Published by Kartik Subramaniam
Part of preparing for the real estate exam involves studying as much vocabulary as possible. One vocabulary word that is worth reviewing is the word “lien”. The purpose of this article is to go over a few different examples of liens that are commonly tested on the real estate exam. You might have already read my article on encumbrances - if not that link is worth reading once you are done with this more specific article.
While reading this, bear in mind that liens are quite common and don’t always need to be viewed as scary or fatal to the title to real estate.
Simply put, a lien is a claim or legal right that a creditor has against a property to secure payment of an obligation or other debt by the property. If the debt is not paid, the creditor may have the right to sell the property through foreclosure.
Some liens can affect all property of a debtor. These are called “general” liens and are so called because they affect everything that a debtor might own. Examples of general liens might include judgements and income tax liens.
Other liens are known as “specific” and only affect one particular property. As an example, a mortgage lien is a specific lien because the lien only pertains to the property on which the loan is placed. Imagine you have two houses, one in Los Angeles and another in San Diego. If you refinance your house in San Diego and put a mortgage on it the lien only relates to the San Diego home and not the house in Los Angeles - hence mortgage liens are “specific”.
There are several other types of liens that can be placed on real estate and I’ve outlined some of the most common below. These are worth memorizing and understanding so you have context for the state exam. You might remember a lot of this from real estate school but this article is worth it as a refresher.
Property Tax Liens: As the name suggests, property tax liens are filed by the government to secure payment of delinquent property taxes. If the taxes are not paid, the government may have the right to foreclose on the property. The lien is typically recorded in the county where the property is located and becomes a part of the public record.
If a property tax lien is filed against a property, it may impact the ability of the owner to sell or refinance the property until the taxes are paid or the lien is removed. Again, in some states, the government may have the right to sell the property at a tax sale if the taxes remain unpaid for a specified period of time.
Income tax liens: Like property tax liens, income tax liens can have a significant impact on real estate. An income tax lien is a claim made by the government to secure payment of delinquent income taxes owed by an individual or a business. If an individual or a business fails to pay their income taxes, the government may place a lien on real property to secure payment of the taxes owed.
The income tax lien is recorded at the county in which the property is located and becomes part of the public record. The lien provides the government with a legal claim to the property and gives them the right to foreclose on the property if the taxes remain unpaid. The specific requirements for filing an income tax lien vary by state, so it is important for property owners to be aware of the laws in their jurisdiction.
Mechanics Liens: No - this lien doesn’t have anything to do with leaving your car too long at the mechanic. A mechanics lien is a claim by a contractor, subcontractor, or supplier to secure payment for work performed or materials supplied for the improvement of real property.
A mechanics lien provides a legal claim to the payment for work performed or materials supplied on a property and allows the contractor, subcontractor, or supplier to potentially foreclose on the property if the debt is not paid. The mechanics lien is typically filed with the local government and recorded in the county where the property is located.
In order for a mechanics lien to be valid, certain requirements must be met, such as proper notice to the property owner, the use of proper forms, and timely filing of the lien.
If a mechanics lien is filed against a property, it may impact the ability of the property owner to sell or refinance the property until the debt is paid or the lien is removed. It is important for property owners to monitor any liens that may be filed against their property and to take steps to resolve any liens in a timely manner.
Judgment Liens: A judgment lien is a claim by a creditor to secure payment of a debt that has been awarded in a court of law. This type of lien can be filed against a property if the debtor loses a lawsuit and is ordered to pay.
The judgment lien is typically filed with the local government and recorded in the county where the property is located.
Homeowner Association Liens: A homeowner association (HOA) lien is a claim by a homeowner association to secure payment of delinquent HOA fees or assessments owed to the association. If the fees or assessments are not paid, the homeowner association may have the right to foreclose on the property.
This type of lien is filed by a homeowner association to collect unpaid fees for common area maintenance, landscaping, security, and other services provided to homeowners in the association.
It is important for real estate owners to understand the liens that may be placed and to take steps to prevent or resolve any liens that may be filed against their property. This may involve paying any delinquent debts or taxes, negotiating with creditors, or consulting with a real estate attorney.
In conclusion, liens are a way for creditors to secure payment of a debt or obligation related to a property. Liens can have a significant impact on the ownership and value of a property and it is important for real estate owners to understand the liens that may be placed on their property and to take steps to prevent or resolve any liens that may be filed against their property.
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