Placing a lien on property and executing the lien are two different processes. In the state of Pennsylvania, an unsecured creditor with the right court documents may place a lien on joint property. Depending on the type of joint ownership of the property, the creditor may be unable to enforce the lien through a sale of the property.
In Pennsylvania, unsecured creditors may only place a lien against property if they win a lawsuit against the property owner or owners. An unsecured creditor is defined as one who has loaned money without benefit of collateral. Credit card lenders are examples of unsecured creditors. The creditor must file a complaint in the form of a lawsuit against the debtor before the Pennsylvania statute of limitations for debt collection expires. The state statute of limitations there is four years for all types of unsecured debt.
If an unsecured creditor files a complaint against the debtor and wins a judgment, the judgment is valid for 20 years in Pennsylvania. Creditors with judgments may file a lien against real or personal property by paying the designated fees for recording the lien with the clerk of court of the county where the judgment was entered. Judgment liens are enforceable for five years, but they may be revived before they expire.
Marital Joint Property Lien
The state of Pennsylvania protects real and personal property that is jointly owned by a married couple from being sold due to a lien placed by unsecured creditors. The creditor may attach the lien to marital property, which clouds the title, but the lien will only be satisfied if the couple voluntarily sells the joint property. Marital property is owned as a tenancy by the entirety. If the married couple becomes divorced or if one spouse dies, the joint ownership reverts to tenants in common.
Types of Ownership
Property held jointly that is not marital property may be subject to the execution of an unsecured creditors lien. The types of ownership dictates how much of the property that may be attached by the lien. For example, a property with multiple owners may be held as tenants in common where each owner owns an equal share. Judgment liens attach to the undivided share of the property owned by the judgment debtor. If multiple owners jointly own property in Pennsylvania under a joint tenancy with common law right of survivorship, the judgment lien also attaches to the portion of the property owned by the debtor.