Here are some need to KNOW tips to ensure the success of your levy.
KNOW the Bank
Since AB 2364 was passed and enacted into law in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 684.115, as of January 15, 2013, banks with more than nine branches in the state had to either elect a specific branch for services, including bank levies, or, their failure to elect is deemed an election that any branch is proper for service. Under the new law, the California Department of Financial Institutions (now, the California Department of Business Oversight) had to publish the bank’s designations on their website.
So, go to the CDBOs website, and under the “Service of Legal Process”, you will find the list. Pay close attention to the information. First, determine whether the bank is on the list. If they aren’t, you can serve a bank levy at any branch. A glaring example of absence on the list is Wells Fargo. On the other hand, if they are on the list, for instance, Bank of America, you should note three things, 1) the proper name of the bank, not just the trade name, “Bank of America, N.A.”; 2) the address for service, which in Bank of America’s case, is only one address, and it’s in downtown Los Angeles. That means every bank levy in the State of California for Bank of America has to go through the downtown Los Angeles location listed and is done through the downtown Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office; 3) the days and hours for service, Bank of America only allows service from 9-2, Mon-Fri.
KNOW the County Sheriff
Now that you KNOW the bank, you KNOW which Sheriff’s office (the “Levying Officer”) you are going to have to go through for the levy, and that means you can order your Writ of Execution from the court that issued your judgment for the county where the bank’s designated branch for service is. Now, you need to familiarize yourself with the Sheriff. Go to their website, and read all their information regarding Civil Processes. You’ll note for the Los Angeles Sheriff that they have a nice tracking system on-line that shows when service was made, information on the writ, and pending and past payments. Also, if the Sheriff has form Sheriff’s Instructions specifically for a bank levy on their system, it’s not mandatory, but it’s a good idea to use them simply because the Sheriff will be familiar with the form.
Next, you need to decide whether you are going to open the bank levy file and have the Sheriff serve the bank levy or you are going to utilize a Registered Process Server (RPS). This depends on several factors: 1) Do you need the service to occur on a specific date? 2) Are you in a rush to complete the bank levy? 3) Do you want to complete the bank levy as inexpensively as possible? You might want to call the Sheriff and ask how long it takes for them to serve a bank levy. At the time of the writing of this article, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s backlog for levies was well over three months, so unless you are okay with waiting and not knowing when the bank levy will “hit”, you might want to use an RPS.
KNOW your RPS
Only use an RPS that is experienced with bank levies. Don’t just hire the cheapest RPS and assume they know what they are doing. In fact, some RPSs won’t do full bank levies, which includes: opening the file with the Sheriff, serving the levy on the bank, and closing the file with the Sheriff. And, as far as I know, none of them will prepare the paperwork. There’s a reason for that. It’s a lot of paperwork, and it must be prepared perfectly, and the steps must be timed correctly. You usually only get one bite at the apple when it comes to bank levies, so, if the Sheriff rejects your paperwork after your RPS makes service on the bank, you will be S.O.L. (which is not an acronym for Statute of Limitations), because your Judgment Debtor will find out about the levy from the bank, and he or she will likely close the bank account or withdraw all or most of the money.
Suffice it to say that doing a bank levy using the Sheriff as the server is much easier than using an RPS because of the complications involved with the paperwork and the number of steps. In fact, caveat-you should carefully consider using a judgment enforcer or attorney if you are going to do a bank levy and need to use an RPS. It’s quite the ordeal. There are five distinct steps and no less than 13 documents that have to be prepared for an RPS bank levy.
KNOW your Judgment Debtor
This ties in to KNOW your Sheriff and RPS and your decision on whether to proceed with the Sheriff or with an RPS. If it’s a small dollar judgment and you have no idea how much money, if any, the judgment debtor has in the bank, or if you are certain the judgment debtor has a good Claim of Exemption and you just want to get their attention, you might want to use the Sheriff and save yourself some money.
However, if you KNOW the judgment debtor gets paid via auto-deposit on every other Thursday, you might want to have an RPS serve the bank levy on the following Friday. Or, if you know, the judgment debtor just sold his house and you know the close of escrow date, again, you might want to have an RPS serve the bank levy. Or, maybe you know the judgment debtor always gets a company bonus on a certain date… the scenarios are endless, and hopefully, so is your success.
So… KNOW your bank levy.