Money Judgments (Assessment Collection)

An association that has recorded an assessment lien against an owner’s property is permitted to enforce the lien through suing the owner personally and obtaining a money judgment (aka a “personal money judgment” or “PMJ”). (Civ. Code §§ 5700(a), 5720(b); See also “Assessment Lien Enforcement (Generally).”) Once the association obtains the money judgment, the assessment lien is extinguished and the underlying debt of the owner merges into the judgment obtained by the association:

“When an assessment lien is enforced through judicial action, the debt secured by the lien is merged into the judgment.” (Diamond Heights Village Assn., Inc. v. Financial Freedom (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 290, 301.)

The judgment is enforceable for ten (10) years, and longer if validly renewed. (Code Civ. Pro. §§ 683.020, 683.120.)

Reimbursement & Compliance Assessments
Subject to certain limitations, an association may have the power to levy a “reimbursement” assessment against an owner for damage the owner, his guest or tenant caused to association common area. (See “Reimbursement & Compliance Assessments.”) Where an association’s CC&Rs do not allow for a reimbursement assessment to become a lien on the owner’s property enforceable through foreclosure, the association’s only option to collect the unpaid reimbursement assessment may be to obtain a money judgment against the owner.

Abstract of Judgment (Judgment Lien)
Once a judgment is obtained, the association may create a judgment lien by recording an “abstract of judgment” with the county recorder. (Code Civ. Pro. §§ 674, 697.710.) The abstract of judgment becomes a lien against any and all of the defendant’s real property in the counties where the abstract is recorded, including any real property that the defendant may acquire in those counties after the abstract was first recorded. (Code Civ. Pro. §§ 674, 697.710.) The effect of the judgment lien is similar to an assessment lien, in that it encumbers title to the defendant’s property and prevents the defendant from selling the property (and potentially from refinancing the property) without paying the judgment amount and having the judgment lien released. If the defendant does not pay the judgment, the association can force a sheriff’s sale of the property, subject to certain limitations. (See “Judicial Foreclosure of Assessment Lien.”)

Garnish Wages, Levy Bank Accounts, Etc.
The association may also seek to collect on the judgment through such tools as a wage garnishment or bank account levy (Code Civ. Pro. § 706.010 et. seq; Code Civ. Pro. § 488.300 et. seq.)