In South Carolina, if a creditor has won a judgment, can that creditor force you to sell your house?

Asked almost 3 years ago - Greer, SC

My husband has 2 judgments against him from the same credit card company. Can we ever be forced to sell our house to pay those judgments?

Attorney answers (2)

  1. Russell A. DeMott

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    Answered . This depends on how much equity you have in your home. Equity is measured by the value of your home less any liens, like mortgages. For example, if your home is worth $200,000 and you owe $100,000 on your mortgage and have no other liens, you have $100,000 of equity. The judgment is a lien on any property you own in the county in which it's recorded. In South Carolina, it's got "active energy" for only 10 years. That means it's only a lien for 10 years after it's recorded, and it cannot be renewed. In this case, let's say your husband has a judgment against him for $100,000 (and I'd guess it's probably not that much). Since 1/2 of the equity is yours, that half is protected (your $50,000). Your husband's $50,000 is subject to the judgment lien. However, under South Carolina law, debtors have an exemption in their homestead, which is currently $53,375. Under these facts, your husband's equity is protected completely by the "homestead exemption."

    All this said, you should consider filing bankruptcy. The lien, although it won't allow the judgment creditor to sell the property to satisfy the debt, is still a lien. You can't sell your home or refinance it. In bankruptcy, you can "avoid" (wipe out, set aside) the lien to the extent it "impairs" your exemption. In our example, the exemption is impaired completely so your husband could avoid the judgement in the bankruptcy.

  2. Dorothy G Bunce

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    Answered . It depends on the local laws that provide you with protection in your state, referred to as "exemptions" or "homestead." I am providing a link to a description of these laws for all states so you can look up the information for your location.

    Please note that even if your home is protected, the creditor may file a lien and obtain full payment, plus accruing interest (which may be substantial) when you do sell or refinance your home.

    Hope this perspective helps!

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