What is a Judgment?

June 4, 2020 &• 6 min read by Gerri Detweiler Comments 737 Comments

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A judgment is an order issued by a court of law. When you borrow money, you are legally required to repay the debt. This includes opening a credit card account, getting a line of credit from your bank and obtaining financing for a big purchase.

You can also become indebted to service providers. This can include utility companies, medical professionals, cell phone service providers and auto mechanic shops. They provide a service to you and then bill you, similar to a credit extension.

So, what happens when you don’t pay a bill or repay a debt? The company, creditor or collection agency has legal ways to pursue payment. One of those options is to sue you. If they are successful, the court issues a judgment against you.

What Happens After a Judgment Is Entered Against You?

The court enters a judgment against you if your creditor wins their claim or you fail to show up to court. You should receive a notice of the judgment entry in the mail. The judgment creditor can then use that court judgment to try to collect money from you. Common methods include wage garnishment, property attachments and property liens.

State laws determine how much money and what types of property a judgment creditor can collect from you. These laws vary. So, you need to look to your own state for the rules that apply. A consumer law attorney can help you understand your state’s laws on judgment collections.

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What Is a Judgment on Property?

Your property includes both physical items and money. That means judgment creditors can seek debt payment from more than your wages and bank accounts. They may also take back a car you financed or other personal property. Another option is placing a lien on some of your property, such as your home.

What Property Can Be Taken to Settle a Judgment?

Creditors must follow the law when applying a judgment to take, or seize, your property. Some things are exempt—which means they can’t touch those items or properties. Some examples include the home you live in, the furnishings inside it and your clothes. State laws identify these items and set limits based on their value.

Non-exempt property can be taken to help meet a judgment debt. Your creditor can take or leverage these possessions in the following ways:

  • Wage attachments. This is known as wage garnishment. When your employer receives the proper legal notice, they must withhold a percentage of your wages. These payments are sent to the judgment creditor until your debt is paid.
  • The Consumer Credit Protection Act caps these types of garnishments. The limit is 25% of your disposable weekly wages or the amount you earn that’s above 30 times the minimum wage. The lessor of these two amounts applies. Some states set the cap even lower.
  • Nonwage garnishment. If you’re retired, unemployed or self-employed, your bank account may be garnished instead. Here, too, there are exemptions. Veterans payments, social security and disability benefits are not eligible for nonwage garnishment. Some states add even more restrictions to the garnishment of bank funds.
  • Property liens. If you own real estate, your judgment creditor may file a legal claim against it. These liens notify lenders of the creditor’s rights to your property. That way, if you sell your real property, the debt must be paid out of the proceeds. In many states, liens are placed automatically when a judgment is entered.
  • Property levies. Judgments may also allow some of your non-exempt personal property to be taken through a levy. Law enforcement may seize things like valuable collections or jewelry to be sold at auction. Sales proceeds are applied to your debt.

What Can You Do to Avoid a Judgment?

Heading off a lawsuit is the best way to avoid a judgment. To do so, don’t ignore calls and correspondence from your creditor. Reach out to learn if they’ll accept suitable payment arrangements. Educate yourself on smart ways to pay debt collectors, and consider using the services of a debt management agency.

What if the loan company or debt collector has already started the lawsuit? Don’t skip court. Show up and fight. You may win if the statute of limitations has expired.

If you haven’t made a payment on an old debt for many years, you may have a successful legal defense. Most states set the time frame between four to six years. Collectors often still file suit because they win by default if you don’t show up. So, it’s important that you go to court with proof of your last date of payment.

If you successfully defeat or avoid a judgment, don’t stop there. Take some sensible steps to help you get out of and stay out of debt. Adopting these smart financial habits can also help prevent future judgment actions.

How Long Can the Judgment Creditor Pursue Payment?

The answer depends on where you live, since state laws differ. Some states limit collection efforts to five to seven years. Others allow creditors to pursue repayment for more than 20 years. With the right to renew a judgment over and over in many states, it may last indefinitely.

Judgment renewals may be repeated as often as desired or limited to two or three times. This is another state-specific issue. Judgments can also lapse or become dormant. The creditor must then act within a specific time frame to revive it.

What Happens When You Can’t Pay a Judgment Filed Against You?

If you own a limited amount of property, it may all be exempt from judgment collection efforts. Also, you may not work or only work part-time. With the CCPA cap, that may mean you don’t earn enough for garnishment.

This inability to pay your debt is called being judgment proof, collection proof or execution proof. While these circumstances exist, the judgment creditor has no legal way to collect on the debt. It’s not a permanent solution. The creditor may revisit collection efforts periodically for many years.

For a more permanent solution, you may want to consider filing bankruptcy. This process can discharge or eliminate most civil judgments for unpaid debt. Exceptions apply for things like child support, spousal support, student loans and some property liens. Speak with a bankruptcy lawyer to learn whether this will help your situation.

Can You Settle a Judgment?

If you can afford to pay a decent lump sum, you may be able to negotiate a settlement. The judgment creditor may be willing to settle if they fear you will otherwise file bankruptcy. Get the terms and settlement amount you agree upon in writing. Be sure the creditor agrees to file a satisfaction of judgment with the court after they receive your pay off.

Can a Judgment Be Challenged or Reversed?

Challenging and overturning a judgment is difficult, but not always impossible. This is the case if there were errors. Perhaps you weren’t notified of the suit or it was never your debt to begin with. Consult with an attorney to find out whether you have grounds to challenge the decision.

If you want to challenge a judgment, act fast. If you received prior notice of the case, you may have up to six months to reopen it. If you weren’t notified, you likely have up to two years to appeal. By reopening the case, you have the opportunity to fight the claim anew.

Do Credit Reports Still Include Judgments?

For many years, credit reports included judgment information. But that changed in 2017. The National Consumer Assistance Plan is responsible for creating more accurate credit data requirements. These changes resulted in the removal of civil debt judgments from credit reports.

Judgments are still a matter of public record. But the NCAP now requires that there be identifying information on these records for more accuracy. That data includes a social security number or date of birth along with the consumer’s name and address.

Public records cannot include this type of identifying information. It would violate privacy laws. This is the reason these judgments are no longer reported on credit files.

How Do You Find Out if You Have Any Judgments Against You?

You should receive a summons when you’re being sued. So, you can expect a default judgment will follow if you don’t show up in court. You can also expect a notification when a judgment is entered against you.

Mistakes happen, though. You may have missed the notice or moved to a new address. If that happens, you may not learn of the judgment until collection actions start.

What if You Find a Judgment on Your Credit Report?

Take action if you learn that judgments are still being reported by Equifax, Experian or Trans Union. The NCAP eliminated this practice. So if there’s a judgment on your report, this is definitely something that you should dispute. Credit repair services, like Lexington Law, can help you dispute the error and correct your report.

If you’d like a more in-depth look at your credit score, give ExtraCredit, our newest product, a try. It has five killer features that all work together as a solution to your credit troubles. Plus, you’ll be able to see all 28 of your FICO credit scores. 

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Disclosure: Credit.com and CreditRepair.com are both owned by the same company, Progrexion Holdings Inc. John C Heath, Attorney at Law, PC, d/b/a Lexington Law Firm is an independent law firm that uses Progrexion as a provider of business and administrative services.

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How does refinancing a student loan affect credit? – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

If you’re considering refinancing a student loan, you need to have answers to all of your questions. For starters, does refinancing student loans affect credit? Fortunately, student loan refinancing doesn’t have to negatively affect your credit, but you need to know how to go about the process carefully and fully informed. Since refinancing comes with several benefits, it’s nice to know that you can consider this option without it killing your credit. 

What is a student loan refinance?

Student loans can come from two sources: federal funding and private funding. Federal student loans come with some benefits, such as subsidized interest while you’re in school and the potential to apply for a loan forgiveness program.

Unfortunately, you can’t refinance a federal student loan with the government. Refinancing is always done through a private lender. While going to a private lender may sound scary, refinancing can save you money. 

When you refinance, you take your student loan(s) to a lender and negotiate a better interest rate or a more manageable monthly payment. This can help you save thousands during the life of your loan, but how much money you save depends on a number of factors—such as fees for refinancing, the decrease in interest rate and the length of your new repayment term. 

Protect your credit during a student loan refinance

Credit inquiries and missed or late payments are the two factors that might impact your credit when you go through student loan refinancing. But if you’re careful, you can minimize the damage done to your score during a refinance.

Credit inquiries

When you initially approach a lender about refinancing, they’ll conduct a soft inquiry on your credit to see if you’re eligible. However, once you officially apply with a lender for a refinance, there will be a hard check on your credit. A hard inquiry can lower your credit score by a few points.

These few points are easy to recover if you continue to be responsible with your credit. But if you have multiple hard inquiries within a relatively short period of time, your credit score may drop significantly—potentially up to 10 points per credit inquiry. 

To avoid this situation, try to submit as few applications as possible. To be clear, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compare your options. It’s in your best interest to approach several lenders to see who can offer you the best terms and lowest interest rate. You can still shop around and compare lenders—just don’t fully apply with every lender.

Lenders should be able to give you a good idea of your options when they pull a soft inquiry on your credit. Let your lenders know you’re comparing rates so they’ll begin to offer you more competitive terms. 

In addition, most credit bureaus have a 14 to 45 day “shopping period.” If you have multiple hard inquiries within this time frame, a credit bureau may count it as only one inquiry. Whenever possible, try to keep your inquiries to this small window of time, ideally ranging between two and four weeks.

Payments

Your student loans are tied to your credit. Every time you miss or make a late payment, it negatively impacts your credit history and your credit score. If you’re considering refinancing, you must make all your payments on both your past loan and your refinanced loan until you’re absolutely certain the previous loan has ended. After you know the transfer is complete, you can make payments on the refinanced loan only. 

When should you refinance?

When it comes to refinancing a student loan, timing can be everything. For this process to be worth it, you need to have a decent credit score and a stable income. These two factors will ensure that when you go to lenders for refinancing, they’ll offer you a lower interest rate than the one you currently have. 

Two downsides of refinancing a student loan

Refinancing isn’t the best choice for everyone, and there are two main downsides you should know about. 

Your interest rate might not decrease by much

Student loan interest rates have remained relatively low in recent years. This means private lenders don’t have much leeway and may not be able to offer you an interest rate that’s much lower. 

That being said, even a small decrease in interest can make a significant difference over the lifetime of a loan. For example, let’s say you had a $30,000 student loan with a 10-year payment period. Your initial loan interest is five percent, and a refinancing lender offers to lower your interest to four percent. A one percent difference may not sound like a lot, but it’ll save you $1,736 in interest over 10 years. 

One thing to note is to take into account any fees for refinancing when comparing your loans. If your refinance lender is charging you a $200 sign-up fee, that will eat into your savings. 

You’ll lose access to benefits of federal funding

You can only refinance with a private lender, which opts you out of any benefits of federal funding. If you opt out of federal student loans, you lose access to federal repayment options such as the income-driven repayment plan. 

You also lose the ability to apply for federal loan forgiveness programs. Several federal loan forgiveness programs for candidates such as teachers, military service members and public servants may forgive a portion or all of a loan under specific conditions. These programs are often difficult to qualify for, but it may be worth sticking to it if you were already on this path. 

Who shouldn’t refinance

If you have poor credit or unstable income, you’ll likely be denied refinancing or get an interest rate that isn’t better than your current interest rate. If this is the case for you, focus on improving your credit score and reapply for refinancing later on. 

Additionally, people who are close to the end of their loan term typically won’t see any benefit from refinancing. If you’re almost done paying off your student loan, simply focus on getting to your end goal. 

Is refinancing the best option for you?

Ultimately, the decision to refinance should be made on a case-by-case basis. You need to weigh all the pros and cons of refinancing before making a decision.

A useful tool when evaluating refinancing is a loan calculator. These online calculators help you determine just how much you can save if you refinance a loan. Don’t forget to subtract any fees from your savings to depict your actual savings accurately. 

Your student loan will impact your credit for many years to come, and your credit has a long-reaching impact on other areas of your life. Whether you refinance or continue with your regular student loan, make sure you build responsible habits with your loan repayment. Sign up for auto-pay, make additional payments if you can and track your progress. 


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

Public Records on Credit Reports – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

If you’ve ever looked at your credit report, you’ve probably noticed a section called “public records.” These are entries that are also on file with local, county, state or federal courts. Keep reading to learn more about which public records appear on credit reports.

What Are Public Records?

Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered confidential. Some examples include arrest records, marriage certificates and some court records. These are records that other people or entities could look up about you, as the information isn’t private or protected.

In the context of your credit report, historically, only three types of entries were public records: tax liens, civil judgments and bankruptcies. Now, only bankruptcies should show up as a public record on an individual’s credit report.

The Public Record Entries

First, it’s essential to understand the three types of public record entries that can impact your credit report.

A tax lien is a law-imposed lien upon property for the payment of taxes. Typically, a tax lien occurs when a person fails to pay taxes owed on property (personal and other), income taxes or other forms of taxes.

A civil judgment is a legal ruling against a defendant in a court of law. It refers to a judgment on a noncriminal legal matter and often requires the defendant to pay monetary damages.

Bankruptcy is a legal process in which people or other entities who cannot repay debts to creditors try to seek relief from some or all of their debts. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is usually imposed by a court and is often initiated by the debtor.

Understanding the Updated Public Record Policy

In 2017, the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP) went into effect and changed how data is collected for civil judgments and tax liens before these entries appear as public records on credit reports. The act was initially launched in 2015 by the three major credit bureaus to modify credit reporting rules and set stricter standards. These new standards would ensure that the data found on credit reports are more accurate and up to date.

There are two primary ways this act affects how credit bureaus obtain and report tax lien and court judgment data on consumer credit reports. First, for either of these types of entries to appear on a credit report, the public record must contain a person’s:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security number or date of birth

This standard applies to both new and existing records that are already on credit reports.

Secondly, public records reported on credit reports must be checked by the credit bureaus for updates every 90 days to ensure their accuracy. If the records are not checked, they should be removed from the credit report.

Bankruptcy records already hold these strict requirements, which is why the changes don’t impact this type of public record. However, many tax liens and civil judgments do not uphold these standards, in large part due to different standards of record-keeping at various courthouses.

This higher standard for public records is estimated to have positively impacted millions of US consumers. As this change applies to public records that were already on credit reports before the NCAP, it’s essential to review your personal credit reports to see if any public records are still being shown. Generally, tax liens and civil judgments shouldn’t be on your credit reports anymore.

By 2017, almost half of all tax liens and civil judgments were removed from consumer credit reports, and by April 2018, the three credit bureaus had removed all tax liens from credit reports. Currently, the only type of public record that should be present on your credit report is a bankruptcy.

Not a Permanent Change

It’s crucial to note that tax liens and civil judgments might not stay off credit reports forever. This is because reporting on them isn’t illegal and the credit bureaus only promised to remove them for a time. This could change sometime in the future, so you still want to avoid incurring these types of public records if possible.

How Do Public Records Affect Your Credit?

Typically, when a public record is added to your report, it’s considered a negative item. That’s because most public records on credit reports stem from a debt or financial delinquency. Therefore, it will usually lower your credit score.

Bankruptcy

A bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years.

If you go through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must repay a portion of the money you borrowed. This type of bankruptcy has a shorter impact on your credit report (seven years) because you paid some of the money back.

Under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the individual doesn’t pay any of their debts back. This type of bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years.

Bankruptcy will have a devastating impact on your credit, lowering it by anywhere from 130 to 200 points.

It is difficult to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy filing, but not impossible. For example, while you may not be approved for a regular credit card, you can start with a secured credit card. You will still have financial options available to you.

Tax Liens and Judgments

The Consumer Data Industry Association revealed that the changes showed “only modest credit scoring impacts” on consumer reports. Still, millions of Americans had public records wiped from their reports, which was beneficial overall.

While these two types of entries may not be on reports anymore, they can still affect your finances and life in general. For example, a judgment can impact your ability to qualify for a loan or credit. Lenders may check to see if you have outstanding judgments and reject your application. Similarly, the presence of a tax lien may cause a lender to reconsider your application.

What Can You Do About Public Records on Your Credit Report?

If bankruptcy is on your credit report, and all the information is accurate, you can’t do very much to remove it from the account. However, if the bankruptcy data is incorrect, you can file a dispute.

For tax liens and civil judgments, file a dispute to remove these public records from your credit report. You can contact each of the three major credit bureaus by phone or email and ask them to remove the public records from your file.

For more detailed information on how to remove a tax lien, check out this blog post. And for step-by-step instructions on removing a civil judgment from your credit report, refer to this resource.

It’s essential you check your credit report regularly so you can note when new data appears on your report. If a negative item appears and it’s inaccurate, you should dispute it quickly, before it can significantly impact your credit score.

Your Credit Can Recover From Derogatory Marks

Having derogatory marks on your credit report is not a life sentence. With sound financial behaviors, your credit score can recover. You’ll need to make payments on time, get rid of debts and maintain a good credit utilization ratio. If you don’t know where to start, consider credit repair services.

Lexington Law knows how to spot incorrect data on your credit reports and give you helpful credit tips. Credit repair takes time, so it’s essential you start today.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

Can I Sue a Company for Sending Me to Collections?

A woman in a wheelchair sits with her laptop in front of her as she talks on the phone.

It happens. A collections notice shows up, a debt collector starts calling or you find a negative report on your credit history, but you know you paid the account in question. Can you sue a company for sending you to collections for money you didn’t owe? Find out more about what the law says about your rights when it comes to protecting your credit history.

How Does the Law Protect Your Rights Regarding Credit Collections and Reporting?

Numerous federal and state laws protect your rights to fair and accurate credit reporting. Some of those laws also cover your rights as a consumer to fair debt collection practices. A few of the laws that might come into play are as follows:

  • The Fair Credit Report Act ensures your right to an accurate consumer credit profile. It obligates companies to report truthful information on your credit report. It also provides some ways you can challenge information you think is inaccurate.
  • The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act  also helps ensure creditors are honest when reporting or collecting debts. Additionally, it prohibits collectors from engaging in harassing or abusive behavior to collect a debt, including contacting you excessively or at inappropriate times. You might be able to report or seek remedies from collectors who break these FDCPA rules for fair collections.
  • The Truth in Lending Act is part of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. This law deals with what information lenders must disclose, how they can advertise their products and rates and what rights you have when a lender isn’t truthful or transparent.

Credit law can be complex. If you’re not sure which laws cover you or what the best course of action is in your case, you might need to consult with an attorney.

Can You Sue a Company for Sending You to Collections?

Yes, the FDCPA allows for legal action against certain collectors that don’t comply with the rules in the law. If you’re sent to collections for a debt you don’t owe or a collector otherwise ignores the FDCPA, you might be able to sue that collector.

It’s a good idea to do everything you can under the law to protect your rights before you sue. That might include requesting validation of any debt within 30 days of receiving the first notice, for example. But even without that action, the collector can still be liable if it breaks the law.

According to the FDCPA, civil liabilities are limited to the amount of damages actually experienced plus any additional damages awarded by the court. Those additional damages are limited to $1,000 in individual cases and $500,000 in class action suits.

Can You Sue a Company for False Credit Reporting?

Yes, you might be able to sue a company for false credit reporting. However, before you seek a civil remedy through the courts, you should properly exercise your rights under the law.

Begin by challenging the information with the credit bureau. False information hits credit reports for a variety of reasons, including misunderstandings and honest mistakes such as clerical errors. When you sent a credit dispute letter, the bureau must investigate and respond within a time frame dictated by the regulation.

The investigation typically involves contacting the reporting creditor or collection agency. That entity is given a chance to demonstrate the information is accurate via appropriate documentation. If the credit bureau determines the information is inaccurate or can’t be proven, it typically removes or corrects it.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act lists civil penalties for people or businesses that willfully refuse to comply with accurate credit reporting. Actual damages are limited to a range of $100 to $1,000. You might also be able to recover attorney’s fees and additional punitive damages the court can award on a case-by-case basis. Punitive damages are those awarded as a type of punishment for the person or business engaged in wrongdoing.

Coronavirus Impact on Credit Reporting and Your Rights

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act of 2020 (CARES Act) made some temporary modifications to creditors’ legal requirements for reporting. For example, it requires creditors to report accounts as current in certain situations where forbearances were granted.

Forbearance means the creditor agrees you don’t have to pay the loan for a certain period of time. During that time, you won’t be penalized by having the account reported as late.

If you think your collection or credit reporting issue should be be protected under the CARES Act, consider consulting a lawyer. One can help you understand your rights, which laws affect them and any action you might take next.

How Do You Sue a Collection Agency or Other Creditor?

We’re not legal experts at Credit.com, so we can’t give legal advice. We’ve provided a good amount of information to help you understand your rights under the law. But if you think suing a debt collector or other creditor is the next best step, consult an attorney.

A legal professional can help you understand if you have a claim against your creditor, for example. That person might also be able to advise you about other options, including debt settlement, if you do owe any money.

If you ended up here because you just discovered inaccurate information on your report, consider credit repair services from providers such as Lexington Law or CreditRepair.com. And if you have no idea what’s on your credit report, consider signing up for a service such as ExtraCredit to stay as informed as possible.

Disclosure: Credit.com and CreditRepair.com are both owned by the same company, Progrexion Holdings Inc. John C Heath, Attorney at Law, PC, d/b/a Lexington Law Firm is an independent law firm that uses Progrexion as a provider of business and administrative services.]

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Source: credit.com