Installing a Keeper to Collect Business Debt

In California, a keeper levy can be a very effective method to collect debts from businesses. When a creditor has a judgment, California Code of Civil Procedure § 700.070(c) authorizes the sheriff to install a “keeper” at the debtor’s place of business. The keeper (usually the sheriff) is empowered to take custody of the debtor company’s physical assets, which usually involves taking possession of all cash and checks on site. This includes any money that is in the cash register or “till”, as well as any money that may be in a safe. Additionally, the keeper takes possession of any sales proceeds that the business receives while the keeper is present. Also, the keeper is permitted to open the debtor’s mail and confiscate any cash or checks found. Moreover, the sheriff is entitled to endorse and cash any checks that are confiscated and made out to the debtor business [see CCP § 687.020(c); Schowengerdt v. General Dynamics Corp. (9th Cir. 1987) 823 F2d 1328, 1340].

Keeper levies typically yield the best results with debtor businesses that deal with cash and customers on a daily basis. Installing a keeper can be an effective way of opening up settlement dialogue with the debtor. For example, we recently installed a keeper at a tutoring center in Orange County. The business does not collect many payments daily, but the keeper levy was nonetheless very effective because the debtor was forced to explain to its customers why the sheriff was at the business. It caused the debtor to quickly come to the table to discuss resolution.

Under California law, a keeper levy is permitted to last up to ten consecutive days, and the fees are statutorily limited to $140 per keeper for an eight-hour shift. It is also possible to simply have a sheriff’s representative perform a one-time removal of cash, checks and credit card drafts and then leave – this abridged process is called a “till tap”.

For any type of keeper levy or till tap, the creditor will need to ensure that they have a judgment and writ of execution against the business itself. Each county has different requirements that must be satisfied by the creditor before the levy is carried out. In Orange County and Los Angeles County, the sheriff’s departments are quite cooperative in this judgment collection process. If you or your business is interested in exploring a keeper levy or till tap to collect your judgment, the attorneys atThe Wallin Firm are experienced and available to assist you. Our law firm collects large debts of all types throughout California, with an emphasis in Orange County, Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County.

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