Clients often ask what they can do to collect on a judgment they have obtained. One of the most effective tools available to help clients collect on a judgment is a Sheriff’s Sale of personal property. In this type of sale, the Sheriff visits the judgment debtor’s property and places a lien on all the personal property owned by the judgment debtor (i.e., everything aside from real property – generally, the land and anything built or attached to it). This lien prevents the judgment debtor from selling any of its personal property or removing the personal property from the premises. The judgment debtor then has an opportunity to assert any claims for exemptions it may have, and the Sheriff then sets the personal property for sale. Unfortunately, many clients are confused about how a sale like this actually works, and they believe a personal property sale will be a well-attended event that works much like a private auction. That is not the case!
Here in Pennsylvania, most personal property sales conducted by a Sheriff are very poorly attended. When a Sheriff posts a personal property sale, they do not advertise the sale aside from placing a notice at the judgment debtor’s real property. That means many people will have no knowledge that a sale will even take place. On the day of the sale, anyone who attends, aside from the judgment debtor, can bid on the personal property that will be sold. You, as the judgment creditor, can credit bid on each item which means you can bid up any potential bidders to attempt to maximize the recovery you receive for each item without having to spend actual cash, so long as your bids do not exceed the value of your judgment. Any third parties who are successful bidders must pay the Sheriff in cash for any items they win.
Since most sales are poorly attended, it is not often a reliable bidder will attend your sale and buy any of the items. That means to get value from the items intended for sale, you need to personally take possession of the items and sell them to a third party rather than expecting payment on the day of the sale. That seems easy enough to do, but it means you will need to attend the sale, ready and able to haul away and store any items you intend to sell. That means incurring expenses to move the items at the sale, hauling them to the storage location, and storing the items until you can sell them. Once safely secured, you can start finding buyers for the items so you can convert the items into cash to be applied to your judgment balance.
So long as you are prepared, and have a solid plan in place to maximize the recovery you can obtain from a sale, a Sheriff’s Sale of personal property can be a very effective tool to help you recover your judgment. If you have any questions about the process, please contact us to discuss further.