Creditors have many ways of recovering money that people owe them. One of those ways is by putting a lien on their debtors’ properties. So, if you are interested in investing in a property in Florida or own property there and have debts, you need to check the public records for Florida property liens before you decide on the next step.
Read More: What Are the Various Types of Liens?
What Is a Lien on a House?
A lien on a house is a prior claim that a creditor puts on it that gives them a right to it. For example, a property lien makes your home collateral to be sold off if you fail to pay off what you owe, so that the creditor can recover what is due to them. Banks, contractors and even courts use them.
Property liens are usually in the form of notices filed with the county records office in your locale. Sometimes, public lien records are filed with state agencies.
The most common lien is the mortgage lien that buyers grant mortgage lenders the right to claim. This will prevent you from selling or refinancing a home without the permission of that lender.
Generally, the first one to put a lien on a property tends to have a higher priority when the house is liquidated. However, exemptions happen. Some liens, such as property tax liens, will be prioritized even if they were placed later.
Due to the legal weight property liens carry, you need to ensure you learn how to check for liens on a property for free lest you cannot buy and sell it or it gets foreclosed while in your possession.
Read More: How to File a Property Lien
How to Check for Tax Liens on Property
In Florida, creditors may obtain judgment liens on personal properties. The liens are filed with the Florida Department of State in such cases. Also, a creditor can record a judgment lien with a local county recorder within the county where the debtor owns property.
Therefore, because of how liens are recorded, they are public records, making it easier for you to perform a free lien search on property parcels you are interested in learning about.
First, determine what kind of online lien search tool you want to use. You may start your search on sites such as the Department of State of Florida, Lien Records Finder, your local county court clerk’s office and Court House Direct, among others.
Next, find out information on the property that you want to investigate or its owners because they will be instrumental in helping you conduct a free search on the property. For example, you could perform a property lien search by address if you know the street address of the house you want to investigate. Alternatively, you could investigate the property owner by using their names to find out whether any liens have been taken against them. Other details that can help you search include zip codes, trademark names, document numbers and EINs.
If you cannot find the information you need online, you need to visit the local office of the clerk of the courts in person and ask to see the public records pertaining to the Florida property you are interested in.
When you find any lien on the property online, you can download and print it. If you visit the county offices in person, you can ask for copies of the lien.
Be sure to check out the satisfaction of liens documents too. These are documents that show the terms that led to the imposition of the lien have been satisfied and the debtor is now free of the lien. The clerks of courts usually have them.
They are also public records and you would need them in case any dispute arises. So, download and print them or ask for copies of the official release documents. If there is no satisfaction of liens documents, the chances are that your property still has a lien attached to it.
To safeguard your financial interests, ensure you or the property seller has title insurance. The insurance safeguards you if the property title is unclear and has an unknown lien attached to it.
Real estate brokers are usually more connected than the average person. Therefore, they are in a better position to find out whether a property has an attached lien. You may want to consult one if you are interested in a property in Florida and have no idea about its status.
Read More: Why Do I Need Title Insurance?
A free line search on property parcels is time-intensive because you have to do it on your own. So, you may want to pay a company to perform the search on your behalf. Also, if the property you are interested in lies on or near the county line, you may want to investigate the neighboring county records for the liens too.
- Nolo: What Is a Property Lien?
- Forbes: Liens: What They Are And How They Work
- DOS.MyFlorida: Judgment Lien
- Nolo: Judgment Liens on Property in Florida
- DOS.MyFlorida: Search Records
- Lien Records Finder: Lien Records Search
- Court House Direct: Florida
- Law Insider: Satisfaction of Liens Sample Clauses
- Michigan.Gov: Consumer Counselor- Insurance Information for Michigan Consumers
I hold a BS in Computer Science and have been a freelance writer since 2011. When I am not writing, I enjoy reading, watching cooking and lifestyle shows, and fantasizing about world travels.