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Landlords: Judgments, Writs, and the Eviction Process

Read this in: Spanish / Español
Authored By: D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center


I have a judgment for possession. How long will it take until the tenant is evicted?

After you get a judgment for possession, you must wait two full business days before you can file a Writ of Restitution. A Writ of Restitution is a document that authorizes the U.S. Marshals Service to schedule an eviction of the tenant.

After the Writ of Restitution is filed, the Clerk's Office sends the writ to the U.S. Marshals Service. The U.S. Marshals Service sends a copy of the writ to the tenant. The U.S. Marshals Service will call you to schedule the eviction. The soonest an eviction can take place is on the fourth business day after the writ is filed. The writ is valid for 75 days. If the tenant is not evicted in the 75 days, then you will have to file a new (or "alias") writ.

Remember, it is illegal for you to evict the tenant except by scheduling an eviction through the U.S. Marshals Service. The U.S. Marshals must be present during the eviction.

What happens if the tenant tries to pay me all of the money that is owed after I have a judgment but before an eviction occurs?

If you sued the tenant for eviction based on nonpayment of rent, the tenant has a right to "redeem" or save his or her right to stay in the property by paying you all of the money that the tenant owes you as of the day the payment is made. You might hear the judge call the amount of money the tenant owes the "Trans-Lux" amount, which is a shorthand way of saying the amount of money the tenant owes you in order to bring the account current.

If the tenant brings his or her account completely current as of the day on which the payment is made, including all rent and court costs that are owed as of that day, then you are not allowed to go forward with the eviction. You are allowed to require the tenant to pay rent that has come due since the judgment was entered and the cost of a Writ of Restitution.

The tenant has the right to redeem his or her tenancy even if you did not ask for the money in the case and even if you started the case by giving the tenant a 30-day notice. The only thing that matters is that the reason for the eviction is that the tenant failed to pay rent.

If the tenant stops paying rent again, even if it is the very next month, you can start the eviction process over again. You do not have a right to refuse payment in full by cash, money order, or certified funds. If you accept partial payments from the tenant, you should make sure that you give the tenant a receipt showing the balance due so that the tenant does not think that the partial payment will stop the eviction.

I have a judgment for possession of the property, but how do I get the back rent the tenant owes me?

You can ask the judge to give you a "money judgment," in the amount of the rent the tenant owes you. A money judgment means that the tenant is legally required to pay you that amount of money plus interest. If the tenant does not pay you, you can have money withheld from the tenant's wages or bank accounts to pay the debt. This is called "garnishing" the tenant's wages or bank accounts.

If you want a money judgment, you must ask for it on the Complaint that you file against the tenant, and you must state the amount of money that is owed to you as of the date that you swear to the complaint. The judge can only enter a money judgment against the tenant if the Complaint and Summons were served on the tenant by handing it to the tenant directly or if the tenant filed a Counterclaim, Recoupment, or Setoff against you.

If you cannot get a money judgment in Landlord and Tenant Court or the tenant owes you more money than what you could collect in the Landlord and Tenant Court, you can usually file a separate case in the Smalls Claims Court (if the amount is $10000.00 or less) or in the Civil Actions Branch (if the amount is more than $10000.00). If the case is about rent, the case must be filed within three (3) years of the due date for the rent that was not paid.

How do I enforce a money judgment and make the tenant pay me?

If the defendant does not pay you voluntarily, you must wait ten (10) business days after the entry of a money judgment before you can take steps to garnish the tenant's wages or bank accounts. If the judgment remains unpaid after ten days, then you can take steps to execute the money judgment. If you want to garnish the tenant's wages, you can file a "Writ of Attachment on a Judgment." If you want to garnish the tenant's bank accounts, you can file a "Writ of Attachment on Wages, Salary and Commissions." There is a $10 filing fee for each writ, and you must serve the Writ by process server on the tenant's employer or bank.

I don't know where the tenant works or where the tenant has bank accounts. How do I collect a money judgment?

You can schedule an oral examination by requesting a subpoena from the Clerk and paying a $10 fee. At an oral exam, you can question the tenant under oath about where he or she works and where he or she has bank accounts or other assets. You can also require the tenant to bring documents that show where the tenant's income comes from or is kept (tax returns, bank statements, pay statements, etc.). You must have a process server serve the tenant with the subpoena. The subpoena should say what documents you want the tenant to bring to Court.

Are there any types of income that are protected from collection?

In some cases, even if you have a money judgment against the tenant, you may be forbidden by law to take the tenant's money if it comes from certain sources. Protected sources of income include:

  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Veterans' Benefits
  • Federal Civil Service Retirement benefits
  • Federal Civil Service Survivor Annuities
  • Disability benefits
  • Public assistance / TANF benefits
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Payments under retirement, pension and annuity plans*
  • Alimony, support or separate maintenance*
  • Worker's compensation
  • Payments awarded by a court in a civil or criminal case*
  • Railroad Retirement Act benefits
  • Annuities to Survivors of Federal Judges
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act Benefits
  • Seaman's or Master's or Fisherman's wages
  • Black Lung benefits

*Limitations may apply.

Last Review and Update: Mar 25, 2017
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