Judgment Renewals in Arizona: Avoid the Pitfalls!
Judgments in Arizona must be renewed every five years. When a judgment creditor fails to properly renew, the result is the inability to enforce the judgment through a writ of execution or other process.
In Arizona, after a judgment is
entered and docketed, the judgment creditor has five years to collect the
judgment by using a writ of execution or other process.
After the expiration of five years from the date a judgment is entered and
docketed, no execution or other process can be issued on the judgment unless the
judgment creditor previously renewed the judgment in accordance with the
specific requirements of Arizona law.
The process of renewing a
judgment is governed by statute, and there are many pitfalls for the unwary
judgment creditor. This article summarizes the judgment renewal process in
Arizona. It is highly recommended that judgment creditors consult with an
Arizona attorney for assistance with the judgment renewal process.
Pitfall No. 1: Renewal Methods
There are two methods to renew a judgment in Arizona: (i) renewal by affidavit;
and (ii) renewal by action.
Renewal by Affidavit
Renewal by affidavit, pursuant to
A.R.S. § 12-1612, is the most common method of renewing a judgment in Arizona.
Notably, section 12-1612(A) explicitly provides that a judgment “for the payment
of money” may be renewed by affidavit.
Of course, not all judgments are
money judgments. Occasionally, a judgment may compel the judgment debtor to
perform a specific act. For example, consider a hypothetical where a homeowners
association obtains a judgment declaring that an owner violated applicable
covenants, conditions & restrictions by painting her home bright red. In that
case, the judgment may include language compelling the owner to repaint her home
using an approved color. Arguably, given that A.R.S. § 12-1612(A) ostensibly
limits the applicability of the statute to judgments “for the payment of money,”
the HOA’s non-monetary judgment may not be renewed by affidavit under A.R.S. §
12-1612. Instead, if the judgment must be renewed at all, it likely must be
renewed by action as discussed in more detail below.
The question of whether
non-monetary judgments must be renewed is unsettled in Arizona.
Notwithstanding the unsettled nature of renewal obligations related to
non-monetary judgments, it is clear that renewal by affidavit is the preferred
method of renewing a judgment for the payment of money. In such case, the
judgment debtor must file, with the clerk of the court where the judgment is
entered and docketed, an affidavit for renewal that complies with the specific
requirements of A.R.S. § 12-1612. Such requirements are discussed in more detail
Renewal by Action
A.R.S. § 12-1611 provides that “a judgment may be renewed by action
thereon at any time within five years after the date of the judgment.”
Discussing renewals by action, the Supreme Court of Arizona has noted that
“every judgment continues to give rise to an ‘action to enforce it, called an
action upon a judgment.’”
The Court has also noted that “[t]he main purpose of an action on a judgment is
to obtain a new judgment which will facilitate the ultimate goal of securing the
satisfaction of the original cause of action.”
In Fidelity Nat. Financial,
the Supreme Court of Arizona explained that “the defendant in an action on the
judgment under our statutory scheme is generally the judgment debtor … and the
amount sought is the outstanding liability on the original judgment.”
In an action on a judgment, “[t]he judgment debtor cannot deny the binding force
of the judgment ... but can assert such defenses as satisfaction or partial
Ultimately, in the event that it is shown that “indebtedness remains on the
original judgment, the action results in a new judgment in the amount owed.”
Importantly, in Fidelity Nat.
Financial, the Supreme Court of Arizona was clear that efforts to collect a
judgment, through a garnishment action or similar collection activity, do not
serve to renew the judgment by action under A.R.S. § 12-1611.
Instead, an action on a judgment involves the commencement of an entirely new
lawsuit for the purpose of obtaining a new judgment.
Without a doubt, the renewal by action process of A.R.S. § 12-1611 is far more
cumbersome than the renewal by affidavit process of A.R.S. § 12-1612.
Pitfall No. 2: Elements of the
Affidavit for Renewal
An affidavit for renewal under
A.R.S. § 12-1612 must include the following information:
The case number of the action
in which the judgment was entered.
The names of the parties; the
name of the court in which docketed; if recorded, the name of the county in
which recorded; the date and amount of the judgment; if recorded, the number and
page of the book in which recorded by the county recorder; the name of the owner
of the judgment; and his source and succession of title, if not the judgment
That no execution is anywhere
outstanding and unreturned upon the judgment, or if any execution is
outstanding, that fact shall be stated.
The date and amount of all
payments upon the judgment and that all payments have been duly credited upon
That there are no set-offs or
counterclaims in favor of the judgment debtor, and if a counterclaim or set-off
does exist in favor of the judgment debtor, the amount thereof, if certain, or,
if the counterclaim or set-off is unsettled or undetermined, a statement that
when it is settled or determined by action or otherwise, it may be allowed as a
payment or credit upon the judgment.
The exact amount due upon the
judgment after allowing all set-offs and counterclaims known to affiant, and
other facts or circumstances necessary to a complete disclosure as to the exact
condition of the judgment.
The signature of the judgment
creditor, his personal representative, or assignee.
A statement that the person
signing the affidavit verifies the information positively (i.e., upon
actual knowledge) and not upon information and belief.
If the judgment was docketed
by the clerk of the court upon a certified copy from any other court and
subsequently an abstract recorded with the county recorder, the affidavit must
include a statement of each county in which such transcript has been docketed
and abstract recorded.
Every effort should be made to
include all of the foregoing information in the affidavit for renewal. In the
event of errors or oversights in the affidavit, the judgment creditor can look
to Arizona case law to support the argument that certain omissions or
inaccuracies in the content of the affidavit will not necessarily prove fatal to
Pitfall No. 3: The “Renewal
An affidavit for renewal under
A.R.S. § 12-1612 must be filed within the window of time that is 90 days
preceding the expiration of five years from the date the judgment was entered
and docketed by the court.
For purposes of calculating the
90-day renewal window, it is important to remember that the relevant date is the
one that is file-stamped on the top right corner of the first page of the
judgment by the clerk of the court. Sometimes this date differs from the date
the judge or commissioner signed the judgment. Under A.R.S. § 12-1612, the
renewal will be ineffective if the affidavit for renewal is filed on a date that
falls outside (either before or after) the 90-day renewal window. For this
reason, it is recommended that the affidavit for renewal be filed comfortably
within the 90-day renewal window. Filing on the very first or last day risks a
The Court of Appeals of Arizona
has noted that, while “some defects contained in an affidavit may not defeat a
renewal of judgment, the timeliness of the affidavit is a rigid statutory
requirement and is not subject to modification by the court.”
Remember, the relevant date for purposes of calculating the “renewal window” is
the date the judgment was entered and docketed by the court. Other dates – such
as the date the judgment was recorded with the county recorder – are irrelevant
to the calculation of the renewal window.
Additional and successive renewal
affidavits may be made and filed within 90 days of the expiration of five years
from the date of the filing of a prior renewal affidavit.
Again, it is important to keep in mind that the “date of the filing” of a prior
renewal affidavit is the date that is file-stamped on the top right corner of
the first page by the clerk of the court. Other dates – such as the date the
prior renewal affidavit was recorded with the county recorder – are irrelevant
to the calculation of the 90-day renewal window.
Finally, the Supreme Court of
Arizona has held that “[u]nder Arizona law, the time to file an affidavit of
renewal of judgment is not changed or extended by the pendency of a bankruptcy
Also, the filing of an affidavit of renewal “is not prohibited … by an automatic
bankruptcy stay or any stay of the enforcement of the judgment.”
Pitfall No. 4: County Recorder
After obtaining a judgment, it is
common practice to file and record a certified copy of the judgment in the
office of the county recorder where the debtor owns real property. Recording a
certified copy of the judgment with the county recorder creates a lien on any
real property of the judgment debtor that is located in the county.
Importantly, any judgment that requires the payment of money will not become a
lien on real property until a separate information statement is attached to the
judgment being recorded.
The separate information statement must contain all of the following
The correct name and last
known address of each judgment debtor and the address at which each judgment
debtor received the summons by personal service or by mail.
The name and address of the
The amount of the judgment or
decree as entered or as most recently renewed.
If the judgment debtor is a
natural person, the judgment debtor's Social Security number (but only if the
Social Security number has been provided voluntarily to the judgment creditor by
the judgment debtor), date of birth and driver license number.
Whether a stay of enforcement
has been ordered by the court and the date the stay expires.
In order to continue a judgment
lien when renewing a judgment, a copy of the affidavit for renewal, certified by
the clerk of the court, must be recorded in the office of the county recorder.
A separate information statement that includes the information required by
A.R.S. § 33-967(A) must be recorded along with the affidavit for renewal.
Judgments in Arizona must be
renewed every five years. When a judgment creditor fails to properly renew, the
result is the inability to enforce the judgment through a writ of execution or
other process. By paying attention to details and being mindful of the pitfalls
of the judgment renewal process, the judgment creditor can succeed in extending
the judgment for a new five-year term.