How to Find Out if a Lien Was Put Against Your House

By Teo Spengler - Updated April 03, 2017

If a lien was put against your real property, you definitely want to know about it. Search the records in the office of the state property recorder in the county in which the house is located.

Is There a Lien on my House?

A property lien is legal notice to the world that you owe someone money. The creditor prepares the lien and records it in the same recorder's office where you recorded your property deed when you bought the house. Anyone going to that office to take a look at your title will discover the lien.

A lien holder files the lien to secure his debt. Some lien holders have the right to sell the property to collect what you owe them, but for most liens, it isn't economical if you have a mortgage. Since the mortgage was probably placed on the property before the liens, it will have to be paid off from sale proceeds before any liens are paid.

Still, for a creditor, putting a lien on your property secures the debt since you cannot sell or refinance the property without clearing the liens. A property lien almost guarantees that the creditor will, in time, collect the debt from you.

How Do I Know if my House Has a Lien?

If you owe state or federal taxes that you have not paid, or you are in a disagreement with a contractor over payment for work done, you can be pretty sure your house has a lien. But it's always better to be sure and not hard to nail it down.

You can proceed in any of a number of ways to find out if there are liens on your house. It is easiest to use an online search provided by the county recorder, county assessor or county clerk where property records are kept in your area. You'll find the link to an online search engine on the office's website.

If the relevant county recorder does not offer online search or you would rather perform the search in person, head over to the property records office. Once you are there, ask a clerk to help you figure out the liens on your property. You'll find it easier to bring a copy of a recent property tax assessment to provide the required information.

Another option is to take your inquiry to a title company. Part of the job of title companies is to run title searches, so this kind of search is right up their alley. There is likely to be a fee, however.

About the Author

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.

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