The Life of a Judgment (Lien) in Florida

A recent case chosen by the Fifth District Court of Appeals goes over the statutory framework for improving and keeping a judgment lien on genuine property in Florida. The viewpoint is Sun Radiance Const., Inc. v. Cypress Healing Corp.,– So. 3d–, 2010 WL 4536803 (Fla. fifth DCA 2010).

According to Fla. Stat. 55.10, a judgment becomes a lien on real estate in any county when a licensed copy of it is tape-recorded in the authorities records or judgment lien record of that county and runs as a lien for a preliminary duration of 10 years from the date of the recording; and the judgment creditor may extend the ten years duration by adhering to Fla. Stat. 55.10( 2 ):
“The lien supplied for in subsection (1) or an extension of that lien as offered by this subsection may be extended for an extra period of ten years, based on the restriction in subsection (3 ), by rerecording a qualified copy of the judgment, order, or decree prior to the expiration of the lien or the expiration of the extended lien and by at the same time recording an affidavit with the present address of the individual who has a lien as an outcome of the judgment, order, or decree. The extension shall work from the date the licensed copy of the judgment, order, or decree is rerecorded.”

The concern presented in the Sun Radiance Construction case was whether the judgment creditor might rerecord its judgment after the expiration of the preliminary ten years duration, and consequently establish a new lien on real property. Since the statute does not specifically foreclose this possibility, the court enabled the judgment creditor to do so. According to the court, the only impact of the judgment lender’s failure to rerecord the judgment prior to the expiration of the initial ten years period was to trigger the judgment creditor to lose the concern over subsequent lienholders produced by the earlier recording and to develop top priority only over liens developed after the later recording.
This ruling goes over the capability to maintain a judgment lien on real property for the life of the judgment, but it does not go over the life of the judgment itself. That matter is contained in a separate statute- Fla. Stat. 95.11( 1 ), which sets a 20 year statute of limitations on judgment enforcement actions. However the analysis does not end there. There is caselaw allowing a judgment creditor to submit an action on a judgment prior to its expiration and in fact renew the judgment, by way of a new judgment, helpful for another 20 years. See Petersen v. Whitson, 14 So. 3d 300 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009). And most likely, based on the Petersen court’s rationale, when the second judgment is set to lapse, the judgment creditor might submit another new fit and obtain a third judgment (and so on).

Based on these statutes and cases, read together, a judgment in Florida can essentially be good forever. Also, a judgment lien can be good forever, limited by its tape-recording just in regards to its top priority. This analysis uses equally to judgments originating in Florida, judgments went into in other states recorded in Florida pursuant to the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, see Haigh v. Planning Bd. of Town of Medfield, 940 So. 2d 1230 (Fla. fifth DCA 2006), and judgments entered in foreign countries tape-recorded in Florida pursuant to the Uniform Foreign Cash Judgments Recognition Act, see Nadd v. Le Credit Lyonnais, S.A., 804 So. 2d 1226 (Fla. 2001).

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