The basis of a lien is an unpaid debt. There are several types of liens. The most common are judgment, tax and mechanics liens.
Judgment liens. When a debt goes unpaid, the creditor seeks a judgment in court. If the judgment goes unpaid, the creditor asks the court to place a judgment lien on some property, like your commercial property or your home. The effect of the lien is to place a security hold against the property that must be fully paid off before the property can be sold.
A lien holder cannot foreclose on the property but can demand payment to release the lien. If payment is not made, the lien holder must wait for the property to be sold before the judgment is satisfied.
Tax liens. A government agency such as a state or county or other taxing authority, like the Internal Revenue Service, can place a tax lien on property for the amount of unpaid taxes.
Mechanics liens. These are placed on vehicles or real estate filed by contractors, subcontractors, laborers or materials suppliers who have worked on your property or vehicle. When paying a contractor, you must be sure that the contractor has paid all subcontractors, laborers and suppliers. If not, even though you have paid the contractor, these folks can still file a lien on your property.
TYPES OF PROPERTY TARGETED FOR LIENS
For practical purposes, the property against which a lien is placed is something that carries a title that is registered by a government agency. The most likely property is real estate. The lien is recorded with the deed, which guarantees the property cannot be sold without first satisfying the judgment on which the lien is based. Other property can include vehicles with titles, although these usually carry relatively little cash value, so the debt needs to be small. When filing a lien, you want to be sure the property value exceeds the judgment whenever possible.
HOW TO FIND A LIEN ON PROPERTY
Usually, you can conduct a title search through the government agency grant-ing the title to the property. For real property, that would be the county records. Liens and judgments are matters of public record, so a starting point is an online public-records search service. For example, you can find liens and liens released since 2011 in Business Insider's online Public Records Database at business.idahostatesman.com. You also can search through the county's tax assessor, the county clerk's office, or the county records office, depending on the county's administrative structure. If you are buying real estate, your lender will require a title search. That will uncover liens and title insurance.
HOW LIENS ARE RELEASED
Once the judgment - the debt - is satisfied or forgiven, the lien holder signs a written waiver and lien release stating he no longer has a financial interest in the property. The release is recorded just as the lien was. Because the recording of this is in the property owner's interests more than the former lien holder's, the owner must ensure the release is recorded.
Waivers and releases may be conditional or unconditional. You should seek competent legal advice when drawing up waivers and releases so your rights are fully protected.