What Property is Exempt From Debt Collection?

By: Robert J. Nahoum


You’ve been sued, there is a judgment against you and now the debt collector is coming to enforce the judgment.  You’re broke and out of work, can the debt collector take away your property?

The Rule:

In New York, as in most states, there is a laundry list of property exempt from judgment enforcement and thus beyond the reach of debt collectors.

Personal Property:

  • Household goods (like furniture, clothing, and appliances);
  • Medical equipment (like wheelchairs and respirators);
  • One television, one radio, one computer and one cell phone;
  • Jewelry and art, not exceeding $1,000 in value;
  • Tools of the trade not exceeding $3,000 in value;
  • $1,000 in personal property or cash (if you are not claiming a homestead exemption);
  • Your car if the equity is less than $4,000.


  • Funds in your bank account if the balance is less than $2,625.00 and the account contains directly deposited exempt benefits;
  • Funds in your bank account if the balance is less than $1,740.00;
  • 90% of your wages if you take home more than $217.50 per week, or 75% of your disposable income, whichever is greater.
  • All of your income if you take home $217.50 per week or less.


  • Public Assistance;
  • Supplemental Security Income;
  • Social Security;
  • Social Security Disability;
  • Veterans benefits;
  • Child Support;
  • Spousal Maintenance;
  • Workers Compensation;
  • Unemployment Insurance;

Retirement Accounts:

  • Public and private pensions;
  • Retirement saving accounts (like (401(k), 403(b), and Individual Retirement Accounts);
  • The entire principal and 90% of the payments from a private trust.


Be proactive, if you can show a debt collector that all of your property and income are exempt (called being “judgment proofâ€), show proof early on an avoid having to be harassed for money you just don’t have.  If you aren’t judgment proof have non-exempt property, be vigilant that the debt collector doesn’t break the exemption rules and go after the exempt property while trying to scoop up the non-exempt property.

If a debt collector has frozen your bank account with exempt funds in it, be sure to fill out the “exemption claim form†that you should have received from your bank.  If you didn’t get the exemption claim form, call the bank or the attorneys for the debt collector right away and notify them that exempt funds have been improperly restrained.

If a debt collector does go after your exempt property, take a stand and fight back.  Such conduct might be a violation of Federal debt collection laws known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short).  If you’ve been the victim of an FDCPA violation, you can sue the debt collector for statutory damages up to $1,000.00, actual damages (like pain and suffering) and the debt collector may have to pay for your attorney.

If you need help settling or defending a debt collection law suit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.

The Law Offices of Robert J. Nahoum, P.C
(845) 232-0202

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