What is a Lien on Property?
It is quite common for homeowners to ask themselves “Is there a lien on my house?” This is especially true for those who frequently receive legal paperwork regarding their property ownership.
Even prospective home buyers conduct a property lien search before moving forward with a purchase decision.
Though liens are everyday occurrences, many are unsure what they exactly entail. With that in mind, this article details the meaning of property liens, lien types, and how to check for liens on property.
Lien on Property, Explained
A property lien allows lenders or creditors to gain access to a property if debts are unpaid. They are often filed with a county records office or with a state agency prior to notifying the owner.
It is also good to know that property liens can be either “general” or “specific”. General liens are placed on personal and real property such as bank accounts, a home, and vehicles. This arrangement is typically involuntary since most owners would not provide consent. These are also frequently instituted by the IRS for unpaid income tax.
On the other hand, a specific lien on property is usually voluntary. Homeowners can have a lien placed on a chosen asset because of a failure to make mortgage payments.
Types of Liens
There are numerous types of property liens that can affect property owners and prospective buyers. The most common types are listed below.
Home loans are probably the most common property lien. If you obtained a loan to purchase your home, then the lender has a mortgage lien and the property is your collateral. Lenders have the legal right to foreclose on your home if you fail to meet certain conditions such as making monthly mortgage payments or acquiring property insurance.
When someone wins a lawsuit against you, a creditor may be entrusted to your judgment. They can legally file a lien on your property in case you are unable to pay the debt.
For instance, failure to make payments on credit cards could result in a lawsuit. By losing the case, the creditor may place a lien on your home until the amount owed is repaid.
Specifically in Florida, a lien can only be attached if the creditor records the judgment with the county recorder. Though, not with just any county recorder, only the county recorder where the debtor owns or plans to purchase a property. However, for liens on personal property, e.g. homes or vehicles, the judgment must be filed with the Florida Department of State.
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The IRS and local governments can place tax liens for unpaid taxes. These liens can be placed on current property, future property, or bank accounts.
How Property Liens Work
Liens are unfavorable since they are secured to the property. Prospective buyers often refuse to purchase properties with liens due to the fact that liens carry over. If they unknowingly purchase a home with a lien, it becomes their responsibility to pay the lien off. To avoid this, home prospects conduct lien searches before deciding to buy.
When borrowers fail to make mortgage payments or pay off tax liens, creditors may obtain a first-order lien and use the property as collateral. If the property is sold, the homeowner uses the purchase price to settle the lien. Any amount remaining will be acquired by the new homeowners. Creditors can also legally foreclose on a home or repossess the property to settle the debt owed.
How to Check for Liens on a Property
How to find liens on property? Complete a free property lien search. These are accessible through online public databases provided by the local tax assessor and the county clerk’s office.
Alternatively, you can run a tax lien search through third-party websites such as the U.S. Title Records, Been Verified, and RecordsFinder.
Note that some websites may require a small fee to do a lien search and may provide limited details. Not to mention, you may also need the property owner’s name, the property address, or the parcel ID to successfully search these records.
When considering how to find out if a property has a lien, you can also visit the tax assessor’s office to pull tax information and the property parcel ID. Additional information such as the history of ownership can be shared as well.
Another option is to contact a title company. They can produce an organized title report for you. Plus, they offer title insurance to protect buyers from unexpected and post-purchase property claims.
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