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How to resolve an old judgment when you can’t find the person to pay.

As an example, let us say you got evicted in 2016 and your landlord got a judgment for $1500 against you. You forgot about the matter because you own your own home. But now you want to sell your house and the title company says you must take care of the judgment before they will sign off. Unfortunately, you cannot find the landlord.

            How do you resolve the old judgment?

            Fortunately, Texas law provides a solution, in § 31.008 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The bad news is that it takes at least 15 days and realistically more like 30-45 days. The solution is that you can pay the full judgment, plus interest, into the registry of the court after making exhaustive efforts to find the landlord. In legalese, in this case the landlord would be called the “judgment creditor” since they were the winner.

            Section 31.008 requires sending letters certified mail, return receipt requested. Click here for more information sending certified mail. The letters must go the judgment creditor’s last known address, the address appearing in the court records for the judgment creditor and its lawyer, and the address for the judgment creditor’s lawyer as appearing on the State Bar of Texas’ website.

            If after 15 days the judgment creditor does not respond, you can file an affidavit with the court stating the notice was sent, the judgment creditor did not respond, and that their location is unknown. The court should then let you pay the judgment into the registry of the court. You must then prepare a release of judgment, which the court will then sign on behalf of the judgment creditor.

            If the judgment creditor can be found but refuses to accept payment, or accepts payment but refuses to sign a release of judgment, things are more complicated and a court hearing is required.