Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
About Pennsylvania Debt Collection Law


What Is The Life Of A Civil Judgment?

A judgment is an automatic lien on real property owned by the defendant in the county in which the judgment is located. The lien of a judgment lasts for 5 years, 42 Pa. C.S.A. Sec. 5526, and execution must be issued against personal property within 20 years after entry of the judgment, 42 Pa. C.S.A. Sec. 5529.

Can A Judgment Be Renewed or Revived?

Yes, a judgment may be renewed by filing a Praecipe for Revival or an Agreement to Revive the Judgment signed by all parties in the court where the judgment was entered. Case law provides that either filing should be made within 5 years from the original date of entry of judgment. The revived judgment will be valid for another 5-year period from the date it was revived, Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 3025 through 3034.

Can Wages Be Garnished or Attached?

No, wage garnishment is prohibited in Pennsylvania.

Can A Lien Be Placed on Automobiles?

a. Repair, Towing and Storage

Any person who repairs, provides materials for, tows, or stores an item of personal property, including motor vehicle, at the request of the owner has a lien dependent on possession, on the property, for the cost of labor and materials provided, Pennsylvania Statutes 6 P.S. §11.

This lien is subordinate to a prior perfected lien. The garage keeper may achieve priority of lien by giving notice of intent to claim a lien to the holder of a prior perfected lien. This notice must be personally served or sent by certified mail. If the holder of the prior lien does not redeem the vehicle by paying the amount of lien, the garage keeper's lien is given priority.

If the charges due are not paid, the garage keeper may foreclose the lien by selling the vehicle. While the garage keeper is in possession of the vehicle, he is required to send notice to the registered and legal owners of the vehicle stating that payment is due. The notice must include an itemized statement setting forth the work done and the material furnished. The notice must also be published in the newspaper for two consecutive weeks and posted in six public places in the vicinity of where the vehicle is located.

If the charges due are not paid within 30 days of the notice, the garage keeper may foreclose the lien by selling the vehicle at public auction by giving ten days notice thereof in the same manner as personal property is sold by sheriff or constable, Pennsylvania Statutes §§ 6-11, 6-12, 6-15. There are no apparent monetary limitations on the amount of the lien.

b. Abandoned Vehicles

Any person or agency who takes an abandoned vehicle into custody must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles within 48 hours. When the Department receives notification that an abandoned vehicle has been taken into custody, it must provide notice by certified mail to the last registered and legal owner. This notice must state all of the vehicle's identifying information, state where the vehicle is being held and inform the register and legal owners of the right to reclaim the vehicle within 30 days from date of the notice by payment of all storage and towing charges and a $25.00 service fee. The notice must also state the failure to reclaim the vehicle will be deemed consent to the sale or destruction of the vehicle and consent to the extinction of all prior liens on the vehicle, Pennsylvania Statutes § 75-7305.

How Can a Vehicle Be Repossessed or Redeemed?

Governed by the Uniform Commercial Code and the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act (MVSFA), a creditor is entitled to take possession of a vehicle without judicial process if it can be done without a breach of the peace. The creditor must hold the vehicle in the county where it was retaken for 15 days, and must give consumer a written "Notice of Repossession" as soon as the vehicle has been repossessed, 69 P.S. Sec 601 et seq. Upon repossession, the creditor may sell or dispose of the vehicle in any commercially reasonable manner. Sale of the vehicle may be by public or private proceeding. The creditor is required to give the borrower reasonable notification of the time and place of the sale. Notice must be sent by certified or registered mail. Although "reasonable notification" is not defined, the better practice is to give 15 days to comply with both the U.C.C. and the MVSFA. The creditor may purchase the vehicle at any public or private sale. The proceeds of the sale or other disposition must be applied, in order, to: the reasonable expense of retaking the vehicle, cost of the sale, reasonable attorney's fees, satisfaction of the loan, and the satisfaction of any other subordinate security interest in the vehicle, if the creditor receives written notice of any such subordinate interest before distribution of the proceeds is completed. After the sale or other disposition, the creditor is liable to the borrower for any surplus proceeds. The borrower is generally liable to the creditor for any deficiency if the contract so provides. If the borrower has paid less that 60% of the loan, the creditor may propose to keep the vehicle in full satisfaction of the debt by sending a written notice to the borrower. However, if the creditor receives a written objection to retention within 21 days, or if the borrower has paid 60% or more of the loan, the vehicle must be sold within 90 days of the repossession. The borrower is entitled to redeem the vehicle within 15 days after repossession, 69 P.S. 601 et seq. To redeem the vehicle, the borrower must pay the full balance due pursuant to the contract. If the contract contains a clause accelerating the entire balance on default, the accelerated balance must be tendered. In addition to tendering the balance due under the contract, the borrower must pay the reasonable expense the creditor incurred in repossessing the vehicle, holding it, preparing if for sale, and to the extent provided in the contract and not prohibited by law, reasonable attorney's fees and legal expenses, Pennsylvania Statutes §§ 13-504, 13-506, and 69 P.S. 625 (B)]

What is Fair Debt Collection?

Pennsylvania has enacted the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL), 73 P.S. § 201-3.1. The UTPCPL establishes what are considered unfair or deceptive acts or practices with regard to the collection of debts, and applies to third party debt collectors and to creditors.

What is the Legal Rate of Interest on a Judgment in Pennsylvania?

The legal and judgment rate of interest in Pennsylvania is 6%.

How can I calculate how much interest I am owed?

Just use our online interest calculator. Click here to use it.

What is the Statute of Limitations in Debt Collection Matters?

The statute of limitations on contract claims is four years.

What are the Costs for Filing a Debt Collection Case?

Court costs vary by court and county. Small claims court costs range from $75.00 to about $125.00; the filing fees for larger cases range from $175.00 to about $330.00.

What Do I Do About a Judgment from Another State?

Judgments from other states are called "Foreign Judgments." Pennsylvania has adopted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. The four (4) year contract statute of limitations does not apply to Foreign Judgments. [Judgments entered pursuant to the UEFJA can be entered in Pennsylvania although more than 4 years old.]

Who Serves the Lawsuit Papers?

Service of lawsuits (generally called "Service of Process") is generally effected by the county sheriff, with limited exceptions. Corporations cannot be served through the Pennsylvania Secretary of State.

Our offices are located in Upper Darby, in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and we are conveniently located near and provide debt collection and other legal services throughout Pennsylvania. We appear in most County Courts, including Philadelphia, West Chester, Chester County, Norristown, Montgomery County, Doylestown, Bucks County, Media, Delaware County, Allentown, Lehigh County, Reading, Berks County, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, and Stroudsburg, Monroe County.

Attorney Jay C. Scheinfield wants to hear from you and looks forward to working with and representing you. You can reach Jay Scheinfield by phone at 610-853-0300 or by email at contact@scheinfield.com. Jay will respond to your inquiry as soon as possible.