What is a Lien?

Liens can be placed by governments and creditors to satisfy a debt. A lien must be filed through a local court.

If you are searching through a person's court records and find they have a lien against them or their property, you many not understand what that means. A lien is a claim placed against a person's property in an effort to collect for money that is owed. The most common form of lien is a tax lien, often filed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). When someone is unable or refuses to pay taxes owed, the IRS will place a lien against their home, car and in some cases their bank account. If the person still does not pay, the IRS can sell the property or seize their money to satisfy the debt.

Often state and county taxing agents will place a lien on a property to satisfy back property taxes that are owed. If the taxes are not paid, the home or land could be sold on the courthouse steps. Many realtors and investors check court records often to see which properties are close to being sold. These investors will often go to the debtor and offer to help them pay the back taxes and avoid having to have their property sold because of the lien.

Many mortgage companies also use liens as a way to satisfy a debt. Placing a lien on a property is an important step in the foreclosure process. If the debt is not satisfied, the property can be sold.

The government is not the only debtor that can place a lien. If you search through court records, you will find many car companies will place a lien on a person's home in an effort to collect a past debt. Often, the company will place a lien against the car itself if they cannot find the vehicle for repossession. A mechanic's lien applies not only to mechanics, but to anyone who does a service. For example, if you had a room added on to your home and you didn't pay for the labor or materials, the contractor may place a lien on your home or other property. If you are about to purchase property and you wonder if the property has a lien against it, you could spend hours at the courthouse trying to find the records you need. If you don't want to spend your gas or time, you can search from the comfort of you own home using a service that provides court records online. You will need to know the county where the property is located and its address. An online court records search is the easiest way to find out about liens.