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Are Liens on Property Public Record?

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If you are buying or selling a property, then you might have wondered about liens, and whether liens are in a property’s public records. Since the discovery of a lien against a property can derail the entire sale, you want to know if any exist. Find out more about property liens, and learn where to find liens on property public record.

What Is a Lien?

A lien against a property attaches a notice to the property title record that declares the owner owes an unpaid debt to the lien holder. Basically, A lien acts as collateral for the debt, and it gives the unpaid party legal claim to a portion of the property when it is sold.

Types of Property Liens

Several types of property liens are common:

  • Mechanical / Contractor: A mechanical lien comes from contractors who completed home improvement projects or constructed a new building but were not paid by the owner for their services and materials.
  • Judgment: A judgment lien results when a court rules that money is owed to another party, such as for settlements related to unpaid credit card debt, child support, or awards for civil damages.
  • Tax: Unpaid taxes, such as local property taxes or owed federal tax payments, lead to tax liens.

How to Find Liens on Property Public Record

Because liens are on property public record, finding information about liens is relatively simple. Local jurisdictions maintain official records related to properties, including property deeds and notices of liens. This information typically is searchable by address in most states, available in person or online at the county recorder, county clerk, or assessor’s office.

You can hire a title company to conduct a search of the property ownership history and any claims against the property. Any liens would be found during the standard search process in preparation of a title report. A title report is an essential part of any property’s sale.

What to Do if Property Has a Lien?

Your course of action in response to finding a lien on a property depends on your relationship with the property.

If You’re the Owner / Seller

If you discover a lien on your property, you must clear the lien before selling or refinancing the property. When property is sold, the title needs to be clear of encumbrances such as liens. If you already paid the lien, contact the appropriate party and provide a lien release as proof. If you have not paid the underlying debt, then you must pay the debt to clear the lien or otherwise account for this as part of the closing requirements.

If You’re the Buyer

Your purchase agreement likely includes a title report contingency, and if a lien exists on the property you might have the option to walk away from the deal without penalty. You also could require the owner clear the lien prior to closing or include funds to pay the debt and include at closing.

If you’re looking for more property information about residential or commercial real estate, then search the more than 140 million records on the ProspectNow platform, where you’ll find owner contact details, detailed property information, and predictions of properties likely to sell. Use ProspectNow to find the information you need for a competitive edge.

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