Georgia Collection Laws

Georgia Collection Laws

Can a Georgia creditor levy my bank account, put a lien on my property, or garnish my wages?

I have a debt I cannot repay in Georgia that I cannot repay. What can creditors do here?

  • Examine what kind of collections can occur when you live in Georgia and have a judgment against you.
  • Review Georgia rules for the statute of limitations on debt collection.
  • Consult with an experienced Georgia attorney.

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 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.

Wage Garnishment

Debt Collectors Calling?

Receiving collection calls is unpleasant, whether from the original creditor or from collection agency. Call 800-998-7497 to speak with a Money Coach and discuss what to say and not to say in a phone call with a debt collector, and also what kind of financial plan you need to avoid this happening again.

The most common method used by judgment-creditors to enforce judgments is wage garnishment, in which a judgment creditor would contact the debtor's employer and require the employer to deduct a certain portion of the debtor's wages each pay period and send the money to the creditor.

How big a bite can a judgment-creditor take from your paycheck?

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 Wage Garnishment article to learn more.

Georgia's Garnishment rules are found in O.C.G.A. Title 18 Chapter 4 Article 4. In general, Georgia follows the federal rules for the amount of a garnishment, which allows up to 25% of a worker's wages to be garnished. See the Dept. of Labor's Employment Law Guide - Wage Garnishment and the Dept. of the Treasury's Answers About Garnishments. Municipal and state employees may be garnished.

Levy Bank Accounts

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 Georgia, levy is allowed under O.C.G.A. § 9-13-50 & O.C.G.A. § 9-13-16. Levy is allowed if the plaintiff possesses a legal instrument known as Fieri Facias, which is a writ commanding the sheriff to seize and sell as much of a debtor's property as is necessary to satisfy a creditor's claim.

Levy is rarely used in Georgia, perhaps due to the state's myriad rules regarding the collection method.

If you reside in another state, see the Account Levy resource to learn more about the general rules for this remedy.


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.

O.C.G.A. § 9-12-81 allows a lien for a money judgment. Under O.C.G.A. § 44-14-361, mechanics and contractors (and similar laborers and professionals) have the right to place a lien on a property. Georgia lien law for contractors is intricate, strictly construed, and offers several defenses for homeowners.

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

Georgia Statutes of Limitations

Each state has is own statute of limitations on contracts and judgments. Under O.C.G.A. § 9-3-25, the statute of limitations on an open account (i.e., credit card) is 4 years. However, the Court of Appeals of Georgia held in Hill v. American Express that a credit card contract is a written contract, and not open. This 2008 decision may or may not set precedent on all state courts in Georgia. (Editor's note: Regardless of a person's perspective what statutes of limitations should apply to credit cards, this finding is not a good example of judicial writing. The decision is conclusory, and ignores the plain-language in Georgia statute. For those reasons, this decision is vulnerable to be reversed in the future.)

See also the resource Georgia Statute of Limitations for additional discussion of statutes of limitations and credit cards in Georgia.

Under O.C.G.A. § 9-3-24, written contracts have a 6-year statute of limitations. A contract under seal has a 20-year statute of limitations. Foreign judgments are valid for 5 years (§ 9-3-20), and domestic judgments are valid for 7 years (§ 9-12-60). A domestic judgment can be revived up to 3 years after it become dormant (§ 9-12-61).

Don't let a debt collector trick you


Georgia ranked #2 of all states for complaints filed with the FTC about debt collectors. Understand your rights and what protections the law gives you, so a debt collector doesn't take advantage of you.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

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.

Georgia Mortgage Foreclosure

See the resource Mortgage Foreclosure Georgia to learn more about the options available to Georgia residents, and the relevant Georgia laws.

Georgia Law & Spousal Debt

Generally, a Georgia judgment-creditor is allowed to pursue the assets of the Georgia judgment-debtor only, and not his or her spouse.

However, exceptions apply to this general rule. For example, some forms of jointly held real estate can be attached, as well as joint financial accounts. Also, if a spouse conveys the title of property to a spouse at a price that is lower than the market price, the judgment-creditor may be able to convince a Georgia court the transaction was sham intended to defraud creditors, and should be reversed.

Georgia Industrial Loan Act and Georgia Fair Business Practices Act

The Georgia Industrial Loan Act applies to consumer loans less than $3,000 with a loan length less than 36 months and 15 days. The Industrial Loan Act sets limits on interest, fees, and collections practices for short-term, sub-$3,000 loans. It does not apply to collections on other debts. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to other debts, and Georgia loans larger than $3,000.

See the Georgia Code Ann. § 7-3-1 to 7-3-29 and Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. § 120-1-14-.01 to 120-1-14-.25 to learn more about the Georgia Industrial Loan Act.

The Georgia Fair Business Practices Act (FBPA) mirrors the FDCPA. The FBPA prohibits any unfair or deceptive acts and practices in the conduct of consumer transactions, including debt collections. It creates a cause of action for violations of the act, and to recover actual damages, reasonable attorney's fees and costs, and three times the amount of the actual damages as punishment for an intentional violation. A FDCPA violation is a per se violation of the FBPA (O.C.G.A. § 10-1-390 and 1st Nationwide Collection Agency, Inc. v. Werner, 288 Ga. App. 457, 459, 654 S.E.2d 428, 431 (2007)).

Collection agents do not need to be licensed in Georgia.


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

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.




MMarcia E Reno, Dec, 2019

I have been released from filing an answer to any and all summons of garnisment pending in a garnishment case but the the release authorizes me to deliver to the defendant in the garnisment case any money or property in my possesion belong to the defendant does this mean my home or possessions will be be seized. I live in the state of ga and only have social security disability and when I phone the creditors I get a vague answer and am told to call back in a few weeks?

DDave Bowers, May, 2019

Can a foreign state (Utah) default judgment be enforced in Georgia under Georgia law?

DDaniel Cohen, May, 2019

I can't give legal advice, as only an attorney can properly do so. Here are a couple of thoughts, with the understanding that I am not giving you legal advice.

If the creditor domesticates the Utah judgment through an action in a Georgia court, then it can collect from you. Please see

Georgia collection laws would govern how they can collect. Georgia law protects $600 in your bank account, if the account is levied. This means any money in an account with your name on it can have whatever is in the account abovie $600 taken to pay the debt. In Georgia, if your wages are ganished, 25% of your income, after taxes and social security are taken out, can be garnished.

KKinya C., Apr, 2014
I purchased a car over ten years ago. After four months of having the car, the transmission went out in the car. I spoke with the dealership about the issue and they didn't do anything about it. The finance was any assistance either. Therefore I told the finance company they could get the car. Yesterday I receive a letter from my job stating I have a garnishment. I never received anything about a judgement from them. What should I do?
BBill Admin, Apr, 2014
If the judgment was obtained recently, it appears that you were sued after the statute of limitations had passed. The rules to vacate a judgment vary by state, so you should speak with a Georgia lawyer ASAP. If you can't afford an attorney, see if you can get help through Georgia Legal Aid.
JJack Smith, Sep, 2013
My wife has a Judgment from a credit card company. We have been paying on every month since, last week our Joint Acct was frozen. The creditor said what we have been paying is no longer enough and now we have no money to buy food, and other necessary items. Can they actually do this my pay check was also frozen and I have child support to pay.
BBill Admin, Sep, 2013
We need to discuss several issues in your message separately:
  • Judgment: A judgment allows a judgment-creditor to ask a court to
    • Garnish the judgment-debtor's wages
    • Levy the judgment-debtor's financial accounts. Some states call this account garnishment.
    • Place a lien on the judgment-debtor's real property
    • In some states, ask the sheriff to seize the judgment-debtor's personal property, auction it, and give the proceeds to the judgment-creditor
  • Joint Account: The default rule is joint accounts are vulnerable to account levy where a judgment-debtor is one of the account owners. In some states, the other joint account owner can file an objection with the court to rebut this presumption. In general, recommends that when a judgment is filed against a consumer who owns a joint account, the other party or parties should abandon that account and open accounts in their names alone.
  • Spouse's Wage Garnishment: It is unclear to me if you, the spouse without the judgment, had your paycheck garnished. If so, this is illegal.

If your wages were caught up in the joint account that was levied/account garnished, then you must take two actions:

  1. Consult with a Georgia lawyer who has consumer law experience. Do so immediately. Ask the lawyer if Georgia allows you to object to the levy/garnishment of the joint account.
  2. Open a separate account in your name alone. Inform your employer's payroll department of the change, and have your pay deposited into your separate account.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, call your county bar association and ask for the names of the organizations that provide no-cost legal services to people with low or no income in your area. Make an appointment with one of the organizations, and bring all of the documents and letters you have regarding the debt and judgment to your meeting. The lawyer you meet will advise you accordingly.

JJack Smith, Sep, 2013
So if they garnish your wages they can take only 25% but all they have to do is freeze your acct and get everything. she has been making regular payments since 2009 with no issues no calls no letter saying please pay more. then one day its no longer good enough and they get everything. That doesn't seem right.
BBill Admin, Sep, 2013
Were your wife's payments a result of a contract, written or otherwise, with the judgment-creditor? If so, then your wife has a breach of contract case against the judgment-creditor. Regardless, consult with a Georgia lawyer about this situation immediately.
DDelena McCarley, Feb, 2013
My husband just received a garnishment at his job, we called the attorney that held it and they stated that it was from a judgement in 2006. He never knew about that judgement, was still living in the same county and has no idea what it is on. The attorney gave us the number to court and the file# . I have tried to call and left messages but no return call. I have read your post and I'm still trying to figure out what if any limitations there can be. It would seem like to me if you have a judgement and a sheriff serves them, than they can find you to serve them to you at your home. I know they will serve them even at night. They other thing I have a problem with, the judgement had not showed up on his credit in the 6 years that we have been together. He has credit extended to him with never a question or that even showing up, why is that.
BBill Admin, Feb, 2013
Tell your spouse to consult with a lawyer who has consumer or civil litigation law experience immediately. Your spouse should not have been surprised by the judgment or garnishment. A lawyer will review the facts to learn if your spouse received an effective notice of the lawsuit. If he did not, then his lawyer will file a motion to dismiss the judgment.

A credit report is a specialized newspaper, and is not a perfect record of anyone's entire financial life. Just because an event is not reported in the Atlanta Constitution does not mean the event never happened. The same is true for credit reports. Some counties have better relationships with the consumer credit reporting agencies than others, and it is possible your spouse's judgment never reached Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. The fact the big-three consumer credit reporting agencies never reported the judgment is of no legal consequence.