If I have been summed to court for a debt what do I do?

UPDATED: Apr 11, 2012

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If I have been summed to court for a debt what do I do?

I owe a balance to a past apartment complex. They gave me a summons today to go to court. What do I need to do? I owe a balance of about $900. When the law office for the apartments first sent me a notice in the mail I sent them a check for $100 and I told them I could make payments for $100 every month, because I am currently unemployed I only have my unemployment to support myself, husband and child. This is the maximum I can pay monthly. What do I need to do in this situation?

Asked on April 11, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Utah


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, you can still try to settle with the landlord and work out some payment plan you can afford--it's voluntary on their part to agree to one, but there's no harm in trying.

Second, if you don't settle ahead of time, show up to court--if you don't, you'll lose by default or automatically.

If you do legitimately owe the money, then even if you show up to court, you would ultimately lose; however, the judge and/or a court mediator may convince the landlord to accept a payment plan, so it's worth going and working through the process just for that possibility.

Third, if you end up losing and having a judgment against you for the full amount, then bear in mind that unemployment benefits are exempt from garnishment in Utah--if that is your only source of income and  you own little property/have little money in the bank, you may be effectively "judgment proof." That means, the landlord may not be able to force  you to pay anything--at least now. A judgment against you will persist for years, so if you and your family later come into more income or assets, the landlord could try to enforce the judgment against you at a later date.

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