tax refund garnishments for unpaid rent

So you have a judgment against a tenant for not paying rent, now what?

You might have heard of tax refund garnishments for past due rent but unsure of how the process works.

Executing the judgment is by far the hardest part of the collection process, especially considering some states restrictions.

For example, New York does not allow you to freeze a bank account unless there is at least $2500 in it and every state restricts your ability to garnish wages on someone who is on welfare or employed by the federal government.

For these reasons, often a tax refund garnishment is the easiest and best way to collect on your judgment.

8 Steps to Execute a Tax Refund Garnishment for Past Due Rent

  1. Check with the local court, where you filed your judgment, to see if your state allows this type of garnishment.
  2. Most states only allow you to file within a certain window. In Michigan for example, the filing dates are from November 1st to December 31st.
  3. File early; this type of garnishment is first-come-first-serve.
  4. Be prepared to file with the tenant’s name, social security number, and last known address.
  5. Complete the Non-periodic Garnishment form and pay the court fees (typically between $15 and $20 depending on the jurisdiction).
  6. Send the completed form, now stamped by the court, to the state via certified mail.
  7. Also send the defendant (tenant) a copy of the completed form using their last known address, which may or may not be correct. Since it is not “service required” you do not need proof that they received it, only that you sent it.
  8. Wait for tax season!

Using collection agencies and attorneys for a wage garnishment is always an option, but a tax refund garnishment is by far the most effective method I’ve seen so far.

I’ve personally spoken with over a dozen landlords in the past few months who have had success with this method and would adamantly recommend tax refund garnishments to every landlord.

Landlord Tip: In my experience, having owned a licensed collection agency, I would not recommend spending any money on wage garnishments as they are so rarely successful.

If you’re stuck on the idea, find an attorney or collection agency that will work on a contingency basis. There’s no sense in spending good money to chase bad money.

About the author

I started RentPrep in 2007 and our mission is to pull the stress out of being a landlord.

We do this by helping you find the best tenant and providing educational resources along the way.

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  1. Willie Cai

    Can I garnish unemployment compensation for tenant lost judgement?

    • Stephen Michael White

      Willie, unfortunately you cannot. Government employees such as US Postal employees cannot have their wages garnished, and since unemployment and welfare are government paid programs, you cannot garnish from them.

      Have you considered a tax refund garnishment instead? These are often less expensive to pursue and much more successful since they do not need employment. It still baffles me how someone can have a tax refund due to them if they’re not employed, but I’ve seen it first-hand many times.

  2. Dorothy Bridgeman

    I am trying to get back rent from a tenant . In Missouri can I garnish her federal taxes?Can I garnish her state taxes?

  3. Emma harper

    my sister is in a nursing home, I have power of attorney over her finances. she has a rental, they never pay rent on time and are about $15,000. past due in rent I need to evict them and find a way to collect the back rent. they never had a lease, just paid from month to month. can you help me?

  4. Cory

    Would you be able to send me or direct me to get more information for the State on New York, (NOT NYC)?

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