How to Find Liens on a Property?

If you have tried to buy or sell a home before, you must have come across the term "property lien." A lien is essentially a legal tool used by debtors to ensure they will be paid back. If you are unaware of this tool, this guide will enlighten you on property lien meaning and how it works. Read on to find out.

What Is a Property Lien?

Property lien refers to a legal claim against a property that could be used as collateral. Liens can be attached to real property, such as a house, or other property, such as furniture or a car. The property used depends on the type of debt a person owes. For instance, property tax or mortgage liens are attached to the real property on which taxes or mortgages are owed.

Generally, properties such as vehicles should have a lien if the owner is still paying the auto loan used to purchase them. A house will also have a lien, especially if the owner is still paying for a mortgage. Judgment liens can be attached to both personal property (like cars and furniture) and real property (homes).

how to find liens on a property

How Do Liens Work?

Understanding how liens work is vital, especially if you want to purchase or sell a property. Creditors can use liens in various situations depending on the end goal. When discussing a property's legality and financial information, what a lien is and its impact on the process should take center stage. This is because a lien grants the creditor a legal claim to specific assets should the person fail to pay the loan.

Before a creditor gets approved for a property lien, they must file for it through a state agency or county records office. It is crucial to note that each level of jurisdiction has unique rules and regulations regarding property liens.

This is why it is crucial to check lien records and determine the authenticity of a lien holder before proceeding with the transaction. Considering liens are placed on a property, lien holders can be allowed to force the sale of the property to raise funds for settling the debt.

For example, if a person owes $10,000 to a lien holder, they cannot instantly raise the money from the individual's home. Instead, they can sell the home and take their $10,000 from the proceeds. If you owe several lien holders, each has a right to the proceeds when your property is sold. This is done to ensure every debt is settled.

Types of Property Liens

There are different types of property liens, and understanding each of them will help you make the right decision in your transaction. The different types of property lien include:

Mechanic's Lien

This is a common type of lien used in property transactions. A mechanic's lien can occur when a property owner fails to pay the contractor for renovation or construction work performed on their home. This kind of lien has priority over others, except federal liens.

Mechanics liens only apply to work done after the contract between the homeowner and the contractor is signed. The agreed-upon work must be completed before the contractor claims the mechanic's liens.

This lien is placed on personal or real estate properties to protect the creditor from defaulting on loan payments. The contractor is also protected because the property owner cannot sell it before clearing the debt.

Judgment Lien

A judgment lien results from a court ruling against an individual. If you owe money and fail to pay on time, the lender has the right to sue you. If they sue and the court rules favorably, the lender can file a judgment lien on your personal and real property. If their judgment lien is approved, they can sell your property to raise the funds you owe them.

It is crucial to note that a judgment lien can also apply to properties you acquired after the lien is filed. For instance, if the judgment lien was filed the previous month and you buy a new car today, the lien can still be attached to it. If you have obtained a judgment lien against a person, it is vital to check their property records to ensure you know all the assets they own.

Tax Lien

The government can obtain tax liens on your property if you fail to pay property tax, income tax, or local or state tax. This might include financial or real estate assets you own. Generally, tax liens take priority over other liens due to urgency and protocol. For instance, if a tax defaulter sells their home, the money will pay off tax liens before the balance goes to the mortgage lien.

What Does It Mean to Have a Lien on a House?

Having a lien on a house means that you have agreed to have your home act as collateral for any debt you owe, whether a mortgage or auto loan. There are different types of liens, each of which could have unique impacts on your home. Having a lien on a home could also mean you have failed to settle the debts you owe, and the creditor is about to use your home as collateral. They can legally sell your home and use the proceeds to settle the debt.

How To Remove Property Lien?

There are several ways you can get a lien removed from your property. Some of the ways you can do so include:

Pay Off the Lien

The easiest and perhaps the most preferred way of removing a lien from your property is by paying back the lien holder. Once you pay back what you owe them, make sure the lien is canceled. This helps prevent any illegal and unauthentic practices.

Negotiate the Lien

Paying back the entire amount can be a challenging endeavor. In that case, you can negotiate with the lienholder for a payment plan that will eventually see you offset the debt. You can also offer partial repayment in exchange for property lien removal.

Dispute the Lien

Alternatively, you can dispute the lien in court. If it is invalid, you go to court and ask for a court order to remove the property lien. You must review court records and find other crucial evidence to support your claim. Those with title insurance can also file a claim with their insurer to have the lien removed.


When buying a property, it is crucial to check its lien records. It can be devastating to buy a brand new home only to realize it has outstanding debts and liens. Avoid making such catastrophic mistakes by checking the property's lien records.