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Small Claims Court or Lien? Which is more advisable?

Sherman Oaks, CA |

Our HOA has 2-3 homeowners who owe over $1000 in dues, late fees, and assessments.

Our property management company suggested placing liens on these units. However, each lien costs us about $450. Also, since we would be in the junior position, and since values have gone down, it seems unlikely we'd ever see any money once there is a foreclosure or sale.

I would like to take the homeowners to small claims as that would be a judgment tied to the person, not the property. And wages could be garnished etc.

Also, the cost of small claims is much much less and I am trying to save the Association money.

Is there any reason to place a lien instead of going to small claims court?

Our goal is not to make life hard for the homeowner, but rather to get the money we are owed.

Attorney Answers 1


  1. This is a very reasonable question with reasonable solutions. Certainly the association can sue in Small Claims court for each defaulted payment as it comes due, up to a maximum of $7,500 in any single suit. This can be a very effective remedy. This does not mean that a lien can not and should not also be recorded, and there seems no reason why each one should cost $450. Maybe the first one, but after that anyone could modify each succeeding lien and record it for considerably less.