Frequently Asked Questions
QUESTIONS ANSWERS
How do I request service from the Sheriff and what do I need to submit? The Sheriff requires written instructions signed by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney of record (CCP 262). Substitute signatures are not acceptable. The instructions must be clear and complete and include the name and physical address of the defendant/debtor. The defendant/debtor’s name must be the same as listed on the court documents. We require two copies of complete documents per person being served. (one for the defendant/debtor and one for the Sheriff’s file). You can find many of our standard instruction forms online at this website
How much will it cost to serve my papers and what method of payment can I use? Refer to the fee schedule link for service of your particular document or service requested. We accept cash, money orders, cashiers’ checks, personal checks and credit cards. All checks should be made payable to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.
Who determines the fees or cost for service? The fees are set by the California State Assembly and are subject to change every January 1st.
What are the hours of operation for the Civil Deputies attempting the service of my paperwork? Our deputies typically work Monday – Friday, 7:00am to 5:00pm and will make their attempts at random times throughout the week.
When will my papers be served? The Civil Division will usually begin attempting service of properly received papers the following business day.
How many attempts will be made to serve my civil papers before they are returned to me? We will make at least three attempts at different times on different days. This is considered Due Diligence.
Can the Sheriff’s Civil Division guarantee that my papers will be served? No, we cannot make a guarantee that every paper will be served. There are many factors which could prevent a successful service such as the person has moved, there is not enough time for service or the fact that some individuals will actively try to avoid service.
I have a court date; when should I submit my documents for service? We recommend you submit your documents as soon as possible. We require that they be received by our office no less than 10 days prior to the last day for service. This allows us time to process, serve and return the Proof of Service to you by the court date. If there is not sufficient time to serve your documents, it may be necessary for you to obtain a new court date.
How do I know the last day for service? The last day for service varies with the type of process and is usually found on your court paperwork. You can also obtain this information from the court clerk or legal assistance agency.
How do I get my papers to the Sheriff’s Civil Division for service? You can mail them or personally bring them to our office. You can also go to the Paso Robles branch of the San Luis Obispo Superior Court and submit them via inter-departmental mail.
How does the court get the Proof of Service? Does the Sheriff’s Civil Division submit the proof for me? We will generate and provide a Proof of Service to you ; however, it is your responsibility to provide proof to the court. For this reason we require your mailing address and sufficient time to complete your service and mail the proof to you.
I have a Writ of Execution, but how do I collect my judgment? There are a number of ways to satisfy a Writ of Execution- Money Judgment. A few of the more common types of enforcement actions are: Earnings Withholding Orders, Bank Levies or Vehicle Levies. We always advise that you consult with an attorney for legal advice for answers to your legal questions.
What is a Levy? A levy is the process of seizing property by virtue of a Writ of Execution. The Sheriff (levying officer) will seize the property from the debtor at the request of the plaintiff/creditor to satisfy a money judgment.
What is a Bank Levy? Basically, a bank levy seizes funds held in the debtor’s savings or checking accounts. You will need to submit:
-The original writ and two copies
-Letter of instruction including the name and address of the bank, the name of the debtor, and if possible, the bank account and/or social security number of the debtor.
What is an Earnings Withholding Order (EWO)? An EWO is an order that garnishes or attaches the wages of the defendant/debtor. You will need to submit:
-The original writ and two copies
-The original Application for Earnings Withholding (Judicial form #WG-001) and one copy
My Writ was returned for correction. Why do I have to have the court clerk initial my correction? All additions, corrections, deletions, and interlineations must be initialed by the issuing clerk (Calif. Rules of Court 2.116).
What is a Vehicle Levy? The Deputy seizes the debtor’s vehicle which is then set for sale at a sheriff’s auction.
What is a Till Tap? The Deputy enters a going business and seizes all monies from the cash register to satisfy the money judgment.
What is a Keeper Levy? The Deputy installs a designated person (the Keeper) in a going business in order to collect monies from the proceeds of sales during a specified period of time.
What is a Real Property Levy? Due to the complex nature of a Real Property Levy, please contact the Sheriff’s Civil Division for more information. It is also recommended that you consult with or hire an attorney who is familiar with the sale of real property as it relates to debt collection.
What is a Claim of Exemption? The debtor may claim that the property or monies (or portion thereof), being levied upon are exempt for a variety of reasons.
How does the Claim of Exemption process work? The debtor is required to complete the appropriate Claim of Exemption form and a Financial Statement form. The debtor must then bring or mail the original and two (2) copies of these completed forms to the Sheriff’s Civil Division. The original will remain in our file and a copy will be mailed to the creditor or creditor’s attorney.

The creditor will then have 10 days (wage garnishment) or 15 days (enforcement of judgment such as bank levy or vehicle levy) from the date of mailing to file a Notice of Opposition with the Sheriff’s Civil Division if they oppose your request for Claim of Exemption. You will then be notified by mail, of a court hearing date. Your matter will then be heard by a judge to determine the claim or amount of modification.

If there is no response from the creditor within 10 days (wage garnishment) or 15 days (enforcement of judgment) from the date of mailing, our office will automatically release any monies being held or modify your garnishment to the amount you requested on the Claim of Exemption form you originally filed with the Sheriff’s Civil Division.

It is beneficial to file your claim as soon as possible. Filing the Claim of Exemption DOES NOT stop the wage garnishment, but it will delay any disbursement of funds to the creditor until a determination has been made by the court.
What is a Third Party Claim? Before instructing the Sheriff to levy on property, you should try to determine if it is wholly or partially owned by someone else. For example, a bank may be the legal owner of a vehicle. If so, the bank could file a third party claim demanding payment from you for any amount of money owed on the vehicle. You would be notified of any third party claim and given the opportunity to pay the third party or post a bond. If not, the property would be released to the debtor.
Why is it important to provide the proper name of the debtor? The legal name of the debtor is very important. The Sheriff cannot levy on a debtor’s property unless the debtor is properly named. For example, a fictitious business name (doing business as or dba) is purely descriptive and is not a legal name. If your Writ of Execution lists the debtor as “John Smith dba Smith Plumbing”, the legal name of the debtor is John Smith, not Smith Plumbing. If the debtor is not a natural person, ( a corporation, partnership, LLC. etc.), the writ must include the debtor’s legal entity, such as A-1 Auto, Inc. or A-1 Auto, LLC. or A-1 Auto, a Partnership. The Sheriff cannot enforce a writ that does not list the debtor’s legal entity. A “dba” is not a legal entity.
How long is my judgment valid? Your judgment is good for ten (10) years with a renewable extension for another ten years.
Can I collect the cost of my fees associated with the judgment? Yes, you can collect your court costs and sheriff’s fees.
How long is my writ valid? Your writ is good for 180 days.
When will I receive any funds collected from the levy? They are many variables that affect the disbursement of funds. Generally funds are disbursed not less than 15 days and it could be as long as 30 days. Please contact the Sheriff’s Civil Division for more information as it relates to your specific case.
What is a Summons and Complaint? A complaint is a pleading filed with the court by the plaintiff seeking a judgment or some form of relief against the defendant. A summons is the instrument used to begin a civil action and is a means of acquiring jurisdiction over a party. Once the action is filed, the court issues a summons which notifies the defendant of the action and requires him to file an answer to the complaint with the court within a specified number of days or suffer a judgment by default. Both the summons and complaint must be served on the defendant.
How does the eviction process work? The following information has been prepared by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Civil Division to help clarify some questions concerning Landlord-Tenant issues. It is a very general overview and may not answer your specific question. Because the eviction process and various steps involved can be complex, it is always recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney.

A landlord can terminate a tenancy by giving one of three types of written notices: a 3-day notice to pay or quit; a 30-day notice to vacate; or a 60-day notice to vacate. Generally, a 3-day notice to pay or quit is given to a tenant who is behind on the rent or has violated any provision of the lease or rental agreement. A 30-day notice is given to the tenant when the landlord wishes to end a month-to-month tenancy and the tenant has resided in the residence for less than one year. A 60-day notice is applicable if the tenant has resided in the residence for more than one year. The proper notice must be legally served on the tenant. The Sheriff may be utilized to serve the notice, but someone other than the Sheriff may serve it. Service can be accomplished by personal service, substituted service, or by posting and mailing the notice. Notice to Vacate forms can usually be found at stationary stores or on-line.

If the tenant does not voluntarily move out or continues to occupy the property after proper legal notice is give, the landlord must file a complaint with the proper Superior Court for recovery of possession of the premises. This action is known as an Unlawful Detainer action. Basically, the landlord must sue the tenant to get his or her property back.

After the complaint (unlawful detainer) is filed, the court will issue a summons. A copy of this summons and a copy of the complaint must then be served upon the tenant. The Sheriff, or any person over the age of 18 and not a party to the action, may serve the summons and complaint.

After service of the summons and complaint, the tenant has 5 days to file a written response with the court. If the tenant files a response and wishes to contest the complaint, the court will set the case for trial and a judge will hear and decide the case, usually within 20 days. If the tenant fails to file a written response within the five day period, a default judgment may be entered by the court in favor of the plaintiff (landlord).

Once a judgment has been rendered by the court, the court may issue a Writ of Possession for real property. This is the document that gives the Sheriff the legal authority to forcibly evict the tenant(s). Only the Sheriff may enforce this writ. The original writ, signed instructions by the plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney, and the required fee deposit are needed for the eviction to proceed.

Once the Writ of Possession is delivered to the Sheriff for service, the Sheriff will either serve the eviction notice on the tenant or post it on the residence. The tenant then has five (5) days to vacate the premises. If the tenant fails to move out and continues to occupy the property, the Sheriff will conduct a forcible eviction and the property will be restored to the landlord or the landlord’s agent. If the tenant re-enters the property after the eviction/restoration, he or she could be subject to criminal charges.

Once the tenant has vacated the property and the eviction/restoration is complete, the tenant has no legal basis to re-enter the premises. If any personal property is left inside the rental unit upon vacating, the tenant must make arrangements with the landlord to retrieve these items. If the tenant does not claim his or her belongings and the property is valued at less than $300, the landlord can simply dispose of the items. If the value is greater than $300, the landlord is required to hold the property for at least fifteen (15) days. The landlord can then sell the property and use any monies collected to pay for any storage costs that may have been incurred.