Utah Collection Laws

What are the common guidelines for outstanding debt in Utah?

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Bill's Answer: Answered by Mark Cappel

A collection agent or law firm that owns a collection account is a creditor. A creditor has several legal means of collecting a debt. But before the creditor can start, the creditor must go to court to receive a judgment. See the Bills.com resource Served Summons and Complaint to learn more about this process.

The court may decide to grant a judgment to the creditor. A judgment is a declaration by a court that the creditor has the legal right to demand a wage garnishment, a levy on the debtor’s bank accounts, and a lien on the debtor’s property. A creditor that is granted a judgment is called a “judgment-creditor.” Which of these tools the creditor will use depends on the circumstances. We discuss each of these remedies below.

Utah Wage Garnishment

The most common method used by judgment-creditors to enforce judgments is wage garnishment. A judgment-creditor contacts your employer and requires the employer to deduct a certain portion of your wages each pay period and send the money to the creditor.

Wise Advice In most states, creditors may garnish between 10% and 25% of your wages, with the percentage allowed determined by state law. Garnishment of Social Security benefits or pensions for consumer debt is not allowed under federal law, but may be allowed for child support. See the Bills.com Wage Garnishment article to learn more.

Wage garnishment is allowed under Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 64D and federal law 15 U.S.C. 1673(a). If the judgment-creditor is aware of the debtor’s place of employment, it may seek wage garnishment. Under federal law, the garnishment applies to 25% of the debtor’s net take home pay, (i.e. gross pay less statutorily mandated deductions). Garnishment can occur only after the person being garnished has received a 10-day’s notice.

Under Utah law the maximum amount of employee’s earnings that may be garnished for a consumer debt is 25%, or the federal minimum hourly wage times 30 times the number of weeks in the pay period. For child support the amount is greater. In Utah, the maximum amount garnished for child support is 50%, or the federal minimum hourly wage times 30 times the number of weeks in the pay period.

Utah Bank Account Levy

A levy means that the creditor has the right to take whatever money in a debtor’s account and apply the funds to the balance of the judgment. Again, the procedure for levying bank accounts, as well as what amount, if any, a debtor can claim as exempt from the levy, is governed by state law. Many states exempt certain amounts and certain types of funds from bank levies, so a debtor should review his or her state’s laws to find if a bank account can be levied. In some states levy is called attachment or account garnishment. The names may vary but the concept is the same.

In Utah, levy is called a writ of garnishment and is allowed under Utah Code Rule of Civil Procedure 64D. General exemptions for bankruptcy, garnishment, attachment, and execution can be found in 78B-5-505, 78B-5-506, and 78B-5-508.

Lien in Utah

A lien is an encumbrance -- a claim -- on a property. For example, if the debtor owns a home, a creditor with a judgment has the right to place a lien on the home, meaning that if the debtor sells or refinance the home, the debtor will be required to pay the judgment out of the proceeds of the sale or refinance. If the amount of the judgment is more than the amount of equity in your home, then the lien may prevent the debtor from selling or refinancing until the debtor can pay off the judgment.

Utah allows judgment-creditors to place a lien on property, as per Utah Code Section 78B-5-201 and Utah Code Section 78B-5-202.

If you reside in another state, see the Bills.com Liens & How to Resolve Them article to learn more.

Utah Writ of Execution

A Writ of Execution may be used to seize the judgment-debtor's non-exempt real property or personal property in the debtor's possession. See Rule of Civil Procedure 64E.

Utah Writ of Replevin

A Writ of Replevin may be used to recover a particular piece of personal property in the defendant's possession. A Writ of Replevin is permitted only in narrow circumstances following special procedures. See Rule of Civil Procedure 64B.

Statute of Limitations In Utah

Each state has its own statutes of limitations. The statute of limitations for a credit card (called an open account) is 4 years (Utah 78B-2-307-1b), a spoken contract is 4 years (Utah Title 78B-2-307-1a), a written contract is 6 years (Utah Title 78B-2-309), and either a state or federal judgment is 8 years (Utah Title 78B-2-311).

Wise Advice Collection agents violate the FDCPA if they file a debt collection lawsuit against a consumer after the statute of limitation expired (Kimber v. Federal Financial Corp. 668 F.Supp. 1480 (1987) and Basile v. Blatt, Hasenmiller, Liebsker & Moore LLC, 632 F. Supp. 2d 842, 845 (2009)). Unscrupulous collection agents sue in hopes the consumer will not know this rule.


Consult with an Utah attorney experienced in civil litigation to get precise answers to your questions about liens, levies, and garnishment in Utah.

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Comments (70)

Holly C.
Grantsville, UT  |  March 28, 2014
I have two collection accounts with the same agency. One of the accounts recently hit the 7 year mark and is no longer showing on my credit reports. I a my getting ready to attempt to settle the second account. I was told by someone at a credit counseling agency that if the collection agency doesn't accept our offer and decides to pursue a judgement that they can legally include both debts. Is this true even though the first debt is now past the 7 years and should be past the statute of limitations in Utah?
March 28, 2014
The credit counselor you spoke to needs to:
  • Read the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits a collection agent from filing a lawsuit on time-barred debt
  • Read Utah civil procedure rules to understand that separate collection accounts create separate causes of action, and that Utah's statute of limitations is 6 years, and
  • Stop giving legal advice

The 7-year rule you mention concerns how long a delinquent account can appear on a credit report. This is found in the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA and its rules are separate from, and have no relationship to state statute of limitations rules. When you think about your options for handling a debt-related lawsuit, put the FCRA 7-year rule out of your mind because it does not apply.

You mentioned Utah. The Utah statute of limitations rule for breach of a written contract is 6 years. When it comes to lawsuits, worry about Utah Title 78B-2-309, and not the FCRA.

If a collection agent files a lawsuit against you, consult with a lawyer in your state immediately. You want to file an answer, especially if your last payment was more than 6 years ago. If one of the causes of action is older than your state statute of limitations, you can counter-sue under the FDCPA, and win damages based on the collection agent violating federal law.

Brian D.
Orem, UT  |  March 16, 2014
I had a credit card opened up in Utah, and then I moved to Arizona, and was unable to pay the amount back. The amount went to a collections agency in Utah for the amount of 692 back in 2011. I called them to negotiate a payment and they said the amount is now almost $1000 because they had to sell it to a collection agency in Arizona when I lived there, and then they just bought it back from them. They are asking for more than the $692 as payment. Is this something they can claim, and am I responsible to pay for them selling my collections account from state to state. I also do not have any communication from the Arizona collections company, nor was it reported on my credit report. This seems like they are not being honest with me.
March 20, 2014
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, collection agents are not permitted to add interest or other fees to a collection account, unless the contract the consumer signed with the original creditor outlines what extra charges are permitted and state law allows it.

Scrupulous collection agents who do not have a copy of the original contract will not add interest and mystery fees to the accounts they are collecting. Unscrupulous collection agents, on the other hand, will play the odds and hope the consumers they contact haven't read the FDCPA.

Our advice? Validate the debt. A debt that cannot be validated cannot be collected. Roughly half of all collection accounts cannot be validated. If the collection agent validates the debt, then negotiate a settlement. Collection agents typically pay less than 10 cents on the dollar for collection accounts. Offer the collection agent $100 to settle the debt.
William H.
Enoch, UT  |  February 11, 2014
I was awarded a judgment against a debtor who is completely not paying me for the judgment ordered by the judge. I have been collecting on him myself and I contacted a third party and asked information about this guy and told them he owed me a debt. This was his real estate agent who he is buying a house through. He has given them money that he had in an escrow account that he set up when he stopped paying rent. I beleive that the mortgage company he gave this money to has MY money which I believe makes them codebtors. I have read that ONLY collection agencies have to follow the FDCPA laws for collecting a debt. Am I not allowed to contact this third party to find out what he told them he makes every month? He had to tell them something to be able to make a deal to buy this house. Doesn't he by law have to tell this mortgage company that he has a judgment against him? I already have the judgment against him and he has said he would transfer all of his property to someone else's name which is against the orders of the judge who ordered him not to sell or transfer any of his property. He came to a Supp hearing and would not answer any of my questions so he will be in contempt of court. Can he sue me for talking to his real estate agent?
February 12, 2014
Consult with a lawyer who has civil litigation experience, and focus on finding one who knows your state's remedies laws. It is easy to scuttle a judgment by making a mistake in the collections process.
William H.
Enoch, UT  |  February 21, 2014
If I had money for a lawyer I would not be in this situation. I have contacted numerous attornies and they all want a retainer in order to tell me anything. Even when they say they have a free consultation they tell me nothing that would be helpful.
February 23, 2014
Contact the Utah Legal Services or another Utah pro bono program to find no-cost legal services.
Sidney J.
Sandy, UT  |  January 09, 2014
I am dealing with a law office regarding a judgment. The law office has this account from an apartment complex from 2005. I was not aware of this debt until 2010. I ended up setting up a payment plan with them and signed a confession of judgment. There was a misunderstanding between the law office and me with the payments being made. For the last three years I have paid them monthly on this debt. I have tried several times to settle it, and every time I do they are giving me different total amounts due to fees, when I ask why it was this much this time and last time it was a different amount they can not tell me why. So in return I requested an itemized bill to see what is going on, they are telling me they are unable to do this due to their computers not allowing them to print it off. Also when this went to the court they are only going after me and not the other party. I feel this is not correct of the way they are trying to get the money and need to know more about what my rights are so I can get this settle in the correct way.
January 10, 2014
My guess — note that word choice — is the lawyer's office has no idea how much you have paid and as a consequence, how much you owe. Lawyers, as a group, make lousy accountants, which is why they go into law school in the first place.

Time to level the playing field. Consult with a lawyer who has experience with either forensic accounting or suing lawyers for committing malpractice. Explain your situation, and ask him or her to fire off a letter asking for an accounting of the payments you have made.

My guess — there's that word again — the law office will reply with a nice letter explaining the matter is settled, and it will file a notice with the court that your judgment is satisfied.
Sheila M.
Salt Lake City, UT  |  August 23, 2013
I received a letter from the constable here in Utah that my property will be sold in a few weeks from now. Thing is, is the letter was sent to an old address and I only came across it because the post office forwarded it to me. I have not received paperwork on this whole judgement before and would like to know what is going to happen next since they do not know where I live and because I have not had a chance to address this issue. What property can they seize? I do not have the means to pay this judgement because I am trying to support my four kids so would like to know what your thoughts are.
August 23, 2013
My best advice is to seek legal counsel ASAP. Find an attorney who has civil litigation or consumer law experience. See if you can get a free consultation.

You can also do a search for "Utah Legal Aid," to see if you can find low or no-cost legal help. One document I found is a list of legal aid organizations in Utah, but it was compiled in 2008, so some information may be out of date.
Alexandria R.
Heber, UT  |  June 06, 2013
I have researched and understand the statue of limitations in Utah for credit card debt (unwritten contract) is 4 years. The last payment made to the creditor was in 2011. When does the statute of limitations take effect? The last month of payment in 2011 or the effective date of the judgement? Also, I understand that Utah law allows wage garnishment, liens, and garnishment of bank assets. I am unemployed and have NO assets. Can the creditor/judgement garnish any of my husband's assets and property? Can the judgement force sell furniture and/or other possessions in the home, which is under my husband's name? I appreciate any advice you can provide. Warmly, Alexandria Rothschild
June 07, 2013
As you mentioned, the Utah statute of limitations clock for credit card debt is 4 years. This clock starts when you missed your payment. Let us say for the sake of argument that you made your last payment in May 2011. The clock would start the day after your June 2011 payment was due. This clock would stop, in our hypothetical example, in June 2015. After June 2015, it would be possible for the original creditor or a collection agent that buys your collection account to file a lawsuit against you after June 2015. If the original creditor or a collection agent does so, you have the statute of limitations defense you can raise to ask the court to dismiss the case. See the Bills.com statute of limitations article to learn more about how statute of limitations defenses work.

When it comes to family law, Utah is a common law state. It is not a community property law state. Therefore, the general rule is if Spouse A has a judgment filed against him or her, a judgment-creditor cannot use the judgment to pursue Spouse B's assets. You will note I just wrote, "the general rule is". I did so because there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if Spouse A transfers assets to Spouse B for the purpose of hiding their assets from collections, a court will unwind that transfer and allow the judgment-creditor to pursue them for collections.

The most common point of exposure your spouse will have are any joint accounts you two share. Your spouse should open his own bank/credit union account that is not attached to your name in any manner, and have his wages or income deposited in that account. Any account attached to your name is open to account levy, even if your spouse is responsible for depositing all of the funds into that account.

It is unclear to me if you have a judgment filed against you. If not, and if you are summoned to court in the future, be sure to respond by filing an answer and appearing for your hearing.
Alexandria R.
Heber, UT  |  June 13, 2013
This financial dilemma continues to be a humbling and challenging life learning experience. Thank you Bill for your immediate and thorough response to my questions. Gratefully appreciated, Alexandria R.
Chip H.
Roy, UT  |  April 19, 2013
My wife took my son to the doctor back on October 23rd. A few weeks later we received the standard letter from the insurance company stating what they paid and the reduced amount for seeing a network doctor. I file the paper work with all the paid bills and time goes on. Fast forward to April 17th when my wife receives a call from a debt collector for the visit in October. Confused she told them she would have to talk with me (her husband). After going through the bills paid we find the information from the insurance company that we received in November. We are confused on how it's at collections because we never received a bill from the clinic we took him too. As we try to figure out the chain of events and why the clinic didn't contact us we realize on our home phone they had called on the March 22nd, but didn't leave a message. Them calling isn't uncommon because they call randomly to remind the family it time for well check ups. The problem we have now is the amount of 220. That we owe is now 275. In calling the clinic and calling back the collection agency neither side wants to reduce the amount that was added. Frustration we have is that we would have paid the bill if we had actually ever received one. The clinic claims that they mailed out 5 statements. We didn't get receive any of them. Would like some advice on how to resolve the issue and pay the clinic for the work they did, but don't feel like the 25% that was added when it went to collections is fair. Especially since we didn't receive any bills. Our mail box is in a locked community unit, so I don't think someone stole all 5 of the bills they sent. I personally believe they didn't mail them to us. Want this in the past, but neither side wants to do anything to help reduce the amount. I would gladly pay 250 to resolve even though it's not our fault in my opinion. My wife is worried that it will damage her 800+ credit score. thank you for your time.
April 29, 2013
If your highest priority is protecting the 800+ credit score, you need to hold your nose play the game by the medical provider or collection agent's rules and negotiate a settlement to the debt that makes either happy. After you do so, send a polite but direct letter to the director of the medical facility briefly outlining the issue, and explain that's why you and your family will no longer do business with the clinic.

If you are not a slave to your 800+ credit score, then keep negotiations open with either the provider or its collection agent, and if you ever wear down either to accept your $250 offer, then you'll achieve that goal.
N J.
Cottonwood Height, UT  |  March 27, 2013
I have a writ of continuing garnishment on my wages from one creditor (law firm) for a credit card debt. A second creditor (law firm) has garnished my bank account on another credit card debt. I was told there could only be one garnishment at a time. Are both of these legal?
March 28, 2013
The rule you mentioned is not quite accurate.

I will assume you are a Utah resident. Under Utah law, judgment-creditors are permitted to garnish up to 25% of your disposable income. In Utah, as in many states, if Judgment-Creditor A is garnishing 15% of your disposable income, Judgment-Creditor B is allowed to claim the remaining 10% left in the federal and state limit. If Judgment-Creditor C comes along later and wishes to garnish your wages, it must wait in line until one of the first two expires.

The second creditor you mentioned in your situation is not garnishing your wages. Instead, it seized the contents of one of your financial accounts. Some states call this an account levy. The Utah legislature covers both wage garnishment and levy in Rule 64D and calls both writs of garnishment. I can find no prohibition in Utah law that prevents creditors from levying a judgment-debtor's financial accounts if the judgment-creditor is already subject to a wage garnishment.
H J.
South Salt Lake, UT  |  February 20, 2013
My husband and I have a judgment against us here in Utah from an apartment complex, and are being summoned. the problem is we don’t feel we owe them. In 2005 I was faced with the executive decision to leave my job due to my then infant son being born with pneumonia and being fatally ill, you can only imagine the medical costs. My husband was then left solely to provide for the household and thankfully found a higher paying position, but we ran into a problem with his pay date...he was only paid on the 18th and rent was due the 1st. We explained this to the manager at that time as well as provided detailed documentation to back up our plea, and she advised she would work with us. I mean after all, we had been tenants for nearly 6 years. This continued for 6 months. The company was sold to another property and the then property manager was fired. To come finding out we were not the only tenants she was allowing to pay late. When the time came to renew our lease, I and my husband were told they would only renew the lease if we paid the back late fees. We of course disagreed to pay the over $4000 and advised no need to renew the lease, we would be moving. The next morning me and my husband awoke to a 3-day eviction notice and were extremely confused as well as angry. Again, we were told to either pay up or leave. Luckily I had a relative in the real estate business and was able to find somewhere to move that same day. They sent the debt to an attorney in 2005 and they continued to harass me and my husband, still and yet we stood firm and explained to them as well as provided documentation that the previous manager wrote to us okaying the late payments to show that we did not owe and why we were refusing. Now, 8 years later, we are being summoned to court for this debt. And just to add, these constables they sent to our home were leaving paperwork with our daughter who was home alone and told to accept the paperwork at the age of 10. I am not fond of grown men using their position to scare my daughter into opening a door and accepting legal documents, but this was their tactic I assume to gain me and my husband's attention. Any advice?
February 20, 2013
Consult with a lawyer who has consumer law or civil litigation experience immediately. You have two strong arguments you can use to ask the court to dismiss the case:
  • Defective service of process: I am not a Utah lawyer, but in most states, serving a 10-year-old with a summons for a family member's debt is not allowed.
  • Statute of limitations: Utah's statute of limitation for breach of a written contract is 6 years. The filing of this action occurred after Utah's statute of limitations clock stopped ticking. Therefore, you should file a motion asking a court to dismiss the case.

Take action; do not ignore the summons. If you cannot afford a lawyer, call your county bar association to ask for the names of organizations in your area that help people with low and no income. Make an appointment with one of these organizations, and bring all of the documents you have regarding this matter to your meeting. The lawyer you meet will help you draft the two motions to dismiss I mentioned. Again, you have an excellent case — taking action will put this matter to rest.

Melissa J.
Grantsville, UT  |  January 18, 2013
My husband received a phone call from a collection agency stating that he owed for an old cell phone bill from 1999. My husband is positive that he paid this prior to entering the military, however because he only kept proof of payment of bills for 8 years, we no longer have proof of payment. Looking at the paperwork that they sent us, the original creditor sold the "debt" to Verizon when they went out of business. Verizon is turn sold it to another agency, that agency has sold it to the company that sent us the paperwork. This is not on my husbands credit report. Isn't this past the statute of limitations?
January 18, 2013
Old cellphone bills seem to be a common issue among Bills.com readers. Some of these collections efforts, I suspect, are for bogus collection accounts. Also, who keeps receipts of their cellphone and other payments for 14 years? On to your questions.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law, most derogatory marks can appear on a credit report for up to 7½ years from the date of first delinquency. If this debt is legitimate, it could have been reported until 2006.

You asked this question on a page discussing Utah law, so I will assume your spouse is a Utah resident. If so, the statute of limitations for a breach of written contract is 6 years. Assuming the debt is legitimate and the breach of contract occurred in 1999, the statute of limitations expired in 2005. Does this mean the collection agent is stopped from collecting the debt today? No, even a 14-year-old debt can be collected as ridiculous as that sounds. Does this mean the collection agent may not file an action (a lawsuit) against your spouse? No, not in Utah. This means your spouse has an affirmative defense should the collection agent file an action. The defendant needs to raise the statute of limitations as a defense at trial, and if the court believes the evidence, the court must dismiss the case.

What does all of this mean? Should the collection agent contact your spouse again, gather contact information from the collector. Then sent the collection agent a cease communications notice. This notice prevents the collection agent from contacting your spouse to collect the debt. If the collection agent files a civil action against your spouse, consult with a Utah lawyer immediately, and discuss raising the statute of limitations defense in your answer to the lawsuit.
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