A warrant in debt is a court action taken against someone who has failed to pay a specific debt. This warrant is issued only when the lender begins proceedings, via courts, to reclaim the debt. This is common in the real estate market, when warrants of debt are issued at the beginning of a foreclosure process, or when renters stop making rent payments.
The lender must begin the process by filing a lawsuit to the debtor for the amount of money the debtor owes and has not paid. For this method to work, the debtor must have already violated the contract he signed with the lender--a contract that specified what kind of payments would be made and when they would be made.
Once the debtor has violated these terms, the lender can choose to sue for the money she is owed, which can lead to her claiming collateral (such as a property), depending on the terms of the contract.
The debtor is the one to whom the warrant in debt is served. This warrant is simply a summons to appear in court and answer the suit that the lender is filing. It is a required step for the courts, as notification to the debtor of the lender's legal action.
This does not mean the warrant in debt will tell the debtor all of the details. Typically the warrant includes only the most basic information, and it might not refer to a specific debt or amount owed.
The summons to court is not a legal obligation. The debtor does not have to show up to answer the warrant at any particular point.
However, it is generally advisable for the debtor to make an appearance, or to at least file a response with the help of an attorney. Otherwise, the court will make a default judgment on behalf of the lender, and it will treat the warrant as only one step in the legal process of reclaiming owed debt.
The response or defense of the debtor should depend on the terms of the contract signed between the debtor and the lender.
In some cases, the lender might be at fault or might be bringing an unlawful suit against the debtor. If the debtor has violated the terms set forth clearly in the contract, then the debtor must enter a plea based on this violation and backed up by financial facts.
The legal requirements for filing and answering a warrant in debt vary from state to state, as do the terms regarding the legal action necessary for lenders to sue for the money owed them. Some type of notification is required, but it might not always be called a warrant in debt, although it serves the same purpose.