Collecting past due balances: Bank Account garnishment in Ohio
Wage garnishment is generally your best method of collecting a judgment against a former tenant. If wage garnishment is not an option, you may consider performing a bank account garnishment against the former tenant.
To start, you will need the tenant’s bank account number. It is a good practice to keep copies of a tenant’s rent checks for just this purpose. If you have ever written a check to the tenant, the tenant’s bank may print the tenant’s account number on the back of that check after the tenant deposits it. You will just need to obtain a copy/image of your original check. Most banks provide this service for free; however, if you have to go back several months in your account history to find the check, a small fee may apply.
Once you have a current account number of the tenant and a judgment against the tenant, you can proceed with a bank account garnishment. Many courts provide the forms online. For example, the Franklin County Municipal Court provides the forms you will need at their website: 15 day notice to judgment debtor; OTW (other than wage) garnishment Affidavit Notice and Order; OTW Notice to Judgment Debtor. After you obtain your judgment, you begin the process by serving the 15 day notice of a court proceeding to collect debt against the former tenant. Once the tenant receives this, he or she has 15 days to respond to the notice by (1) paying the entire amount due; (2) completing the form that is part of the notice and making the payment as calculated; (3) apply for the appointment of a trustee; or (4) contact a budget and debt counseling service for the purpose of entering into an agreement for debt scheduling. If the former tenant fails to take any of these actions within that time period, the landlord may proceed with the bank account garnishment.
A bank account garnishment is kind of a shot in the dark for the landlord. Unless the landlord has some information as to when monies are deposited into the tenant’s bank account, the landlord could be garnishing an account with little or no money; that is overdrawn; or has been closed. The landlord really has no idea what is in the account at the time of garnishment. Ohio law allows debtors to protect $425 in their account from garnishment (and $900 for joint account owners). This means that up to $425 in the account cannot be touched by the creditor. Once the garnishment has taken place, the tenant will most likely close the account or not deposit further monies into it. So the landlord will usually get one shot at the garnishment.
The cost of a wage garnishment is only $41.00 in Franklin County. Other counties charge similar amounts. Given the low cost, it may be worth it for a landlord to risk the $41 in order to try and obtain some recovery from the former tenant. That cost can also be added to the judgment amount as court costs and can be potentially recouped from the tenant.
Although wage garnishment is the preferred means of collection, landlords may also consider a bank account garnishment if the former tenant is not employed. Landlords will most likely get one shot at the process so any insight into a former tenant’s financial situation can only aid in determining whether to go forward or with the final pay off.