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Pennsylvania Lien Records

What is a Lien in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, a lien guarantees the settlement of loans and fulfillment of contractual obligations. A lien also ensures that money lent to a borrower is secured with one or more of a debtor's assets. This means that the asset's owner cannot sell or transfer the asset to another person until all debts are paid. The owner or debtor is a lienor or lessee, while the creditor is a lienor or lessor. Liens are public records, supplying potential borrowers and others with information on existing debts.

Even though there are different types of lien, they can be classified as general or specific. A general lien is not tied to a particular asset. Instead, it is attached to all of the borrower's assets, including houses, bank accounts, cars, and other properties that belong to the borrower. Hence, if the debtor defaults, the lender can sell any of the debtor's assets to recover the loan. On the other hand, a specific lien is attached to a particular asset offered as collateral in return for a credit or loan. All liens, regardless of their type, are enforced by judicial order issued by the Pennsylvania court.

Types of Lien in Pennsylvania

There are various types of liens in Pennsylvania, including child support liens, criminal liens, mechanics' liens, real estate tax liens, tax inheritance liens, environmental protection liens, etc. These liens can be classified into two broad categories; voluntary or involuntary liens and general or specific liens.

A specific lien is a lien placed on a particular property subject to foreclosure. An example of a specific lien is a mortgage lien. On the other hand, a general lien is placed on one specific property and other personal properties of the lienee. An example of a general lien is a tax lien.

A voluntary lien is an agreement between the lienee (borrower) and the lienor (lender) to give the lienor the right to a property until the debt is cleared. The agreement usually includes a clause to sell off the property where the financial obligation is not met as at the time stipulated. On the other hand, an involuntary lien results from the state's laws, so the lienees have no choice but to accept such liens attached to their properties.

In Pennsylvania, the agency in charge of administering general liens to taxpayers is the Department Of Revenue. On the other hand, specific liens can be administered by any other agency with requisite authority on the lienee's personal property.

What is a Property Lien in Pennsylvania?

A Pennsylvania property lien is a legitimate claim on collateral properties. A property lien allows the lienholder to seize the debtor's properties to recover loans when there is a payment default. Property liens can be voluntary — when the lessee agrees to put up the property as collateral in case of a default. However, they can also be involuntary — when the lien is attached because of a payment default. Examples of property liens include mortgage, tax, mechanics, judgment, and UCC liens.

How Do You Know if a Property Has a Lien in Pennsylvania?

To find out if a property has a lien in Pennsylvania, interested persons may contact the county recorder of deeds or check the online database of the Pennsylvania Department of State. The county recorder of deeds will have records of all liens filed against a property in their jurisdiction, while the Department of State's online database will have records of state tax liens.

Another way to find out if there are any outstanding liens against the property is to order a title search from a title company or an attorney. A title search will reveal all recorded legal encumbrances on a property, including liens.

An unrecorded lien may still be valid against the property, but it will not show up in a title search. To find out if there are any unrecorded liens, interested persons should contact the person or entity that has a potential lien against the property. For example, if there is an outstanding judgment against the property owner, the court that issued the judgment can provide information about whether or not a lien has been filed.

It should be noted that even if a lien is not recorded, the property owner is still responsible for paying the underlying debt. If a debt is not paid and a lien is not recorded, the creditor may still take legal action to collect the debt from the property owner. Recording a lien is simply a way to secure the debt and increase the chances of getting paid.

What is a Tax Lien in Pennsylvania?

A Pennsylvania tax lien is a charge on an individual or company's real or personal assets when the party defaults in paying taxes. The Department of Revenue records a lien with the county Prothonotary's Office when this happens. A tax lien automatically becomes a public record once filed, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is listed as the first creditor that must be settled before any other financial obligation. In Pennsylvania, tax liens are filed for all types of state taxes, including personal income tax, company tax, employer withholding tax, and motor fuel taxes.

What is a Mortgage Lien in Pennsylvania?

A mortgage lien in Pennsylvania allows a lending institution to claim an individual's home when a payment default occurs. It is a voluntary lien because the lender agrees to the lien before securing a loan. This agreement serves as security to the lender. A significant disparity between a mortgage lien and a property lien is that a mortgage lien is specific, as the home is used as collateral. However, property liens are general, and all assets are liable to be seized and used to recover debts.

What is a Mechanics Lien in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania mechanics' lien law was enacted to ensure workers, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers are paid for services rendered in construction projects. The PA lien law offers the improved property collateral to unpaid artisans if the owner cannot pay for the improvements.

In Pennsylvania, a mechanics' lien is listed on the record of improved properties after being filed with a local protonotary. This makes it impossible for the debtor to sell or transfer the asset to a third party. One major difference between a mechanics' lien and a property lien is that the former is a specific lien because only the improved real estate can be used as collateral. Meanwhile, the latter is a general lien as any asset can be used as collateral. The following are the requirements to file a mechanics' lien in Pennsylvania:

  • Notice of intention to file a lien: This notice allows the property owner to quickly resolve all issues concerning the payment of site workers without being forced by a lien.
  • Notice of furnishing: This lets the project owner know that materials will be supplied for use on the building site. This is a new requirement. Projects worth over $1.5 million should be registered with the Pennsylvania State Construction Notices Directory.
  • Notice of non-payment: This alerts the owner that the laborer or supplier is yet to be paid.

What is a UCC Lien?

The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) refers to regulations used in America to direct trading activities. The UCC requires only the exchange of commodities, shares, etc. UCC liens are petitions against an individual's business estate. It allows a lender to claim the borrower's business property due to non-payment of debts. A UCC filing allows the lender to reclaim what is owed in cases where an organization fails. In Pennsylvania, a UCC form costs roughly $84 for the financing statement, the correction statement, and the financing statement amendment. For an individual debtor, the lien is filed in the county. It is filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State when it involves an organization.

What is a Judgment Lien?

A judgment lien is a legal action that allows creditors to claim ownership of a debtor's asset following a contract default. Most judgment liens are non-consensual liens resulting from civil litigation, where a defendant is found liable for failing to obey contractual terms. Judgment liens in Pennsylvania can only be attached to real estate. To attach a lien, the creditor has to record the judgment with the Court of Common Pleas clerk in the county where the debtor owns a real estate or might own one in the future. Judgment liens are valid for five years but can be revived every five years. A judgment can also act as a lien against an asset for up to 20 years or more.

Voluntary Lien Vs. Involuntary Lien in Pennsylvania?

A voluntary lien arises when a property owner (the debtor) knowingly gives another party (the creditor) a legal claim to the property as security for a loan or debt payment. The claimant voluntarily grants the lien to the creditor, and the estate functions as the collateral. An example is a mortgage lien. On the other hand, involuntary liens are imposed on a property without the permission of the owner. An example is the federal tax lien, where the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assesses a lien because of tax payment defaults.

How Do I Check for Liens in Pennsylvania?

The quickest way to check for liens in Pennsylvania is to contact the office of the county recorder where the property is situated.

In Pennsylvania, liens are public records uploaded on the assessor's website for public access. These records are updated every month to make it easier to look up and stay updated with information on liens in the state without visiting the county's courthouse office in person.

To check for tax-related liens, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, where records of tax lienees are uploaded and updated periodically.

Free Lien Search in Pennsylvania

Interested persons may search for liens in Pennsylvania for free. Requestors don't need to pay a dime to confirm your lien status or the lien status of a property you want to buy. They may conduct a free online search by visiting the relevant official websites or visit the county's courthouse and make in-person queries.

How Do I Get a Lien Removed in Pennsylvania?

The most effective way to get a legitimate lien removed in Pennsylvania is to pay off the debt in due time. However, a lien can also be challenged in court and, if found invalid or illegitimate, will be discharged by the court.

A lien is a legal right a person or an institution has to lay claim over a property, pending when a debtor or lienee would satisfy their obligation. However, most liens have a statute of limitations, and some creditors may decide to accept a lesser sum or completely write off the lien for free, but this is strictly a personal decision.

How Long Does a Lien Stay on Your Property in Pennsylvania?

A lien in Pennsylvania can stay on your property for up to five years and remains valid until the debt is cleared or the duration expires. Even a change of ownership cannot write off a lien on a property.

The duration of a voluntary lien on your property is dependent on the agreement one has with the lienor. Still, the law stipulates the duration of an involuntary lien on the property. For example, in Pennsylvania, a judgment lien stays on the property for five years and may last up to twenty years if renewed by the creditor.

How to Avoid a Lien in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, lien avoidance can either be partial or total. Lien avoidance is partial when only the amount of the lien is reduced, and the lienee is still required to pay off the balance to avoid foreclosure. On the other hand, total lien avoidance leads to the complete elimination of the lien, restoring full ownership of the property to the debtor.