New York City Debt Collection Defense & tax Attorney

New York Law: Levy on Real Property When Judgment Over 10 Years Old

We are getting close to completing our CPLR Article 52 summary series relating to enforcement of money judgments in New York. It is important to know that once an unsecured creditor (i.e. credit card company) obtains a judgment against you, it turns into an "involuntary" secured creditor.

The statute (CPLR § 5235) discussed in this blog post involves judgment liens—and extending judgment liens—against real property.

We come to CPLR § 5235, "Levy upon Real Property." This provision, while short, is very confusing to the non-practitioner.

In essence, § 5235 provides relief to a judgment creditor who wishes to sell your real property after it loses its lien status.

CPLR § 5235 was enacted to prevent the "lien gap" from impairing a judgment creditor's right to real property after the 10-year automatic lien period following a properly filed "judgment roll"[1] and docketing of lien. (for additional information on docketing a judgment, see our prior blog entry, "Can a Default Judgment Effect a Lien on my Home" that summarizes the scope of CPLR § 5203).

A judgment is enforceable for 20 years under CPLR § 211(b). The judgment loses its lien status after the first 10 years. Furthermore, CPLR § 5236(a) bars the sale of real property if the judgment is still not a lien. This means that a different party that enjoys lien status could disrupt that first judgment creditor's right to sell the property. To remedy this problem, § 5235 comes along and provides that a levying Sheriff my file a "notice of levy" with the appropriate county clerk. This action will prevent a judgment creditor's lien from being superseded by another's during sale procedures.

Alternatively, a judgment creditor can renew the judgment under CPLR § 5014(1) or move to extend the lien period under CPLR § 5203.

[1] A judgment-roll consists of those integral litigation documents (i.e. summons, pleadings, judgments, and orders involving merits of case) prepared and filed by the "winner," along with the submitted judgment. CPLR § 5017.