If you owe money you haven't paid, your creditor can sue and get a court judgment against you. The creditor can turn the judgment into a lien. In California, she first gets an abstract of judgment from the court, then files it with the county recorder's office. Your property in the county now has a lien on it, making it difficult to sell or refinance. The lien lasts for 10 years and even applies to property you buy in the future. To find out if you're stuck with a judgment lien, start with the county recorder.
Visit the county recorder's website and search for possible liens. San Bernadino County recommends doing an official records search using your name to turn up liens. You can also use an online map to look for recorded liens attached to a particular property.
Review the list of documents in the recorder's index. Any judgment liens filed against your land will be on the list. If you or a co-owner paid off the lien, the lien release should be in the files too.
See what date the lien was filed on. Judgment liens have a 10-year run in California unless the creditor renews them. If it's been 11 years, look for a renewal -- if you don't find one, the lien may have expired.
Contact the recorder's office if you want more information. Most recorders don't have the scanned documents online, but the website can give you the identifying number of the documents you need to see. Use that to obtain copies in person or by mail.
If you've paid the debt and the judgment lien hasn't been removed, contact the creditor in writing. If he doesn't remove the lien, he's liable for any damages you suffer, for example by being unable to refinance.
- California Courts: Collect From the Debtor's Property
- San Bernadino County Recorder-Clerk: About This Site
- San Francisco Property Information Map
- California Legislative Council: Code of Civil Procedure Section 697.310-697.410
- San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder: How to Obtain Copies of Recorded Documents
- California Courts: After the Judgment Is Paid
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