to get paid you are not allowed to put them in a financial bind by the law of the court but its ok for them to owe you money for back rent and damages you most likely never collect on. So i find the system to much in favor of the bad tenants.The lease being a legal document pretty much means nothing. To many attorneys give advice on how to beat the system. When is the system ever going to be in the favor of the property owners who suffer thousands of dollars of bad debt, The system really needs a overhaul.We the property owners are not fairly treated. I really do not expect a response this is just my opinion because I have been to court many times an no matter which attorney you use they are also limited by the laws of the court.

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      There is no doubt that Pennsylvania can be debtor friendly for tenants; many of whom do not own property. What I always recommend here is that if a creditor or landlord obtains a judgment against a debtor (tenant), especially at the Magistrate’s office, make sure you cross-file the judgment at the county level courts. In Allegheny county, this is called the Department of Court Records. The benefit of recording the judgment at the county level as opposed to the Magistrate level is that county level judgments will show on credit reports. Many times, I have been paid years later by debtors simply by having the judgment recorded at the county level. The truth is patience and persistence is required in order to collect against many individuals. But there are tools available for those who are persistence. Annually requesting debtor’s tax returns can be useful and can remind the debtor or tenant that you are not going away. Hope this provides some help.

      good luck

  24. Peter

    Hi Noah. First thanks for all the replies. Though they were not meant for me they have been helpful.

    I’ve won a tenant-landlord judgement and have filed a lien against the defendant based on the information provided in the lease (parents address which is most likely still his only formal address). I have questions for 2 topics:
    1) Given recent changes that took place in July 2017 – what is the value of filing a lien against the defendant, if credit scores will no longer be affect by small claim court liens?

    2) Given this is a tenant-landlord judgement, I know I have the option of wage garnishment. However, the defendant has changed jobs since. How do I obtain information on Place of Employment? Will my lien/ability to garnish wages be affected if the defendant is now employed in a different state?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Thanks for the questions:
      Answers as follows:
      1. Though credit scores may/may not be affected, there are still benefits of recording the judgment at the county level. If the debtor owns real property, judgments act as a lien against the real property, and if the property owner sells or refinance you should receive a call from the closing company asking for the pay-off amount.
      2. To gain information about current employment you can conduct a notice of deposition in aid of execution, or simpler, send written interrogatories asking the defendant any relevant debtor information. This would most certainly include place of employment, assets owned, bank accounts etc. (which makes me think I should post a good template for interrogatories in aid of execution). If the defendant / debtor moves to another state, you will need to comply with that state’s laws on the ability to garnish their wages. Hope this helps.

      good luck

  25. Donna Allen

    I won a judgement against someone and they did not pay. I filed a writ of execution and he refused entry of the sheriff. I then filed a praecipe for writ against the bank… Now am I able to add all the extra court costs into the judgement as it has added up to over 800.00 dollars. This is in Northampton Pa. I did this all pro se. Thanks loads.

  26. Noah Paul Fardo

    That’s a great question. Certainly if you reissue a writ of execution you can add ALL costs to the writ. Adding the costs to the judgment itself is questionable. You can try to petition the court to amend the judgment, but the process is not easy or guaranteed. If the debtor refused entry, you can try a motion to break and enter which does work and gives the Sheriff power to enter the premise forcefully. This will typically garnish a response from the debtor. Good luck. noah

  27. Krystle

    Is it possible to add myself as a lienholder on a vehicle owned by the defendant I have a judgment against? I tried the route of having the sheriff take possession of the vehicle, but there is a lienholder already present. Thanks.

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Hi Krystle – First things first, how much is the current lien? If you tried to repossess, why did the sheriff NOT take the vehicle. If you issued a writ of execution, then yes you may have a lien if indeed the property was levied on by the sheriff. The issue is whether there is any equity in the vehicle. If there is, then nothing prohibits you from executing and seizing the vehicle and then selling the vehicle to satisfy your judgment. Granted, you will have to pay off the first lien holder first. Good luck.

  28. clair Altland

    I have a writ of execution against the a person. In order to pospone the actual Sheriff Sale he showed me vehicle titles that he owned with promise to contact within 4 days. No contact 2 wks later, I ran Pendot against vin#’s and 3 showed clear and 2 showed up with another name on(which I understand is an Alias he uses). The Sheriff’s office said they would send someone to his home to look for them but they may not find them. If they cannot find them do I have any recourse? File a lien against the titles so they can not be sold? What about the 2 with his name and an Alias name on can anything be done with them?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Hi Clair – thanks for the question. I would reinstitute the sheriff sale. You can hire a private investigator to find the vehicles, but that is certainly a hassle. When you reissue the writ, you can pay the sheriff to levy and tow the vehicle upon locating them, instead of just setting them for a new sheriff sale date. The issue with levying on vehicles is finding them and the of course making sure they are free of any liens. Depending upon the amount owed, I would try noticing the deposition of the debtor and requiring them to bring all vehicle information (including liens), all banking information for the last 12 months, and tax returns for the last 3 years. This will sometimes require motions to compels and threats of contempt, but if you are persistent, you can require the debtor to bring this information or face potential contempt in the form of actual jail time. There is no such thing as debtors jail in PA, but there is contempt for failing to follow court orders. Sounds like you need to get the courts involved. If you filed at the magistrates, make sure you domesticate the judgment in the county where the debtor resides.

      good luck.

  29. Krystle

    If I know of 3 banks that a defendant has done business with in the past but do not know whether there is an active account at any/all. Should interrogatories in attachment be filed at the same time as the writ of execution? Or should I find out if there are accounts with funds in them via the interrogatories prior to filing the writ? Will the debtor be alerted when the interrogatories are filed?


  30. Krystle

    Hi Noah,

    Thanks for the reply. Are you asking how much the lien on the vehicle is through the bank or the amount of the judgment?

    When I first filed the paperwork with the sheriff, I was told that they would not levy on the vehicle if there was a lien. When I contacted them to let them know there was a lienholder (I did not have the vehicle abstract initially) and asked if I could be added as a lienholder on the vehicle as well without them taking possession of the vehicle, I was told they do not do this.

    Would I have a basis for an interrogatory to the current lienholder to request the current balance?


  31. clair Altland

    Hi, I recently filed writ of execution & started sheriffs sale of goods. At Sheriffs sale he asked me to hold off to try to work out payment plan and to prove he had assets he showed me 5 titles to vehicles/tailers. No contact since. I ran PenDot files to show ownership and 3 titles are only in his name and 2 are in what he described as his brothers name. I asked the Sheriiffs department to amend or add to the writ. They said they would look for vehicles but may not be able to find them. If that is the case can I put a lien or somehow protect them from being sold?
    And viewing court records the 2nd name listed on his titles (which he said was his brother) is showing as an Alias he uses. Can I Sheriff those since they are owned by him?

  32. Nick c

    I have obtained judgement 30 days
    Ago . How long does it generally take
    To serve writ to garnishee after
    It has been executed
    I am in nj defendant located in pa
    Does the defendant need to get
    A copy of the writ before garnishment
    Of bank account

  33. Noah Paul Fardo

    Once the Pennsylvania judgment is entered, a writ of execution may be filed at the department of court records, and then the Sheriff will have 90 days to serve the writ of execution. If a debtor receives the notice of garnishment before the writ of execution is served, then they are able to withdraw monies, which would defeat the entire purpose of the writ of execution and garnishment. Hope this helps.

  34. David Hinkes

    sued a contractor at district level and won. I won the appeal in County Court, and then won the counter suit. is there a easy step by step process to follow. The judgement in my favor $4170 and counter suit said in my favor $2,880.I’m new at all this and wonder can I do a writ of execution at magistrate who is in the same county? is there a waiting period to start the collection process? Thanks so much

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Hi David – The debt collection process should start with recording the magistrate judgment at the county level. At that point, you can decide whether to issues a writ of execution through the magistrate or through the sheriff at the county level. There is no waiting period. Now once you issue the writ, what do you want the Sheriff or Constable to do? You can have them serve “interrogatories to the garnishee” – which is a fancy way of asking any banks if they are holding money of the debtors. You can try to sell vehicle or assets which might make sense based upon the amount owed. Hopefully this helps or provides some guidance. If you have additional questions, please let me know. Good luck! Noah

  35. Ed

    I’m a plaintiff and have a judgement against contractor’s LLC (husband and wife as co-owners) who did the faulty work. No appeal has been filed and they didn’t pay me.
    What are my options to collect judgement?
    Can I enter judgement against their insurance company?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Enter the judgment at the county level(s) where the debtor resides. Then you can have the sheriff seize assets, bank account or sell vehicles. Insurance may or may not apply as I think I emailed you. Good luck. noah

  36. Carletta Whiting

    Hi Noah
    What if you’ve done all five steps and you still have not received your money. Because the business owners son’s mother/worker would not allow the sheriffs in the home where the business is being run out of then how can you get your money and is it too late for me to request information from the person in reference to tax returns and bank accounts since I already won the judgment based on the person not appearing in court.

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      HI Carletta –

      if they won’t let the sheriff in, file a Motion to break and enter, which is a fancy way to ask the court for permission to allow the sheriff to forcibly enter. You are not too late to ask for financial information from the debtor. It just takes persistence and some wherewithal. Let me know any questions. noah

  37. Matt

    I received a judgment against the other person for a loan I gave her. She gave me the signed title to her car as collateral when she signed the promissory note.
    I’ve heard that the Sheriff has to get the car for me, but can I just take the car after the Sheriff has it and sell it myself (or use it to reduce the judgment), or does the Sheriff have to be the one to sell it?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      If your agreement specifically provides that you may repossess upon default, you may be able to seize without the sheriff. But if there is any doubt, then use the sheriff to seize, tow and sell to you at the sheriff sale. Sheriff sale may also make it simpler to obtain clean title, but both are potential options depending upon language in the agreement. Good luck. noah

  38. Robin Miller

    Hello, I am so grateful for this site. I have been trying to get answers for a very long time. I was awarded a judgment in a civil case against another party who is still failing to pay the judgement. I entered a certified judgement to the county courts and they say the next step is to fill out the writ of execution. However, I am lost as to what to put on this form. Since, I represented my self in my civil hearing I am left to filling the writ of execution myself. What am I supposed to write on there exactly besides the basic information. I do not know anything about the other party or the possessions he may have. Can you help?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Hi Robin –

      Once “Judgment” is entered

      you may then file a “writ of execution” – that is simply filing a piece of paper out called a “writ of execution” which they should have copies of at the desk (I would file in person).

      Now the writ is just the ‘key’ authorizing the sheriff or constable to go execute – which you have to decide what to execute on (Personal property, cars, bank accounts? guns? jewelry? Lawsuits? Money owed from other? other?)

      Personal property – make sure you want it

      cars – make sure there are no liens (hard to know – but possible to find out) –

      banks – if you know where they bank – you can send “Interrogatories to garnishee” fancy way of asking the bank if there are any accounts – and freezing those accounts. Not overly difficult, but several steps when trying to do it by yourself.

      and of course there is discovery you can try to do to learn this information first. You can ask the debtor where they bank? What they own? and obtain tax returns or other personal financial information.

      They make the system so friendly for debtors because its hard for people to understand the process by themselves. Hope this helps.

      good luck

  39. David Hinkes

    Thanks for all your help. If the original judgement was $4,170 and then I was awarded $2,880 on the counter suit, do I write $4170 on the Writ or do I combine the totals and add $7050

  40. George

    I have a $1,900 judgment from a Pennsylvania District Magistrate Court against a former tenant that has been filed in our county’s Prothonotary Office I know the name of her bank, and I know her current address. I do not know her social security number or her bank account number. I want to garnish her bank account. Would it be sufficient to fill out a PRAECIPE FOR WRIT OF EXECUTION using her name, her current address, and state “Please retain from any and all accounts of, or held for the benefit of Mary Smith in satisfaction of the judgment held against her”?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Yes – you do not need the exact account number if you have the bank names, and properly serve the writ of execution and the interrogatories to garnishee to the bank. At that point, the bank should seize any and all accounts of the debtor. Hope this helps.

  41. Deva

    Hi Noah,

    I have a judgement against a property owner, who did not pay me for work I did.

    Is it possible to collect a portion of the rent his tenants pay him? And how would I go about that?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Yes it is possible. If the debtor is collecting rents, you may issue a writ of execution, and serve the tenants with both the writ of execution and interrogatories to the garnishee (which is a fancy way of asking the tenants): Do you (the tenants) owe the debtor (the landlord) any money? If the answer is yes, then those monies should be frozen and released to you. Now if the tenants do not release the money voluntarily, then you may have to enter judgment against the tenants. The Tenants only have to release what is currently owed (not future rents) and you may have to repeat this process multiple times based upon the payments and the debt. Other options include obtaining copies of the lease or taking depositions of the debtor to find more information. Hope this helps.

  42. Steve

    Noah, I received a favorable judgement in the amount of $12,000. I see in previous comments that you can file a writ of execution on marital property. What about property the defendant owns with someone else? Also, is there a judgement debtor exam process in PA? Thanks!

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      If it is real property owned by debtor and third party (not married) you can force a sale of that property to collect your debtor’s share in that property. You need to make sure there is adequate equity to do such. You can also depose the co-owner to gather that information or conduct written discovery to determine the debt and equity in the property.


  43. Adam

    I own a small business LLC in Montgomery County. I received a judgement against my company. If I do not pay I, what can the person who won the judgement do to collect? If he gets a sheriff would I have to pay hose fees or him?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      If you do not pay, the sheriff can sell personal property and assets to collect and/or seize any banking accounts in order to pay the judgment. Yes, you would also be responsible for any sheriff costs and filing fees of the litigation.

  44. Jimmy Streich

    In 2004 a women conned my mother out of 166,000.00 and tried paying it back with bad checks. She was found guilty and put on probation with restitution but then was allowed to move from PA to Texas and stopped making payments. She hasn’t made a payment in almost 3 years and the judge will not issue a warrant for her arrest because he claims she won’t pick up her mail or answer her phone so they can’t verify her address. It’s left us in serious debt and she knows we can’t afford an attorney to go after her – is there any options to force the court to act or to go after her for the 150,000.00 she still owes?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      If the court ordered restitution, then the court has the ability to hold her in contempt. Now they are alleging they can’t find her, but if can find here, you can provide the address to the court. You can ask the post office if they still receive mail there or whether a forwarding has been set up. good luck!

  45. Debra L Page

    Your responses are very helpful to a landlord lik me, who has only 2 properties. My question is- if a bank answered that the tenant in default does have an account there, but it has insufficient funds to disperse, if the tenant does put more money into the account, will the bank still be responsible for sending it to me? Or do I hav to go thru the process of filing another writ/interrogatory? Thanks

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Unfortunately, you would have to go through the execution process again. It is a flaw in the system. The writ of execution is good for 90 days, so in theory it could be served more than once during that time. Otherwise it would be necessary to reissue the writ of execution.

      good luck.

  46. Jay


    My name is Jay and I loaned a friend $6,000. It has been over a year and he didn’t pay me back so I sued him and won the judgement.

    He doesn’t have a job where he receives checks. He used to be a barber but says he doesn’t do that anymore and is trying a new venture and that is why he doesn’t have any money right now.

    It recently has passed the 30 day mark and he didn’t appeal.

    The court gave me these 2 options:

    1) send the judgement to Doylestown and it gets added to his record. So he can’t buy/borrow anything in the future.

    2) pay $200 and they will send the sherif to his house to take whatever is under his name (but we don’t know if he actually has anything).

    And apparently I am not able to do both

    Is there a way in Pennsylvania where he is obligated to tell me all of the assets he has?


    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Yes – you can do both. You can execute at the magistrate office to collect the judgment and you can also record the judgment at the county level. You can also conduct discovery to learn of the defendants assets, but probably need to file at the county level so that if the defendant does not respond, you can ask for certain remedies from the court. Hope this helps.
      good luck

  47. Tom

    Noah: The defendant borrowed funds and never paid them back. The district magistrate declared the defendant guilty – we won! Then we had to file with the Court of Common Pleas. However, they said that since the defendant had no real property (land, car, home, etc.) we could not recoup the funds that were lent. Is there no way to garnish wages? The defendant has a good paying job, but simply (and purposely) owns nothing. Is it possible to garnish wages in Pennsylvania to recoup such funds? If so, how do we do this?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      You can only garnish wages in Pennsylvania in limited circumstances (i.e. certain landlord / tenant matters). However, you can request tax returns, bank statements and even take the deposition of the debtor to learn of what other assets exist. Persistence and patience is the key. Hope this helps.

  48. George Bennington

    I won an MDJ case in 2011 and never entered the judgment with the county. Now I found out the defendant has die and has an estate. Can I collect or am I SOL?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      my opinion – maybe – if the estate is opened and actually has assets.

      To open an estate, there would be a petition for probate in the county where in the individual passed. I would find out if the estate was opened and send a copy of the magistrate judgment to the administrator of the estate. The fact that it was never recorded in the county should be irrelevant IF you provide them notice of the magistrate judgment. Hope this helps.

  49. George

    I have a $1,900 judgment from a Pennsylvania District Magistrate Court against a former tenant that has been filed in Montgomery County’s Prothonotary Office. I know the email address that she uses for her PayPal account. Can I garnish or levy her PayPal account? I believe PayPal is located in California, and I understand the agent for PayPal to be National Registered Agents, Inc; and that their office for Pennsylvania is located in Dauphin County. How would I do this? Do I need to domesticate the judgment in Dauphin County first, or is that not necessary?

  50. Zack

    Hi Noah,
    Questions related to an unpaid marker from gambling at a Casino in PA. A young relative of mine confided to me that he owes $5000 to this Casino, and because of gambling addiction, he has lost all his money and is broke broke. Because he can’t repay the marker, the Casino has filed a civil complaint against him in magisterial district court, with a hearing scheduled in two weeks. Three questions for you:
    1) What other costs/fines/fees may get added on the original $5000 if/when the court enters a judgment for the Casino in this case?
    2) Is he in jeopardy for any criminal prosecution (for bad check, etc)?
    3) Obviously he got a marker and immediately “sent” the entire amount back to Casino (loss via gambling, he actually lost between $40k-$50k in the course of one year all at this Casino, sadly). Is there any defense to this? Will the court consider mitigating circumstances as to lessen the amount he may be ordered to payback by the court?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Obviously, I have not seen any of the documents, but responses below:

      1. If they are suing for $5000, the only additional fees would be the magistrate filing fees ($150 or less).

      2. No – unless criminal proceedings were also filed. It sounds like this is a civil, not criminal action.

      3. Probably not, but of course that would depend upon a full examination of the facts, but sounds difficult.

      good luck

  51. RIKI

    I used a lawyer to file a lien against a building owned by some one who loaned 14,000 to complete the same building from me in Philadelphia. The lien is 19,600 – Court costs, interest fees as set forth in the agreement. He has filed for Bankruptcy protection, the second time in as many years, this time in New Jersey. Although, this was an investment property, now he claims he lives there, he is still collecting rent from the tenants, and completely ignoring me. It has been 2 years since I filed the lien. What are my options to force this guy to address this issue.

  52. Tina Price

    Yes hello I just got a letter in my mail today stating Praecipe to enter judgement it says enter judgment in favor of plaintiff against defendant who is me with respect to docket number and judgement amount listed below for $1,000.42 that is for a fine I owe in PENNSLYVANNIA. Then it says Entry of judgement on this 24th day of January 2018 judgement is entered in favor of the plaintiff against the defendant who is me I’m the amount set forth above. Can someone please explain this to me I do not understand this at all. I no longer live in PA I live in Baltimore Maryland. I just started paying on my fine. And I do not own a house or anything for them to take. Can they make me pay this any other way. Like if I buy a car with my taxes?? I’m so confused please someone help…

  53. Mike

    In PA, can I serve interrogatories on a bank as well as former landlords and even the PA DEPT of revenue for docs on my debtors or to ask them questions as to where they’re working (W-2)s, if they got a refund which bank the money was either deposited into or direct deposit, etc questions like that?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      Yes – you can send interrogatories to potential garnishees asking questions concerning the financial holdings of the debtor. For example, do you possess any W2? and if so please provide a copy. You can not ask general questions such as, “Do you know where the debtor is working?” – but you can ask questions pertaining to the garnishees accounts. Hope this helps.

  54. Matt Rose

    Hi Noah,

    I have a judgment against a former friend and I have identified that he has unclaimed property at the PA treasury Unclaimed Funds . Can I access these funds with a simple writ of execution ? i have read everything on the Treasury website and it is not clear.


  55. Christine

    I won a judgement against someone for over $1,600.00 in Feb 2017. To date I have received only $20.00 of this. I was told I could garnish there wages for payment. Is this possible? We live in Berks County Pa.

  56. Debbie

    My former tenant is no longer with the employer who I garnished against. this info only became known after the judge had issued a motion to compel, since there had been no response regarding the garnishment. i called the employer to ask if they knew her new employer and they said they considered this harassment. Can I compel the banks or former employer to provide me with her social security #, which I STUPIDLY had never bothered to obtain? Can I call her new landlord and ask him to give me ss# without being called out for “harassment?” Thanks

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      you might be able to subpoena this information, but they could file a motion seeking to preclude. You would have to show that this information is relevant and not intrusive. Probably worth a shot.

  57. Lori Popiolkowski

    Hello Mr. Fardo,
    I recently won a judgment against a contractor for 27000. He is the sole owner of a concrete co. that is listed as incorporated. We were told that we could only go after property that was in the businesses name and not his personal property. We were also told that if he claims that his businesses property is used for work we can’t go after it either would that be a true statement?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      #1 – It depends who your contract was with. Was it with the company or the individual? or did you pay both?
      Also – was the corporation just a sham of a company?

      If your contract was with the company and you obtain a judgment against the company only, then it may be difficult to execute against property owned by him personally. But if the company has assets, and you have a judgment against the company – then yes – you should be able to execute against those specific assets.

      Hope this helps

  58. Sheryl

    I have followed all steps above, However after trying to garnish the defendant wages , the bank was showing no funds being available at that time. The defendant account is still frozen but I haven’t received any money in regards to my judgment. Is there anything else I should do to receive my judgment amount? It looks as if the bank doesn’t have funds to release which I do find strange because this person is apart of the military & does receive monthly funds . Can I just garnish the defendant wages myself sense I have a writ of Execution ?

    • Noah Paul Fardo

      So the bank is only required to freeze account balances on the day they were actually served. If the debtors monthly checks were withdrawn and there is no money in the account (as it appears happened here) then the account will be frozen but you won’t get paid. You actually have to re-issue the writ and have the writ reserved trying to serve the account at a time when the bank actually is in possession of the money. You could also try a notice of deposition in aid of execution or discovery requests asking for pay stubs and tax returns. This may lead to other assets or the best way to collect. Hope this helps.


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