What Is a Lien (Definition, Sorts, Investing)

A lien is a monetary declare that an individual or firm has on a property. Liens are typically positioned on actual property, resembling properties and industrial buildings, however they can be positioned on different types of property, resembling vehicles, investments, and enterprise gear. 

How Do Liens Work?

The phrase “lien” comes from the Latin phrase ligare, which suggests “to bind”—so a lien binds a debtor to the property. 

Like a ship anchor, liens are monetary anchors that maintain a property again till launched. They restrict what might be accomplished with a property, together with promoting it.

Associated: Property Lien Search: Easy methods to Seek for Liens on Property

Actually, liens give the collectors authorized rights, which may embody foreclosing on the property and promoting it to fulfill the lien.

Getting a lien requires making a courtroom submitting within the county the place the property is positioned. Completely different localities and states have totally different legal guidelines and procedures round submitting liens.  

Completely different Sorts of Liens

Liens can both be consensual or nonconsensual (often known as statutory). 

Consensual liens (often known as a voluntary lien) are ones you conform to—like when your property or automobile serves as collateral for a mortgage or auto mortgage. For instance, a mortgage lien stays on your property till the debt is paid. 

Nonconsensual or involuntary liens, in the meantime, are placed on a property due to excellent debt. There are a number of widespread sorts of nonconsensual liens:

Mechanic’s liens

A mechanic’s lien is mostly levied by a contractor or subcontractor for unpaid work on a house or property. To be able to put a mechanic’s lien on the property, the contractor or subcontractor must go to courtroom to get a judgment.

Tax liens 

Tax liens are statutory liens for unpaid taxes positioned by the taxing authority: both a federal, state, or native authorities. One widespread instance is property tax liens. These liens have to be paid earlier than mortgages. 

An Inner Income Service (IRS) tax lien attaches to all present and future belongings, together with private property, motor autos, and investments. A federal tax lien in america will hardly ever be a shock: The IRS will ship a discover of tax due and demand cost earlier than inserting a lien. 

Judgment liens

A judgment lien might be awarded by judges if somebody information a lawsuit for cash owed and wins. Submitting a judgment lien on the property as a part of the judgment could be the one option to acquire the cash due. 

A judgment lien is often awarded in small claims courtroom instances.

Lawyer’s liens

Lawyer’s liens guarantee cost for authorized payments. Such a lien, usually utilized in private damage instances, ensures the legal professional is paid essential authorized charges out of the shopper’s award.

Whereas all these liens are most typical, there are others that would affect you. 

Lien vs. Encumbrance

An encumbrance is, broadly, a third-party declare towards your property. 

A property lien is an encumbrance, however not all encumbrances are liens—liens are the one financial-related encumbrance. They’re additionally the commonest encumbrance. 

Different encumbrances embody deed restrictions, easements, and encroachments, which may place restrictions on how an asset can be utilized or restrict the switch of the property:

  • Deed restrictions restrict the usage of a property, resembling limiting modifications to historic parts of a house. 
  • Easements give a 3rd get together a authorized proper to make use of the land—utility firms, for instance, typically have easements to evaluate gear and assemble energy strains.
  • Encroachments are when one other property proprietor’s construction intrudes in your land.

Eradicating Liens From a Property

The best option to get a lien lifted is by cost of a debt. Alternatively, the lien holder and property proprietor can conform to a reimbursement plan on the situation that the lien holder take away the lien. 

Though liens are secured loans, some might be discharged in chapter.

Promoting or foreclosing on the property may also fulfill a lien—the sale proceeds shall be used to pay the debt holder. Nevertheless, this could damage the property proprietor’s credit standing if the lean was nonconsensual. 

If the proprietor sells the property, they have to repay the liens. For instance, a financed automobile can have a lien hooked up to the title. To ensure that the person to promote or commerce within the automobile, the remaining debt should first be paid to the lender.

Tax Lien Investing as a Actual Property Technique

Investing in tax liens is another actual property technique that may provide excessive returns. Nevertheless, it’s a sector that requires specialised data and a proactive method to attenuate danger. 

Associated: Tax Lien Investing: How To Discover Tax Delinquent Properties Close to Me

Listed here are the steps for getting began:

1. Perceive what a tax lien is

Earlier than diving in, it’s essential to grasp what’s a lien. A tax lien is a authorized declare by a authorities authority towards a property when the property proprietor fails to pay taxes on it. The lien secures the federal government’s declare on all proceeds from the sale of the property, and in some instances, an investor can purchase the property itself.

2.  Analysis the principles and rules

Tax lien legal guidelines range by state, so familiarize your self with the principles, rates of interest, and redemption durations that apply in your space of curiosity. Some jurisdictions have on-line assets, or you may seek the advice of with authorized professionals skilled in tax lien investments.

3. Assess the danger and return

The returns on tax liens might be engaging, however they aren’t with out danger. Assess the property situation, neighborhood, and market developments. An in depth due diligence course of may also help you gauge the potential returns towards the dangers concerned.

4. Attend tax lien auctions

Tax liens are sometimes offered via public auctions. You’ll be able to attend these both in individual or on-line. Make certain you set a finances beforehand and follow it to keep away from overbidding.

5. Monitor your funding

When you personal a tax lien certificates, it’s essential to observe your funding. Hold monitor of the redemption interval, throughout which the house owner can repay the again taxes, with curiosity, to reclaim their property. If the interval expires with out cost, you will have the choice to foreclose on the property.

6. Exit technique

Have a transparent exit technique in place. Whether or not it’s gathering on the lien plus curiosity, acquiring the property via foreclosures, or promoting your lien to a different investor, realizing your finish recreation will aid you handle your funding successfully.

7. Rinse and repeat

After you’ve accomplished one profitable tax lien funding, assess what you’ve discovered and apply it to future investments. This can be a sector the place expertise and specialised data can considerably increase your returns.


On the whole phrases, a lien is a manner of claiming that somebody owes cash. Liens might be hooked up to issues like homes, vehicles, or different beneficial objects. Realizing how liens work may also help you in two methods. 

First, it may possibly shield you from entering into bother with your personal property. And second, you can also make cash by investing in sure sorts of liens. 

Now that we’ve answered the query “what’s a lien,” you’re in a greater place to make knowledgeable selections concerning your personal property or when investing.

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Observe By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the writer and don’t essentially symbolize the opinions of BiggerPockets.