Can a Landlord Lien My Car for Nonpayment of Rent?

by Renee Booker ; Updated July 27, 2017

When you enter into a lease agreement to rent a house or apartment, your part, as the renter, is to pay the rent on time and to abide by the provisions of the lease agreement. If you fall behind on the rent, your landlord has the right to evict you and obtain a judgment against you for any damages, including the past due rent. Once a judgment has been entered, your landlord may have the legal right to attach a lien to any personal property you own, including a vehicle.

Jurisdiction

Landlord-tenant law falls within the purview of state law. As a result, each state has the right to enact its own laws and procedures addressing landlord-tenant issues as long as they do not violate the United States Constitution. State laws will determine things such as the exact procedures required to evict a tenant and what options a landlord has to collect on a judgment obtained as a result of an eviction. There are, however, similarities among the states with regard to procedures and legal remedies available to landlord and tenants.

Eviction

Typically, when a renter fails to make the monthly rent payment by the due date, the landlord is required to notify the tenant, in writing, of the default. The tenant then has a specific amount of time to cure, or fix, the default before the landlord can begin an eviction proceeding. If the rent remains unpaid, the landlord must file an eviction lawsuit in court. The tenant is then notified and given the option to defend the lawsuit. If the tenant fails to defend the lawsuit or is unsuccessful in his defense, then the court will order the tenant to vacate the premises within a certain number of days. The tenant will also be ordered to return to court for a damages hearing after vacating.

Damage Hearing

A damages hearing, to determine how much money the landlord is owed as a result of unpaid rent or actual damages to the property, is held after the tenant vacates the property. The court will enter a monetary judgment against the tenant for the amount the court determines is owed to the landlord. The judgment will be reported to the major credit bureaus.

Collecting on a Judgment

Once a judgment has been entered against the tenant, the landlord must still collect on the judgment. Most states allow the holder of a judgment to apply for a wage or bank garnishment to collect on a judgment. Some states also allow the judgment holder, or landlord in this case, to place a lien against real or personal property owned by the debtor, or tenant. If your state allows liens to be attached to personal property, then that may include a vehicle. Some states allow debtors personal property exemptions that may prevent a lien to be attached to a vehicle. Check your state laws to be certain what your specific state allows.

About the Author

Renee Booker has been writing professionally since 2009 and was a practicing attorney for almost 10 years. She has had work published on Gadling, AOL's travel site. Booker holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Ohio State University and a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University School of Law.