Enforcing a Judgment
After the trial, the Court will mail the Claimant and the Defendant a “Notice of Judgment.” Read all the information printed on both sides of the Notice of Judgment. If you won your case, the judgment will tell you the amount of money awarded to you, along with the sheriff’s office address and phone number, and ways to collect your judgment. One way to collect your money is to call or mail the Defendant and ask for the payment. The Court cannot collect the money for you, and there is no guarantee that you will have your judgment paid voluntarily. If the Defendant is unwilling to pay there is legal recourse you can take to obtain your money. The Small Claims Court judgment remains valid for 20 years.
If the Judgment Debtor, the party who lost during the trial, does not pay you voluntarily, you may contact an enforcement officer. The enforcement officer will either be a Sheriff who works for the County or a City Marshal who is independent. For a list of enforcement officers visit the Resources page.
Tell the enforcement officer that you are the Judgment Creditor (the Claimant in the trial who has won money, or the Defendant who successfully countersued and won money), and that you would like the officer to request an execution from the Court. An execution is a court order that allows the enforcement officer to take money or property from the Judgment Debtor in order to have your Judgment paid. Before the enforcement officer asks the court for an execution, the enforcement officer must know what assets the Judgment Debtor has and where they can be found. You must provide this information to the enforcement officer.
Also be aware that you will have to pay certain fees for the enforcement officer's services. If you settle the case after hiring an enforcement officer, you must pay the enforcement officer 5% of the settlement amount plus any additional fees. Visit this webpage for the Order of Execution form and instructions.
You can use an information subpoena to find a judgment debtor's assets. You can use the pre-printed questions on the subpoena or write your own questions. The Small Claims Court Clerk will provide you with an information subpoena for a small fee, you can purchase the necessary forms from a legal stationery store, or copy the forms from a law form book found in a Public Law Library.
The information subpoena must be signed by the Small Claims Court Clerk. After the form is signed, make copies for yourself and send the subpoena, two copies of the written questions and a self-addressed envelope with the correct postage attached (by regular mail or certified mail, return receipt requested) to the Judgment Debtor and anyone else you think may know about the judgment debtor's assets, such as: an employer or any banks where you know the Judgment Debtor keeps an account.
If you have a canceled check from the Defendant, the back of that check should indicate the name and address of the bank where the Judgment Debtor keeps an account. With this information, the enforcement officer can seize the money in the account and use it to satisfy your judgment.
You can check with the New York Department of Motor Vehicles and find out whether the Judgment Debtor owns a car. If so, the enforcement officer can take the car and sell it to pay you your money. You must be able to tell the enforcement officer the model, year, license plate number and location of the car. Also be aware that if the Judgment Debtor borrowed money to buy the car, that loan must be repaid from the sale before you can get any money.
Similarly, if the Judgment Debtor owns real estate, it can be sold to pay your judgment. Ask the Small Claims Court Clerk for a transcript of judgment and then file it with the County Clerk in the county where the judgment debtor owns property. You can then ask the enforcement officer to sell the property to pay the judgment. Again, be aware that if the enforcement officer sells the property you will receive your payment from the proceeds only if there is any money left over after the enforcement officer’s fees and expenses are paid, any mortgage on the property is paid, all taxes are paid and previous debts the Judgment Debtor owes are satisfied.
If the claim you filed in Small Claims Court was based on the Judgment Debtor's ownership or operation of a car and if the judgment is $1,000 or more and has been unpaid for more than 15 days, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend the Judgment Debtor’s driver’s license and car registration until the Judgment is paid. For more information speak to the Small Claims Court Clerk.
If the claim you filed is about the Judgment Debtor’s licensed or certified business, and if the debt has been unpaid for 35 days or more, you can contact the state or local licensing agency. The licensing agency then can revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew the business license.
If the Judgment Debtor has three or more unpaid recorded judgments including your own and has the ability to pay them, you may be able to sue for treble damages, which means you can be awarded three times the original judgment amount. Speak to the Small Claims Court Clerk and ask if the Judgment Debtor is listed in the Small Claims Court index of unsatisfied judgments.
If the Court finds the Judgment Debtor’s business illegal or fraudulent you may notify the New York Attorney General's Office. If the business is licensed, notify the agency that licensed the business as well.
When the Judgment Debtor has fully satisfied the Judgment (paid the amount in full) the court must be notified that the debt has been paid. You, as the Judgment Creditor, must notify the Small Claims Court that the judgment has been satisfied, even if you use an Enforcement Officer. Failure to notify the court in a timely manner may result in penalties to you.
The Enforcement Officer will file a satisfied execution with the clerk at the Small Claims Court where the execution was issued. The Enforcement Officer will also mail a copy to the Judgment Debtor.
See the Resources page for the locations and phone numbers of the Small Claims Court Clerks, County Clerks and Enforcement Officers.