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    How Do I Collect a Debt Owed to Me Using Garnishment?

    Getting a money judgment against a previous tenant or someone else that owes you money is relatively easy compared to actually collecting the money. Money judgments can be sought through landlord-tenant court or small claims court. Money judgments are often sought for past due rent, unpaid damages to a rental unit, or unpaid utility bills.

    Various legal tools are made available to help with the collection process after receiving a money judgment. These tools are known as garnishments. Garnishment is a means of collecting a monetary judgment against a defendant (the previous tenant) by ordering a third party (the garnishee—typically the defendant’s employer) to pay money out of a previous tenant’s/defendant’s pay check, bank account, etc., directly to the plaintiff. A garnishee might be the previous tenant’s employer, their bank, or the State Treasury.

    A landlord/plaintiff who receives a money judgment from the court as a result of an eviction or small claims case may, after 21 days, garnish the tenant’s/defendant’s wages, bank checking/savings account, Michigan state income tax refund, or other personal items of value (e.g. car, boats, motorcycle, etc.). Why the 21 day waiting period? The waiting period gives the defendant time to pay on the money judgment.

    (One way to avoid going through the court and/or the garnishment process is to utilize the RPOA’s credit card service. If a tenant owes a member past due rent or other monies for damages, etc., the member can offer the tenant the opportunity to pay by credit card. If the tenant agrees, the RPOA will process the credit card on behalf of the landlord and pay the landlord the amount owed minus a 10% processing fee. Check with the RPOA office for more details at 1-800-701-7762.)

    There are several types of garnishments:

    Periodic Garnishment – Typically used to garnish a defendant’s wages through their employer.
    Non-Periodic Garnishment – Typically used to garnish a defendant’s bank account or other asset.
    State Income Tax Refund/Credit Garnishment – Used specifically to garnish a defendant’s income tax return or tax credit.

    Periodic Garnishment

    To effect a periodic garnishment, several forms must be completed:

    These forms must be filled out and filed with the court that issued the money judgment. This garnishment must be filed again in 182 days if the total amount of the judgment has not been received. The complete name and address of the tenant’s employer must be provided on the three garnishment documents, as well as the tenant’s social security number. Samples of how to fill in the forms as well as the interest rates are available at the RPOA office or online at the State Court Administrators website, www.courts.michigan.gov.

    Non-Periodic Garnishment

    To effect a non-periodic garnishment, two forms must be completed:

    These forms must be filled out and filed within 91 days of the judgment date. This type of garnishment will apply to the checking and savings accounts balances of the defendant at the time the Garnishee Disclosure is served by a court officer. The complete name and address of the financial institution (bank, credit union, etc.) must be provided on both documents filed, as well as the tenant’s social security number. Samples of how to fill in the forms as well as the interest rates are available at the RPOA office or online at the State Court Administrators website, www.courts.michigan.gov.

    Income Tax Refund/Credit Garnishment

    To effect an income tax refund/credit garnishment, the following form must be completed:

    This form may be filed between November 1 and December 31 of the tax year following the tax year for which this writ was filed. When the defendant/tenant files their State Income Tax return, if a refund is forthcoming, the plaintiff/landlord that filed the garnishment will receive written notification from the State of the amount the plaintiff/landlord will receive. The last known address of the tenant must be on the document as well as the tenant’s social security number. This type of garnishment may be filed each year until the judgment has been paid in full. Keep in mind, garnishments of this type are paid in the order the garnishments are received by the State. If others have filed garnishments prior to your filing, they will be paid first. Samples of how to fill in the forms as well as the interest rates are available at the RPOA office or online at the State Court Administrators website, www.courts.michigan.gov.

    A fee will need to be paid at the time of filing. Fees vary from court to court. Call the applicable court to find out the latest fees.

    If you still need help with garnishments, the RPOA staff will be happy to provide you with personal assistance. From time to time, the RPOA also offers an education course on the process of collection and garnishment. Check the schedule of events for up and coming classes here.

    Fillable forms are available online at www.courts.michigan.gov or they may be purchased online from the RPOA or at the RPOA office for a small fee.

     

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    Disclosure: This Knowledge Base article is accurate as of the last update. Laws and policies are subject to change. If you have any questions, please call the office. Click here for contact information.