Heritage Council Neighborhoods How Do You Find Out if a Property Has a Lien

How Do You Find Out if a Property Has a Lien


How Do You Find Out if a Property Has a Lien?

When purchasing a property, it is crucial to ensure that there are no existing liens on it. A lien is a legal claim against a property that is used to secure a debt. If a property has a lien, it means that the owner owes money to a creditor, and the creditor has the legal right to sell the property to recover the debt. To avoid any surprises or legal issues down the line, it is essential to perform a thorough lien search before finalizing a real estate transaction. Here are a few methods to find out if a property has a lien:

1. County Recorder’s Office: Contact the county recorder’s office where the property is located. They maintain public records, including information on liens filed against properties. You can search the property’s address or the owner’s name to find any recorded liens.

2. Online Public Records: Many counties now have online databases that provide access to public records, including liens. Check if the county recorder’s office has an online search function, making it convenient to find out if a property has a lien.

3. Title Search: Hire a professional title company or a real estate attorney to conduct a title search. They will examine the property’s title history and search for any outstanding liens or encumbrances against the property.

4. Title Insurance: When purchasing a property, it is common to obtain title insurance. Title insurance protects against any unknown liens or title defects that may arise in the future. The title company will perform a thorough search to identify any existing liens before issuing the insurance policy.

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5. Tax Assessor’s Office: Visit the local tax assessor’s office to inquire about any outstanding property tax liens. Failure to pay property taxes can result in a tax lien on the property.

6. Online Lien Search Services: Several online services provide access to lien records. These services usually charge a fee but offer convenience and a comprehensive search of both federal and state liens.

7. Bankruptcy Court: If the property owner has filed for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will have records of any liens against their assets, including the property in question.

8. Utility Companies: Some utility companies may place liens on a property for unpaid bills. Contact the local utility providers to check if there are any outstanding liens against the property.

9. Homeowners’ Association (HOA): If the property belongs to a homeowners’ association, contact them to verify if there are any outstanding dues or liens against the property.

10. Mechanics’ Liens: If any construction or remodeling work has been done on the property, there may be mechanics’ liens filed by contractors or subcontractors. Check with the local building department or the county recorder’s office for any such liens.

11. Real Estate Agent or Broker: Consult with a knowledgeable real estate agent or broker. They often have access to resources and can guide you through the process of finding out if a property has a lien.


1. What happens if a property has a lien?
If a property has a lien, the creditor has the legal right to sell the property to recover the debt. The lien must be satisfied before the property can be transferred.

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2. Are all liens recorded?
Not all liens are recorded. Some liens, like mechanics’ liens, may not be recorded until a dispute arises.

3. Can liens be removed?
Liens can be removed if the underlying debt is paid off or if the lien is proven to be invalid or fraudulent.

4. Can liens be negotiated or settled?
In some cases, creditors may be willing to negotiate or settle the debt to release the lien.

5. Can liens affect property value?
Yes, liens can affect property value as they are an encumbrance on the property. Buyers may be hesitant to purchase a property with outstanding liens.

6. Can liens be missed in a title search?
While rare, it is possible for liens to be missed in a title search. This is why obtaining title insurance is recommended.

7. How long do liens stay on a property?
The duration of a lien depends on the type of lien and the laws of the jurisdiction. Some liens expire after a certain period if not enforced.

8. Can liens be transferred to the new owner?
Liens typically stay with the property, meaning they are transferred to the new owner upon purchase.

9. Can liens be placed on inherited property?
Inherited property can be subject to liens, especially if the deceased owner had outstanding debts.

10. Do all liens need to be paid off before purchasing a property?
Liens that are attached to the property must be paid off before purchasing the property, as they become the buyer’s responsibility.

11. Is it possible to buy a property with a lien?
It is possible to purchase a property with a lien, but it is crucial to ensure that the lien is paid off or settled before or during the purchase process.

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