a real estate agent discusses property liens

Property Lien: Definition, Types, and How It Works

Understanding property liens is essential for anyone involved in real estate transactions. These legal claims against a property can significantly impact its ownership and transfer, making it crucial for buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals to grasp their intricacies. From general liens to specific ones, voluntary to involuntary, the world of property liens is highly complex and multifaceted. Read on as we delve into the nuances of property liens, exploring the types, implications, and how they function in real estate transactions.

What are Property Liens?

Liens are legal claims against a property that serve as security for the repayment of a debt or an obligation. They can affect the transfer of property ownership and have significant implications for both buyers and sellers.

General Liens vs. Specific Liens

There are two main categories to consider when it comes to property liens: general liens and specific liens. But what’s the difference?

General liens apply to all a person’s properties and are typically associated with a court judgment. On the other hand, specific liens are tied to a particular property and often arise from an agreement contract.

Voluntary Liens vs. Involuntary Liens

Another important distinction to make is between voluntary liens and involuntary liens. Voluntary liens are created by a property owner’s choice, such as a mortgage or home equity loan. In contrast, involuntary liens are imposed on a property without the owner’s consent, often due to unpaid debts or legal obligations.

Different Types of Property Liens

Let’s explore some of the most common types of liens you may come across in the real estate industry.

1. Mortgage liens

Mortgage liens are voluntary liens that lenders place on a property as collateral for a loan used to purchase the property. When a homeowner fails to make mortgage payments, the lender may initiate foreclosure proceedings to recover the outstanding debt.

2. Homeowners’ Association liens

Homeowners’ association (HOA) liens can be voluntary or involuntary, depending on the situation. These liens typically arise when homeowners fail to pay their HOA fees or violate the association’s rules and regulations. HOAs have the authority to place liens on properties and even foreclose on them if necessary.

3. Property tax liens

Property tax liens are imposed by the government when property owners fail to pay their property taxes. These liens take priority over other liens and can result in the sale of a property at a tax auction to recover the unpaid taxes.

4. Judgment liens

Judgment liens are general liens that arise from a court judgment in favor of a creditor. If a property owner loses a lawsuit and is ordered to pay a debt, the creditor can place a judgment lien on the property to ensure the debt is repaid. These liens can affect the property’s marketability and may need to be satisfied before a sale occurs.

5. Mechanic’s liens

Mechanic’s liens are specific liens that contractors, subcontractors, or suppliers can place on a property when they haven’t been paid for work or materials provided. These liens provide a way for construction professionals to seek payment for their services and can complicate property transactions if not resolved.

How Do Creditors Collect on Real Property Liens?

Creditors can enforce property liens by taking legal action to recover the outstanding debt. This can involve initiating foreclosure proceedings, forcing the sale of the property, or seeking court approval for a sale. The proceeds from the sale are then used to satisfy the debt, with any remaining funds going to other lienholders in order of priority.

How to Have a Lien Removed?

If you encounter a property with an existing lien, it’s crucial to understand the process of having it removed. Typically, the lienholder must be paid the outstanding debt in full or negotiate a settlement. Once the debt is satisfied, the lienholder will issue a Lien Satisfaction Form, which should be recorded with the appropriate government authority to clear the property’s title.

Types of Loans That Require Liens

  • Mortgage loans, including conventional mortgages, FHA loans, USDA loans, VA loans
  • Home equity loans
  • Home equity lines of credit
  • Certain business loans
  • Auto loans
  • Construction loans

Types of Loans That Don’t Require Liens

  • Personal loans
  • Unsecured loans and lines of credit
  • Payday loans
  • Student loans
  • Medical debt

FAQs about Mortgage Liens

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers about mortgage liens.

Can a property have multiple mortgage liens?

Yes, it’s possible to have multiple mortgage liens if the owner has taken multiple loans out against the property.

Can mortgage liens be transferred or sold?

Mortgage liens can be transferred or sold to other lenders or investors. However, the new lien holder assumes the rights and responsibilities associated with the lien.

Can mortgage liens be refinanced?

Yes, homeowners can refinance their mortgage, which involves paying off the existing lien with a new loan. This can help lower interest rates or change the loan terms.

How long does a mortgage lien stay on a property?

The duration of a mortgage lien depends on the loan term. The lien is typically released once the mortgage is fully paid off and the property is no longer encumbered.

Understanding property liens is essential for real estate professionals, as it enables you to navigate complex transactions, advise clients, and ensure a smooth buying or selling process. By familiarizing yourself with the various types of liens and their implications, you can better protect your clients’ interests and help them make informed decisions about their real estate investments.

Become a Real Estate Expert with Colibri Real Estate

Getting your real estate license and launching a career as a real estate agent will enable you to become an expert – not just in liens – but in all things related to buying and selling a property. Colibri Real Estate School is the top online school for aspiring real estate professionals, with the resources you need to pass your real estate exam and get your real estate license online. Contact us today if you are ready to learn more or get started.