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Can a debt collector take joint owned car if only my husband owed the debt, or make us sell our house for the equity

Nashville, TN |
Attorney answers 4


A creditor can take joint owned property to satisfy a court judgment unless state laws called exemptions provide that the property is protected. I am posting a link to a description of these exemptions for all 50 states for you to review.

BTW, I understand that you are tempted to consider transferring title to property in order to protect it. Resist this urge, because doing this could be a criminal offense known as a fraudulent transfer. Not only could putting the title into someone elses name be undone, but you could be facing jail time.

Hope this perspective helps!


I agree with Attorney Bunce and would like to add that the creditor must first seek a judgment against you first. In order for the creditor or debt collector to attempt to garnish your wages, levy on bank accounts, or otherwise execute the judgment, they will have to file an action in state court against you/your husband. The exception to this rule can be on some types of secured debt like a vehicle loan. When they file the action with the state court, you must be given notice of the lawsuit and opportunity to defend yourself. If this has not happened yet, the debt collector is probably trying to use tactics to make you pay the debt without them having to go to court.


As far as the house goes, a creditor can get a judgment lien for your car especially if it is the mechanic's debt you owe. If it was your landlord that you owe for example, and you're in Davidson County, they can get a judgment against you and wait for your appeal time window to end (ten days) and then can get a writ of execution for the car. You'd have to count it as an exemption in order to keep it judgment-proof, but you'll need to act fast. As for the house, a creditor can get judgment liens on a real property as well, especially if they are secured such as a mortgage company. When the mortgage company forecloses, that's exactly what they are doing essentially.

If this information was helpful, please indicate by clicking “Good Answer” and/or “Best Answer” below. Keep in mind that the information is general, and if you reside outside my jurisdiction the laws may be different and applied differently in your current situation. The response here does not create an attorney-client relationship, but should you require legal assistance, call and ask for Attorney Maria Pardue at the Jones Law Group PLLC at 615-983-4500.


Under Tennessee law, your husband can claim up to $10,000 of personal property as exempt - this would include a jointly owned car and money in a bank account. If the you and your husband own the home jointly, and the property is deed as "as husband and wife" or "joint tenants by the entirety", a creditor that gets a judgment can record a lien, but can't force both of you to sell the home. His Social Security income is absolutely exempt under federal law.

As a practical matter, the average bill collector that gets a judgment is onbly going to go after wages that can be garnished or money in the bank. Be sure that he files his exemptions to claim the money in the bank as exempt. You should not keep any of your own money in any account that has his name on it.