Judgment-Proof Tenant

For The Pro Se or Pro Per Defendant

Understanding Judgment-Proof Tenant.


Judgment-Proof Tenant

What is a Judgment-Proof Tenant?


A judgment-proof tenant is a term of art referring to a tenant who is considered financial insolvent.  If it will cost a landlord more to pursue a judgment against a tenant than he or she will ever be able to collect, the tenant is considered judgment-proof.


When considering whether to begin the eviction process against a tenant, a landlord should ask whether the tenant is judgment-proof or not.  In the case the tenant is judgment-proof, the landlord should focus on negotiations and getting back a vacant property instead of focusing on past due rent.


In addition, tenants who are financial insolvent can apply for a fee waiver from the courts.  This fee waiver can eliminate all or part of the costs associated with going to court.  When deciding to pursue an eviction against a judgment-proof tenant, a landlord should take this into account because it can increase the costs for the landlord and have no financial effect on the tenant.


who Qualifies as a Judgment-Proof Tenant?


There are no qualifications that a tenant needs to meet to be considered judgment-proof.  A tenant who cannot pay monetary damages through a lien on property, garnishment of wages, or seizing of property is considered judgment-proof.


A tenant who does not own any assets, bank account, or equity in real estate cannot be encumbered with a lien.  A tenant whose income is below a threshold cannot have his or her wages garnished.  A tenant who is receiving income from the following is also exempt from garnishment:


    • Social Security Benefits
    • Supplemental Security Income Benefits
    • Public assistance Benefits
    • Unemployment Benefits
    • Veteran’s Benefits
    • Child Support
    • Federal Employee and Civil Service Retirement Benefits 


How to Apply for a fee waiver?


To qualify for a fee waiver, the tenant must be below a certain income level based on family size.  For a family size of one, the monthly income must be below $1,415.63 (with each additional family member add $491.67).


To request a fee waiver, a tenant need the following forms:



what fees are waived?


If a tenant applies for and is approved, the following fees may be waived in full or in part:


  • Filing fees in Superior Court
  • Making and certifying copies
  • Sheriff’s fees to give notice
  • Giving notice and certificates
  • Sending papers to another court department
  • Court fee for telephone hearings
  • Reporter’s fees
  • Preparing, certifying, copying and sending the clerk’s transcript on appeal
  • Making a transcript or copy of an official electronic recording
  • Jury fees and expenses
  • Court and court-appointed experts
  • Fees for court officers to testify in court
  • Court-appointed interpreter fees for witnesses
  • Other necessary court fees


what are the Limitations on Judgment-Proof Tenants?


If a landlord so chooses, he or she can sue judgment-proof tenants for past due rent.  Although, a judgment-proof tenant may not have the ability to pay at that moment, circumstances can be temporary.  A monetary judgment by the court is good for 15 years, however, it cannot be renewed.   So, a landlord may want to sue for monetary damages to preserve the legal standing to collect at a future time.