ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENT LIENS IN TEXAS

Gavel.jpgIf you have recovered a judgment in a lawsuit, Chapter 52 of the Texas Property Code governs the procedure for the enforcement of a judgment lien in Texas.

Chapter 52 of the Texas Property Code provides that an abstract of judgment, when it is recorded and indexed in accordance with this chapter, constitutes a lien against and attaches to any real property of the defendant, other than real property exempt from seizure or forced sale under Chapter 41 of the Texas Property Code, the Texas Constitution, or any other law, that is located in the county in which the abstract of judgment is recorded and indexed, including any real property that is acquired after the date the abstract of judgment is recorded.

On application of a person in whose favor a judgment is rendered or on application of that person’s agent, attorney, or assignee, the judge or justice of the peace who rendered the judgment or the clerk of the court in which the judgment was rendered is required to prepare, certify, and deliver to the applicant an abstract of judgment. After the applicant for the abstract of judgment pays the fees required by law for providing the abstract, the county clerk must record, in the real property records of that county, each properly authenticated abstract of judgment that is presented to the clerk for recording. The clerk must also note in the real property records the date and hour the abstract of judgment was received.

A judgment lien continues for ten (10) years following the date of recording and indexing of the abstract, except if the judgment becomes dormant during that ten (10) period the lien ceases to exist. A judgment becomes dormant if no action is taken to enforce the judgment during the ten (10) year period following the recording of the abstract. However, a judgment in favor of the state or a state agency cannot become dormant and a properly filed abstract of judgment in favor of the state or a state agency continues to constitute a lien until the earlier of the 20th anniversary of the date the abstract is recorded and indexed or the date the judgment is satisfied or the lien is released. A judgment lien in favor of the state or an agency of the state may be renewed for one additional 20-year period by filing, before the expiration of the initial 20-year period, a renewed abstract of judgment in the same manner as the original abstract. The renewed judgment lien relates back to the date the original abstract of judgment was filed.

Section 31.006 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code provides that once a judgment becomes dormant, it may be revived by a scire facias or by an action of debt brought not later than the second anniversary of the date that the judgment becomes dormant. This procedure was discussed in The Cadle Co. v. Rollings (Memorandum Opinion).

Satisfaction of a judgment may be shown by the recording of a return on a writ of execution issued on the judgment certified by the officer making the return that shows the names of the parties to the judgment; the cause number and style of the suit; the court in which the judgment was rendered; the date and amount of the judgment; and the dates of issuance and return of the execution or by a receipt, acknowledgement, or by a release of the judgment that is signed by the party entitled to receive payment of the judgment or by that person’s agent or attorney of record, if it is acknowledged or proven for recording in the manner required for deeds.

To prevent a judgment lien for attaching to homestead property, a judgment debtor may file an affidavit in the real property records of the county in which the judgment debtor’s homestead is located that substantially complies with Subsection (f) of section 52.0012 of the Texas Property Code. An affidavit filed in accordance with section 52.0012 of the Texas Property Code serves as a release of record of a judgment lien established under Chapter 52. A bona fide purchaser or a mortgagee for value or a successor or assignee of a bona fide purchaser or mortgagee for value may rely conclusively on an affidavit filed under 52.0012 if, included with the affidavit, is evidence that:

  • the judgment debtor, before execution of the affidavit, sent a letter and a copy of the affidavit, notifying the judgment creditor of the affidavit and the judgment debtor’s intent to file the affidavit; and
  • the letter and the affidavit were sent by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, thirty (30) days or more before the affidavit was filed to the judgment creditor’s last known address or the address appearing in the judgment creditor’s pleadings in the suit in which the judgment was rendered, if that address is different from the judgment creditor’s last known address or the address of the judgment creditor’s last known attorney as shown in the pleadings filed in the suit or the address of the judgment creditor’s last known attorney as shown in the records of the State Bar of Texas, if that address is different from the address of the attorney as shown in the pleadings.

An affidavit filed under section 52.0012 does not serve as release of record of a judgment lien established under chapter 52 with respect to a purchaser or mortgagee of real property that acquires the purchaser’s or mortgagee’s interest from the judgment debtor after the judgment creditor has filed a contradicting affidavit in the real property records of the county in which the real property is located asserting that the affidavit filed by the judgment debtor is untrue or that another reason exists as to why the judgment lien attaches to the judgment debtor’s homestead property.

At the Law Office of Stephen O’Rear, P.C. we help people who need assistance with enforcing judgment liens.