What is a Lien, and Who Can Put One on My Florida Property?

A property lien is one of the most common items that can make a Florida home sale can go awry. Liens, which can be attached to real or personal property, are claims to that particular asset. After a person or entity places a property lien on someone’s house, land, or condo, they get compensated for the amount of the lien before the property owner gets money in the event of a sale. Essentially, a lien is a claim to debt the property owner owes somebody.

Various situations can result in a lien being placed on a Florida property, but there are some subtle differences based on the entity that originated the claim. In many cases, though, a lien can force the sale of a property if the owner does not pay the debt. Below are some important details about several common types of Florida property liens. 

  1. Mortgage. 

That’s right—if you are still paying down your mortgage, your property already has a voluntary lien attached to it. The mechanism for enforcing this lien is foreclosure, which can occur if you neglect to pay your mortgage for a few months (or longer). A mortgage is often classified as a priority lien, which means the proceeds from a potential sale will pay off the outstanding mortgage before it can satisfy other debts.

  1. Tax lien. 

One thing is certain in life, and that is taxes. The IRS has many enforcement mechanisms to encourage taxpayers to pay Uncle Sam. One of these methods is filing a lien on a taxpayer’s real estate, which can last 10 years or longer. In some cases, an IRS lien can force a property sale or lead to a levy, which involves actually seizing a taxpayer’s property. 

Not paying property taxes can also result in a lien being placed on your property. Mortgage lenders sometimes pay unpaid property taxes and add the amount onto the loan.

  1. Judgment lien. 

If someone sues you and is awarded a certain amount of money (judgment) in court, they might place liens on your assets to enforce the judgment. Typically, judgment liens are placed on real estate if the defendant does not pay the judgment and liens on valuable personal property do not result in the required payout. Judgment liens can stay attached to real property in Florida for up to 10 years.

  1. Mechanic’s lien. 

This type of lien may be placed on your property if a contractor, subcontractor, materials supplier, or other construction professional claims you did not pay them the full amount owed for new construction or renovations. Any professional who wants to file a lien on your property has a limited time to file the mechanic’s lien and sue you to possibly force a sale. 

Property Liens Can Cause Headaches for Buyers and Sellers

Finding a lien in a title search during the home buying process can be disappointing—especially if you thought you had found your dream home. In most cases, this means the seller has inflated the sales price in hopes the buyer will pay the extra amount. The potential buyer can always negotiate with the property owner, but there is no guarantee the talks will be fruitful.

If you’re considering purchasing real estate in Florida, strongly consider having an experienced attorney fight for your rights and interests. A home purchase is a high-stakes transaction, and not having effective legal representation can be catastrophic. Our team would be honored to stand by your side during such a significant moment in your life.

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Schlegel Livingston LLC

Schlegel Livingston, LLC is an established real estate and probate/estate planning law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We pride ourselves on being a very hands-on law office who will help our clients by any means necessary.

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