Last updated on August 14th, 2023 at 12:18 pm

Quick Facts:

  •  In the United States, the most common type of lien is a mortgage lien, which is placed on a property when the owner takes out a loan to purchase it. 
  • The average amount of a mortgage lien in the U.S. is $200,000. 
  • In 2019, the average interest rate on a mortgage lien was 3.9%. 

Owning a home is one of the most significant milestones in anyone’s life, but it comes with its own set of responsibilities. One such issue that homeowners may face is a lien on their property. 

A lien is a legal claim on your property made by creditors, and it can be a nightmare to deal with. 

We will walk you through everything you need to know about liens on homes, including what they are, how they can affect your finances and property ownership, who can place them, and how to remove them. 

We’ll also provide tips on how to avoid property liens in the future so that you can enjoy your dream home without any legal worries.

how do liens work

Understanding House Liens

Liens on homes are legal claims that provide security to lenders, allowing them to take legal action to satisfy debts and obligations. 

Types of liens include tax liens or mechanic’s liens. 

Homeowners must check for liens on their property before any sale. Negative effects of having a lien on your home include no longer impact credit scores. 

Removing a lien from your home involves negotiating with the lienholder or paying off the debt.

Types of Liens Placed on Homes

Various types of liens can be placed on a property, such as mechanic’s liens, tax liens or judgment liens. 

Mechanic’s liens are usually filed by contractors or suppliers who haven’t received payment for their work done on the property. 

Tax liens are filed by the government when property taxes remain unpaid while judgment liens come into effect when a creditor obtains a court order to collect money owed. 

Identify the type of lien on your property to determine how best you can resolve it.

Tax Liens and Your Home

When you fail to pay your income tax or property taxes, a tax lien can be placed on your real estate. 

A lienholder can file a legal claim or right against your property that remains until you repay the outstanding debt. 

To resolve this issue, you can opt for payment plans or negotiate with the government agencies involved in filing the federal tax lien. 

Get advice from lawyers and financial advisors so that they can help you navigate through the complexities of releasing these liens on your property.

cash house buyer can also purchase your home and the lien will be extinguished.

Judgment Liens and How They Work

When a creditor wins a lawsuit against you for unpaid debts or court-ordered payments, they may file a judgment lien against your home. 

This legal claim serves as a security interest in the property to ensure payment if it’s sold. 

Unfortunately, this lien can negatively affect the sale or refinancing of your home. 

Negotiating with the creditor or paying off the debt are among some of the ways to deal with this issue. In some cases, filing for bankruptcy could also be an option.

Mechanic’s Liens - What You Need to Know

If you’ve had work done on your property but haven’t paid for it in full, there’s a chance a mechanic’s lien could be placed on it. 

Mechanic’s liens are legal claims filed by contractors or suppliers who were not compensated for their services or materials used. 

This type of lien can result in recovering proceeds from the sale of your home to cover outstanding debts. 

To avoid this situation altogether, homeowners should ensure contractors and suppliers are fully paid before closing out a construction project. 

If you find yourself with a mechanic’s lien against your property, it’s best to seek legal advice and negotiate with the lienholder to resolve the issue.

Just know that a lien can be placed on a house by a contractor who has performed work on the property and has not been paid. 

Effects of Having a Lien on your House

Having a lien on your home can significantly impact your finances and property ownership. 

Liens can restrict your right to sell or refinance your real estate, potentially leading to foreclosure or legal action if outstanding debts remain unpaid. 

To avoid these consequences, you must swiftly address any liens by negotiating with the lienholder. 

Protect yourself from future liens by paying bills promptly and maintaining accurate records. 

These proactive measures will help maintain a clear title for both personal and real property.

Credit Scores and Liens

A lien placed on your home could have a negative impact on your credit score since lenders view liens as a risk factor. 

Approval of loans or credit applications might be hesitant because of this reason. 

Even if the lien is paid off or released, it can stay on the credit report for up to 10 years. Resolving and paying off the lien in full will help improve the credit score over time.

Foreclosure and Liens

When a lien is placed on your home, it can lead to foreclosure by the lender if left unpaid.  

To prevent this legal possession by the lender, you should negotiate a payment plan, settle debt for less than what is owed or file for bankruptcy. 

Monitor your credit report regularly to ensure that the lien has been properly removed as it can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. 

A lien also negatively impacts your credit score and ability to secure loans or credit applications from lenders who view liens as risky collateral.

Creditor Rights and Liens

When a homeowner fails to pay their debt, creditors have the legal right to place a lien on their property. 

This creates a legal claim on their collateral such as real estate or personal property. 

Tax liens, judgment liens and mechanic’s liens are some common types of liens that can be placed on your home.

Having outstanding debt may affect your credit score and make it difficult for lenders to approve loans. 

Creditors can negotiate with you for payment plans or settlements and release the lien once paid off.

It’s important to address these promptly and get advice from an attorney if necessary to avoid further complications.

What Happens When a Lien Is Placed on Your Home

A lien on your home means a creditor has a legal right to your property. 

You cannot sell or refinance your home until the lien is paid off. 

If unpaid, the creditor may foreclose on your home. 

Work with the creditor to resolve the issue and release the lien promptly.

Who Can Place a Lien on Your Property

Placing a lien on a property means someone has a legal claim to part of its value. 

Creditors or government agencies can place liens for unpaid debts or taxes, which can hinder selling or refinancing the home until resolved. 

Say for example you took out a home line of equity on your house, this would be another type of lien that might be placed on your property. 

The Process of Placing a Lien on Your Real Estate

Placing a lien on your home involves creating a legal right for a creditor or government agency to claim the outstanding debt owed. 

This creates collateral in case of default and repayment issues for the borrower or homeowner. 

A title search is done by lenders before granting loans to check for any outstanding liens. 

To clear title, one needs to work with creditors and come up with payment plans to settle unpaid debts. 

The county recorder’s office has common types of liens that are considered public record. 

Removing government tax liens like income tax and federal tax liens can be done through filing processes and following court orders.

Removing a Lien from Your Property

Removing a voluntary or involuntary lien from your property can be a complex process that requires careful attention to ensure you have clear title. 

To begin with, it’s important to identify the legal right and type of lien placed on your property by a creditor or government agency such as an IRS tax lien or mechanic’s/subcontractor’s liens related to construction work done on your property. 

Negotiating repayment terms with the lienholder and filing disputes are two common ways homeowners try resolving outstanding debt that led to placing of liens. 

The IRS has great information about discharging federal liens on your home.

Don’t have the money to pay of a lien? Companies that buy houses can help you with that.

How to Remove a Lien

To remove a lien from your property, start by identifying the specific type of lien and outstanding debt. 

Once you have this information, it’s essential to negotiate with the lienholder and find ways to settle or reduce the amount owed. 

You can also file a dispute if you believe that the lien is invalid or inaccurate. 

To simplify the process, consider working with a real estate professional who can provide guidance on title searches and release of liens. 

Once you’ve successfully paid off all outstanding liens and debts related to your property, obtain a release of lien document for proof of satisfaction.

Dealing With the IRS and Liens

Effective communication is necessary when dealing with IRS liens.

To navigate the complex process of removing these legal claims on your property that can affect the sale or refinancing of your home, enlist the help of a tax attorney or financial advisor.

Explore different payment options such as negotiating a payment plan or offer in compromise. In extreme cases, filing for bankruptcy may be necessary.

Prompt removal is vital; don’t let outstanding liens accumulate and saddle you with additional debt.

How to Avoid Home Liens in the Future

To prevent liens on your home, it’s important to pay off all outstanding debts on time, including mortgages, taxes, and other loans.

Regular communication with creditors can help negotiate payment plans if needed.

Working with a real estate attorney to review contracts and performing title searches before purchasing property can also ensure lien-free transactions.

Additionally, consider obtaining title insurance for added protection against possible future liens.

Keep in mind that liens are legal claims on your property that can negatively affect your credit score and ability to sell or refinance your home, so it’s always best to stay proactive in managing debt and payments.

What happens if the property owner fails to pay the debt that the lien is attached to

If a property owner fails to pay the debt associated with a lien, the creditor or lienholder might have the right to take legal action to enforce the lien. 

The specific process and remedies available to the creditor may vary depending on the type of lien and the laws in your state. Here are some possible actions that could be taken:

Foreclosure: In the case of a mortgage lien, if the homeowner defaults on the mortgage payments, the lender can initiate foreclosure proceedings. 

Foreclosure is a legal process that allows the lender to take possession of the property and sell it to recover the outstanding debt. The specific foreclosure process and timeline vary by jurisdiction.

Sale of Property: In some cases, the lienholder may choose to sell the property to satisfy the debt.

 This can occur through a forced sale, such as a foreclosure auction or a court-ordered sale

The proceeds from the sale are then used to repay the debt, and any surplus may be returned to the property owner.

Debt Collection Actions: If the lien arises from an unpaid judgment or tax debt, the creditor or government agency may pursue other debt collection methods. 

This could include wage garnishment, bank account levies, or placing additional liens on other assets owned by the debtor.

Final Take-aways

A lien on your home can be stressful and overwhelming to deal with. Understanding the types of liens, their effects, and how to remove them.

It’s important to stay up-to-date on your taxes and payments, as well as vetting any contractors before hiring them for work on your property.

If you’re facing a lien or want to avoid one in the future, it’s best to seek professional advice from a real estate attorney or financial advisor.

Don’t let a lien hold you back from enjoying your home.