From time to time, I’ve had clients that come in with really, really old judgments. Judgments so old it is shocking – sometimes decades old. Usually, they are concerned because someone has contacted them about it, or it has resurfaced on their credit report or it has affected a real estate transaction (i.e. judgment lien).
Typically, my gut reaction is that it is very unlikely the judgment is still valid and may not be as big of a deal as the client thinks. But that is not always the case on these old judgments.
Arizona Judgments Expire in 5 Years…Unless Renewed
Under Arizona law, judgments expire in 5 years unless timely renewed. The key words there are “timely” and “renewed”. That is where most old judgments get tripped up. The legal requirements to renew a judgment are very precise and failure to do so correctly could make the judgment and its renewal invalid. So when someone comes in with a 25 year old judgment, the odds that it was precisely timely renewed every 5 years can be low.
Sometimes, third parties like credit bureaus and title companies don’t fully understand Arizona law and give credence to a judgment that is no longer valid. A letter from an attorney explaining the situation may clear it up. There may also be legal implications for those who try to “re-age” or “re-validate” an expired judgment. There are several consumer protection laws that may apply if that happens.
Of course, there are some rare cases or circumstances where an old judgment could still be valid. But it typically requires a forensic investigation to figure out exactly what is going on. And even if the judgment was renewed, there may be other defenses or grounds for invalidating the judgment. So it is very important to have judgments fully evaluated by an attorney.