- June 28, 2000
- All Issuing Offices in Utah
- Judgment Liens
This Bulletin is generated in an effort to dispel some of the lingering confusion regarding recent changes made to the statutes governing Utah courts and judgments attaching to real property. Specifically, the question is, given property in a specific county, which court's registry of judgments must be searched to determine if judgment liens have attached?
In order to understand the present status of judgments as liens, I think it's helpful to start with a historical review that is limited to the eight years prior to the date of this Bulletin. I use eight years because it is the statutory limitation for enforcement of a judgment. U.C.A. 78-22-1.
Prior to July 1, 1996 each county was included in a judicial district that heard cases in a circuit or district court, among other courts of record such as the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, etc. Only judgments entered by the district court became liens on the real property owned or thereafter acquired by the debtor. If a judgment creditor wanted a judgment entered by a circuit court to become a lien on the debtor's property they had to file an abstract of the judgment in the district court of the county where the property was located.
After July 1, 1996, the circuit courts were merged into the district courts thus eliminating the need to abstract judgments. U.C.A. § 78-1-2. The old circuit courts became departments of the district court. In the 3rd District, for example, the original district court is in Salt Lake City. The 3rd District now has departments in the cities of Murray, Sandy, West Valley, Coalville, Park City and Tooele. Notice that a judicial district can include cities in different counties. A judgment entered in the Registry of Judgments of any of these courts attaches to property the debtor owns in the county in which the property and the court are located. U.C.A. § 78-22-1.5. For example, say a judgment is entered in the Registry of Judgments of the Sandy department of the 3rd district court, that judgment is a lien on the property the debtor owns in Salt Lake County, but not a lien on any property in Tooele or Summit Counties. Also be aware that in any given county you must check the Registry of Judgments in each district court located in that county. For a list of district courts call your local district court or use the following URL on the internet:
Judgments in small claims courts have added to some of the confusion. The district courts have divisions known as small claims courts that have authority to hear disputes valued at $5,000.00 or less. Historically, U.C.A. § 78-22-1 stated that judgments entered in the small claims divisions did not attach as liens unless they were abstracted to the district court. That was true until § 78-22-1 was amended in 1997 so that prior to July 1, 1997 and after May 15, 1998 small claims judgments were not liens on property. Notice that that created a "window" of time where small claims judgments were considered a lien on the property in the county where the small claims court sat. As a search and examination matter, you can ignore small claims court judgments unless they were filed in the "window."
The title examiner must also be cognizant of U.C.A. § 77-18-6 regarding the effects of judgments to pay fines or restitution. When a fine, forfeiture, surcharge, cost fee, or restitution is recorded in the registry of civil judgments, the judgment constitutes a lien and has the same effect as a judgment for money in a civil action. U.C.A. § 77-18-6(2).
Please direct any questions to your local underwriting contact.
See attached statutory references.
THIS BULLETIN IS FURNISHED TO INFORM YOU OF CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS. AS A REMINDER, YOU ARE CHARGED WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONTENT ON VIRTUAL UNDERWRITER AS IT EXISTS FROM TIME TO TIME AS IT APPLIES TO YOU, AS WELL AS ANY OTHER INSTRUCTIONS. OUR UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS DO NOT AUTHORIZE OUR ISSUING AGENTS TO ENGAGE IN SETTLEMENTS OR CLOSINGS ON BEHALF OF STEWART TITLE GUARANTY COMPANY. THIS BULLETIN IS NOT INTENDED TO DIRECT YOUR ESCROW OR SETTLEMENT PRACTICES OR TO CHANGE PROVISIONS OF APPLICABLE UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS. CONFIDENTIAL, PROPRIETARY, OR NONPUBLIC PERSONAL INFORMATION SHOULD NEVER BE SHARED OR DISSEMINATED EXCEPT AS ALLOWED BY LAW. IF APPLICABLE STATE LAW OR REGULATION IMPOSES ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS, YOU SHOULD CONTINUE TO COMPLY WITH THOSE REQUIREMENTS.
§ 78-22-1. Duration of judgment--Judgment as lien upon real property--Abstract of judgment--Small claims judgment not lien--Appeal of judgment.
(1) Judgments shall continue for eight years unless previously satisfied or unless enforcement of the judgment is stayed in accordance with law.
(2) Prior to July 1, 1997, except as limited by Subsections (4) and (5), the entry of judgment by a district court is a lien upon the real property of the judgment debtor, not exempt from execution, owned or acquired during the existence of the judgment, located in the county in which the judgment is entered.
(3) Prior to and after July 1, 1997, an abstract of judgment issued by the court in which the judgment is entered may be recorded in any court of this state and shall have the same force and effect as a judgment entered in that court.
(4) Prior to July 1, 1997, and after May 15, 1998, a judgment entered in the small claims division of any court shall not qualify as a lien upon real property unless abstracted to the civil division of the district court and recorded in accordance with Subsection (3).
(5) (a) If any judgment is appealed, upon deposit with the court where the notice of appeal is filed of cash or other security in a form and amount considered sufficient by the court that rendered the judgment to secure the full amount of the judgment, together with ongoing interest and any other anticipated damages or costs, including attorney's fees and costs on appeal, the lien created by Subsection (2) shall be terminated as provided in Subsection (5)(b).
(b) Upon the deposit of sufficient security as provided in Subsection (5)(a), the court shall enter an order terminating the lien created by the judgment under Subsection (2) and granting the judgment creditor a perfected lien in the deposited security as of the date of the original judgment.
Added by Laws 1992, c. 127. Amended by Laws 1997, c. 96, § 1, eff. May 5, 1997; Laws 1998, c. 327, § 2, eff. May 4, 1998; Laws 1999, c. 75, § 1, eff. Mar. 17, 1999.
§ 78-1-2. Merger of district court and circuit court
(1) Effective July 1, 1996, the circuit court shall be merged into the district court. The district court shall have jurisdiction as provided by law for the district court and shall have jurisdiction over all matters filed in the court formerly denominated the circuit court.
(2) The district court shall continue the judicial offices, judges, staff, cases, authority, duties, and all other attributes of the court formerly denominated the circuit court.
(3) Judges of the court formerly denominated the circuit court shall:
(a) on July 1, 1996, be judges of the district court; and
(b) next stand for retention election at the first general election held more than three years after their appointment or at the general election held in the sixth year after their last retention election, as applicable.
Added by Laws 1996, c. 198, § 46, eff. July 1, 1996.
§ 78-22-1.5. Definitions--Judgment recorded in Registry of Judgments.
(1) For purposes of this section, "Registry of Judgments" means the index where a judgment shall be recorded and searchable by the name of the judgment debtor through electronic means or by tangible document.
(2) On or after July 1, 1997, a judgment rendered or recorded in a district court does not create a lien upon or affect the title to real property unless the judgment is recorded in the Registry of Judgments of the office of the clerk of the district court of the county in which the property is located.
(3) In addition to the requirement of Subsection (2), any judgment that is recorded in the Registry of Judgments on or after September 1, 1998, shall include a separate information statement of the judgment creditor that contains:
(a) the correct name and last-known address of each judgment debtor and the address at which each judgment debtor received service of process;
(b) the name and address of the judgment creditor;
(c) the amount of the judgment as entered in the Registry of Judgments;
(d) if known, the judgment debtor's social security number, date of birth, and driver's license number if a natural person; and
(e) whether or not a stay of enforcement has been ordered by the court and the date the stay expires.
(4) For the information required in Subsection (3), the judgment creditor shall:
(a) provide the information on the separate information statement if known or available to the judgment creditor from its records, its attorney's records, or the court records in the action in which the judgement was entered; or
(b) state on the separate information statement that the information is unknown or unavailable.
(5)(a) Any judgment that requires payment of money and is recorded on or after September 1, 1998, and is not accompanied by the separate information statement as required in Subsections (3) and (4) may be amended by recording a document entitled "Amendment to Recorded Judgment" in the Registry of Judgments in compliance with Subsections (3) and (4).
(b) The amendment to the recorded judgment shall state the date of recording the original judgment in the Registry of Judgments.
(c) Recording an amendment to a recorded judgment has no effect on the computation of time as provided in Section 78-22-1.
(6) A judgment that requires payment of money recorded on or after September 1, 1998, has as its priority the date of compliance with Subsections (3) and (4).
Added by Laws 1997, c. 96, § 2, eff. May 5, 1997. Amended by Laws 1998, c. 327, § 3, eff. May 4, 1998.
§ 77-18-6. Judgment to pay fine or restitution constitutes a lien
(1) (a) In cases not supervised by the Department of Corrections, the clerk of the district court shall:
(i) transfer the responsibility to collect past due accounts receivable to the Office of State Debt Collection when the accounts receivable are 90 days or more past due; and
(ii) before transferring the responsibility to collect the past due account receivable to the Office of State Debt Collection, record each judgment of conviction of a crime that orders the payment of a fine, forfeiture, surcharge, cost permitted by statute, or fee in the registry of civil judgments, listing the Office of State Debt Collection as the judgment creditor.
(b) (i) The clerk of court shall record each judgment of conviction that orders the payment of restitution to a victim under Section 76-3-201 in the registry of civil judgments, listing the victim, or the estate of the victim, as the judgment creditor.
(ii) The Department of Corrections shall collect the judgment on behalf of the victim as provided in Subsection 77-18-1(9).
(iii) The court shall collect the judgment on behalf of the victim as provided in Subsection 78-7-33(2).
(iv) The victim may collect the judgment.
(v) The victim is responsible for timely renewal of the judgment under Section 78-22-1.
(2) When a fine, forfeiture, surcharge, cost, fee, or restitution is recorded in the registry of civil judgments, the judgment:
(a) constitutes a lien;
(b) has the same effect and is subject to the same rules as a judgment for money in a civil action; and
(c) may be collected by any means authorized by law for the collection of a civil judgment.
Added by Laws 1999, c. 279, § 9, eff. May 3, 1999.