How to Put a Personal Lien on a Florida Vehicle

Personal liens are a debt collection tool. If you loan someone money and they don't pay you back, a lien on their vehicle or their house gives you the authority to sell it in order to collect your money. In Florida, the law protects state residents' primary homes from judgment liens, but not their vehicles. Once a court establishes the debtor owes you money, you record your lien with the state government. That makes it effective against the debtor's vehicle and other personal property.

Step 1

File suit against your debtor. To create a lien against his property, you'll need a judge's decision that the individual does, in fact, owe you money. If the court doesn't grant you a favorable judgment, you can't apply a lien.

Step 2

Register your judgment on the Florida Secretary of State's website. You can do this online, or mail in your form. This doesn't specifically target the debtor's vehicles: It applies to any personal property she possesses anywhere in the state.

Step 3

Locate the vehicle. The judgment gives you the legal right to settle the debt by selling the debtor's vehicle, but you have to find and identify a specific vehicle for the county sheriff to seize. This may be as simple as driving by the debtor's house, or it might take going through state vehicle-registration records.

Step 4

Ask the clerk of courts for the county where you filed your lawsuit to give you a writ of execution. Deliver the writ to the sheriff of the county where the vehicle is located, along with instructions on which vehicle you want seized, and a deposit to cover the sheriff's expenses. You can seize not only wheeled vehicles, but also the debtor's boat.

Step 5

Check the Secretary of State's website for any other judgment liens filed against the debtor. You'll also have to research whether there are other creditors, such as an auto-loan company, with a claim on the vehicle. Before the sheriff sells the vehicle at auction, you'll have to notify all these creditors.

Step 6

Schedule and advertise a vehicle auction where the vehicle goes to the highest bidder. After the sheriff pays his costs -- you'll get your deposit back -- he'll pay off any and all liens in the order they were filed. If there's not enough to cover all of them, you may not settle the debt.

Warning

If your debtor's vehicle is worth $1,000 or less, it's exempt from judgment. You can't sell it. Judgment liens expire after five years. You can file for a new lien, but it will be junior to any liens that were filed after your original lien.

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