Understanding a Real Estate Lein

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What Is a Lien?

A lien is a legal claim attached to a debtor’s property providing notice of an unpaid amount to a creditor. If the debtor sells or refinances a property with a lien attached, the creditor has a right to be paid out of the proceeds of the transaction. In addition, if the debt is not paid, the creditor may have the right to take possession of the property that the lien is placed upon.

Find out more here: What Is a Lien

Can a Lien be Created on Real Estate?

Yes, liens can be placed on real estate or other personal property (e.g. automobiles). Typically, before a lien can be placed on a property, the creditor must go to court with evidence of the unpaid debt and receive a judgment. If a judgment is granted, then the creditor can file a lien on real estate by registering the judgment with the land records office in the county in which the debtor's real estate is located.

What Should I Look out for before Placing a Lien?

The first thing you should do is go to the land records office and see if other creditors have placed liens on the same property. It may be possible that there is already a long list of claims on the property ahead of yours, which might encourage you to seek other approaches to satisfying the debt. 

Can the Property Be Transferred without Removing the Liens?

A lien doesn't have to be removed before the property is transferred. The lien simply remains on the property and the new owner of the specific property becomes responsible for it. However, if the buyer demands to receive the property with a clear title, the debtor would have to first pay off all claims on the property before transferring it.

Are There Any Limits on Real Estate Liens?

When the owner sells the real estate, any liens on the proceeds will be paid off with the proceeds of the sale in the order that the claims were perfected, but only after any amount due to the mortgage lender is paid first. There are a couple of limits on your right as a real estate liens holder: 

What About Jointly Owned Property?

Liens works differently depending on the form of joint ownership. To find out how a property is owned, you can check the deed in the county recorder's office. If the deed doesn’t specify a specific type of joint ownership, property is a tenancy in common. Liens on joint property are treated as follows:

Do I Need an Attorney?

Debt collection can be a difficult process and if you do not properly file and record your lien, you could end up getting little or nothing. An experienced business lawyer or real estate lawyer can aid you in protecting or exercising your property rights.

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Last Modified: 07-14-2017 12:20 PM PDT

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