In the state of Florida, in order to place a property lien, the lien holder must record the lien at the local county courthouse. The lien then remains in place until the holder files a document called a "satisfaction of lien," which signifies that the lien has been paid and released. Consequently, if you want to find out whether a lien has been placed on a particular property, you need to check the county records.
Find the exact location of the property in which you are interested and the county in which the property sits. To ensure that you get an exact match, try to find out the property parcel number, as liens are recorded by parcel number rather than mailing address. Find out the property owner's name, because you can search Florida public records by using an address, parcel number or a name.
Go to the county courthouse located in the same county as the property in which you are interested. Ask the clerk of court if you can look at the public records related to the property and the owner of the property. Most Florida counties have online websites that contain publicly recorded documents, in which case you can go to the website of the relevant county and review the records online.
Ask the clerk of court for a copy of any liens that have been recorded on the property. If you use the county's website, you can print out copies of the documents. You must also print out copies of any satisfaction of lien documents that have been recorded against the property.
Match up the satisfaction of lien documents with the original liens. Having matched up the documents, you can see if any liens have not been satisfied. It can take several weeks for a Florida county to update its records, so recent satisfactions may not have yet been processed. Ask the property owner to provide you with evidence, such as a payoff receipt, for any liens that are still listed on the home.
It can take a lot of time to review county records and you can save yourself some time by hiring a Florida title company to conduct the records search on your behalf. Title search fees vary from company to company but normally cost between $200 and $350.
Some Florida homes fall on the boundary lines between different counties. Public records for such homes are sometimes mistakenly recorded in the wrong county, in which case a title search may yield no results if you just look at records in the county where the liens should have been recorded. However, liens recorded in the wrong county are not invalid, so you may have a major legal issue if you buy a home without realizing that liens have been recorded against it. To avoid such issues, you can buy title insurance which protects you against losses caused by lawsuits related to ownership matters and unpaid liens. Mortgage lenders in Florida require you to buy a title insurance policy when you finance a home.