Tips For Collecting What You Are Owed

by Jaburg Wilk

1.  Make sure you have what you need from the start - Take advantage of all information needed to collect at the time the loan is made / the services are provided etc.  The borrower or customer wants/needs your money/services at the beginning phase and will be cooperative at this point. Information to obtain at this time includes social security numbers, place of employment, home & business addresses, name of spouse & spouse's place of employment. This is also an opportune time to get written permission from the borrower to pull a credit report, both now and in the future.

2.  Create detailed documents regarding the repayment terms - Make sure the loan and repayment terms are well documented and that the loan is properly secured for the type of loan/service being provided. If it is a business obligation, be sure to obtain personal guarantees from the business owner(s), and if in Arizona, the guarantor's spouse must also sign a guaranty. Keep your documents in a safe place. Do not wait until the borrower/customer stops paying to locate your documents. Make sure everything was signed and that the documents are accessible. If the original agreement is lost, the borrower is more likely to cooperate and sign new documents when the loan is current.

3.  Stay in touch with the borrower and monitor the account - Review your documents and the account at least every 4-6 months to ensure the borrower is in compliance. Periodically contact the borrower to confirm that the initial information provided is still accurate, i.e. place of employment and addresses, and obtain updated information if necessary.  If the borrower has missed payments or paid late, communicate with borrower immediately and negotiate to get the loan current before the delinquency increases.

4.  If you have to exercise remedies to collect, don't wait! - Chances are, your obligation is not the only one the borrower has defaulted on, and there are likely other creditors chasing your borrower. Your borrower likely has limited funds to pay everyone.

5.  Hire an attorney to help you collect -  Often times a letter sent by an attorney will cause the borrower to settle / set up a payment plan. This lets the borrower know he or she cannot continue to ignore the problem, and that you are not going away.

6.   Use the available remedies - If you are unable to settle early, attorneys can garnish wages and bank accounts as part of execution on a judgment. Judgment debtor examinations can also be taken, at which debtors must disclose information regarding their income and assets. This can lead to the discovery of unencumbered assets which can be seized and sold to pay your judgment.

7. Record, record, record! -  Be sure to record your judgment in every county where you believe your borrower owns real property. With Arizona's real estate market making a come back, your judgment lien can complicate a pending sale or refinance of property resulting in the full or partial payment of your judgment.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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