What Is a Distress Warrant?

Updated November 21, 2016

An officer of the law serves a distress warrant issued by the court for nonpayment of a debt. If payment is not made after receiving a distress warrant, then personal goods can be seized.


A landlord can have a distress warrant issued and served to a tenant for nonpayment of rent. The landlord has the right to take possession of a tenants goods in exchange for default on the rent. The city or county treasurer can have a law officer serve a distress warrant to an individual or business for delinquent personal property taxes.


To refrain from having a distress warrant issued, voluntary payment or a payment plan can be set up to pay the debt. If debts are not paid in the allotted time, the debt may be referred to a private collection agency. A private collection agency is a privately owned company hired to collect a debt. Additional fees can be added to the debt by the collection agency.


If the debt is not paid by voluntary payment, a payment plan or to the collection agency, an officer of the law will serve a court ordered distress warrant. If the debt is still outstanding after the selected period of time, the law can seize and sell personal property to satisfy the debt.

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Billie Abbott is a freelance writer, producing articles for numerous websites, including ParentDish and Gadling. She specializes in topics about gardening, animals, parenting and travel.