The Challenges of Post-Judgment Collection

Image of a landlord and her attorney post-judgement collection

Securing a judgment in court is often seen as a victory for plaintiffs, but the reality can be far more complicated. Winning a lawsuit doesn’t always mean you’ll be able to collect the money owed to you. Allow us to share the tale of a plaintiff’s hard-won triumph, rendered futile in practice, as the defendants adeptly shielded themselves from collection by becoming judgment-proof.

The Tale of Chloe and her tenants

Chloe, a landlord, owned an investment property where two tenants lived. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it created financial hardships for many, including Chloe’s tenants, who struggled to pay their rent. Understanding their situation, Chloe agreed to a payment plan that allowed them to defer rent payments, with the promise to pay the accumulated rent later on. 

Despite Chloe’s generosity, the tenants did not adhere to the payment plan. They continued to live in the property without paying rent, taking advantage of the eviction moratoriums that prevented Chloe from legally evicting them. Over time, the unpaid rent accumulated, putting a significant financial strain on Chloe.

Once the eviction restrictions were lifted, Chloe evicted the tenants and decided to sue for the unpaid rent. She was successful in court and secured a judgment against the tenants. However, her victory was short-lived as she quickly discovered the harsh reality of post-judgment collection.

Why are some people judgment-proof?

Despite having a judgment in her favor, Chloe found herself unable to collect the debt. The tenants had become judgment-proof, meaning they had no assets or income that could be legally seized to satisfy the judgment. 

Here are some ways people can be judgment-proof:

Exempt Assets and Income:

  • Homestead Exemption: In many states, a primary residence is protected from creditors.
  • Personal Property Exemptions: Items such as clothing, household goods, and sometimes a vehicle are protected.
  • Retirement Accounts: Funds in 401(k)s, IRAs, and other retirement accounts are generally exempt from seizure.
  • Public Benefits: Social Security, disability, and other government benefits are typically protected.

Low Income:

  • Federal Poverty Guidelines: If a person’s income falls below a certain threshold, their wages may be protected from garnishment.
  • Unemployment: Individuals without income may be judgment-proof by default.

Spending Down Assets:

  • Asset Liquidation: Some individuals might spend their assets or convert them into exempt forms (e.g., using savings to pay off a mortgage on a protected homestead).
    1. However, some transactions may be considered fraudulent transfers, especially if it is evident the transferor is evading creditors. Creditors can still pursue transferred assets through legal channels. Learn more about fraudulent transfers [here](link to fraudulent transfers blog).


  • Filing for bankruptcy can discharge many types of debts, rendering the debtor judgment proof for those specific debts. However, there are significant consequences to filing bankruptcy. 

Chloe’s experience illustrates a critical lesson: securing a judgment is only half the battle. Collecting on that judgment can be fraught with challenges, especially if the debtor has protected their assets effectively or has no assets to begin with. Litigation can be lengthy, stressful, and expensive, and even a strong legal case does not guarantee financial recovery.

For those considering litigation, it’s important to weigh the potential outcomes and seek advice from legal professionals to navigate the intricacies of post-judgment collection. This approach can help in making informed decisions and exploring all available options to achieve the best possible outcome. 

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Eric Gros-Dubois

Founding partner Eric Gros-Dubois established EPGD Business Law in 2013. With over a decade of experience expanding the firm and leading it to its current success, Eric now primarily manages the corporate division of EPGD. Given Eric’s educational background, holding both a JD and MBA, combined with his own unique experience of starting a business from scratch and growing it to a multi-million dollar firm, he brings a specialized and invaluable perspective to those seeking legal assistance for themselves and their businesses. Having now instilled his same values in our team of skilled corporate associates, Eric leads a firm that is always ready, willing, and equipped to handle any and every legal matter that a business owner may have.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.



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