What is a Lien in Texas?
Texas liens are legal claims on assets that are collateral for a loan. They are typically created and maintained alongside related Texas court records or property records. While there are various types of liens in Texas, they all usually name assets to be used as collateral. If a party does not pay back debt or scheduled payments to creditors after an entity places a lien, creditors can take legal ownership over the assets included in the lien.
The assets included in the lien can be specifically named, making it a specific lien. On the other hand, a general lien gives lienholders the right to possession of any property of value, including homes, cars, financial accounts, and land. Often, entities can place liens on assets involuntarily, or parties can enter into lien agreements that may involve payment schedules and contracts. However, a creditor is not likely to receive their entitlement unless a Texas court issues a judicial order to enforce the lien.
Are Liens Public in Texas?
Pursuant to the Texas property code, liens are public in Texas. Interested members of the public may access them by querying the county accessor’s office or the county courthouse in the judicial district where the property is located. However, a lien may be deemed confidential or considered a ‘secret lien’ depedning on the circumstances of its creation.
Types of Liens in Texas
Texas liens can be classified as either voluntary or involuntary and general or specific. Voluntary liens involve the consent of the lienee and can be placed on anything of value. A typical example of a voluntary lien is a mortgage lien.
On the other hand, involuntary liens do not require the debtor's consent. Examples of involuntary liens include mechanics, tax, and judgment liens.
General liens offer the creditor a legal claim over all the debtor's property, while specific liens are placed on a specific property.
How Do I Check for Liens in Texas?
Interested persons may check for liens in Texas by querying the relevant office for relevant property documentation. Unlike the mortgage, mechanic's, and tax liens, not all municipal liens that stay with the property are held in the public record. Many municipal departments keep this information as unrecorded liens in their records and require special requests to access it. County records are also another viable source for checking for involuntary or statutory liens.
Hiring a title company to ensure that the property one is buying is legitimate and has no issues is another way of checking for liens in Texas, but there will be a charge attached to such services.
Free Lien Search in Texas
Government agencies and most businesses that handle lien cases provide free lien searches to the public online in Texas. The information retrieved from such websites may include: name and address of both the debtor and creditor, type of lien attached to the property, the expiry date of the lien if it is still active and other necessary information needed to ascertain whether a lien is attached to the property in question or not.
It is important to note that the information accessible online is not a complete or official record. Therefore, it is advisable to visit the agency's office to review and access the full and official report for free.
What is a Property Lien in Texas?
Texas property liens offer creditors collateral claims over a debtor's real or personal property. Property liens can be judgment liens, tax liens, mortgage liens, mechanic's liens, and any lien that lists the property as assets. Essentially, when a party has unpaid debts and cannot service them, a property lien gives creditors the legal right to repossess the assets as compensation.
How Do You Know if a Property Has a Lien in Texas?
It is easy to find out if there is a lien on property intended for sale or purchase in Texas. Lien records are public records, so requestors may query the county clerk's office in the judicial district where the original claim was filed. The requesting party may also conduct a thorough search on the website of the relevant government agencies - i.e., the county recorder, clerk, or assessor's office online would be very helpful.
Property Lien Search by Address in Texas
In Texas, property liens are public records filed in the county clerk's office in the county where a property lies. Therefore, individuals can search for property liens at county clerk offices across the state or access public records tools provided by the clerks to check for liens on a property. However, the clerk's offices index their records by name. As such, one cannot conduct a property lien search by address via these offices.
To perform a property lien search by address in Texas, individuals can access property search websites provided by independent companies. However, a fee or subscription usually applies to use this medium. As an alternative, individuals can hire the services of a title agent. Although this service has a heftier cost than the third-party sites, the client can obtain detailed information about the liens affecting a property.
Free Property Lien Search by Address
As mentioned, the government offices that store lien records in Texas provide only non-address property lien searches to requesters. Individuals can carry out a free property lien search by name by visiting a county clerk's office or using the clerk's online property search tool. Because liens are public records, inquirers are not charged a fee to obtain lien information, but a copy fee applies to reproduce a lien record.
If having only the address of a property, an individual can search records held by the local assessor's office to obtain the current owner's name, which can be used to search the county clerk's records, or they can utilize a third-party search tool.
What is a Tax Lien in Texas?
The Texas Comptroller's office manages and files tax liens. The comptroller's office is responsible for keeping track of unpaid taxes and attaching liens to the delinquent property. A tax lien remains on a property until the balance, including penalty fees, is paid in full. The comptroller will not take any action against the property as long as the debtor agrees to a payment plan. Unpaid federal taxes are handled by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS can place liens on assets if federal taxes go unpaid.
Tax Lien Lookup in Texas
Individuals can perform a tax lien lookup in Texas at the clerk's office based where the property is located. Typically, this involves contacting the county clerk's office to look into the available deed records. In counties with digitized records, people can check for the information online on the county clerk's website.
What is a Mortgage Lien in Texas?
Texas mortgage lending is federally regulated but managed by state agencies. The Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending oversees mortgages in the state. Mortgages are lien agreements that parties enter into when purchasing a home. Mortgages allow parties to pay for their home little by little instead of paying upfront in full. Most mortgages involve monthly payments plus interest. Once the party has paid the house's total cost, including interest, the department will remove the property's lien. If too many mortgage payments go unpaid, the department can seize the property.
What is a Mechanics Lien in Texas?
Chapter 53 of the Texas Property Code states that all general contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, material suppliers, or laborers who have worked to build or improve private property are entitled to mechanic's liens. Texas mechanics liens offer servicemen security against non-payment following a service delivery. Laborers who wish to enforce payment on a project using a lien have the following options:
- Serve a pre-lien payment demand letter by a general contractor
- Serve a mandatory pre-lien notice payment demand letter
- File a lien against the property
- Serve a lien filing payment demand letter
- Send a pre-foreclosure payment demand letter
- Serve a payment demand letter
- File a lawsuit
Having a lien agreement in place guarantees that all laborers be compensated for their work. After parties have been paid, a lien can be removed and erased from the record.
What is a UCC Lien?
The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) is a set of regulations created by the federal government and adopted by each state. The laws manage issues that come up from commercial transactions. In Texas, the UCC makes it possible for creditors to tell other creditors that they are interested in a debtor's assets listed as collateral via a UCC-1 filing. Creditors can fill out the form and submit it to the Office of the Secretary of State.
How to Conduct a UCC Lien Search
A Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) lien is a consensual lien. It is a public notification that a debtor has allowed a creditor to put a lien on their personal property to ensure their interest in such property.
An individual can submit a formal request to the Secretary of State's Office in the jurisdiction where the debtor is incorporated or the recorder's office where the property is located to perform a UCC lien search. To ensure a successful search, one should provide the debtor's legal name or any former name.
What is a Judgment Lien in Texas?
Civil lawsuits can result in liens being placed on a property to ensure that creditors receive compensation promised by the court. The liens that come as a result of a court judgment are called judgment liens. With a Texas judgment lien, a plaintiff can sue a defendant for contract violation or failure to pay a debt. Subsequently, the court either rules in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant, or if the court rules the plaintiff's favor, the court will place a lien on the defendant's property until the judgment is paid. If the debtor cannot pay the amount owed, lienholders can seize the debtor's companies, houses, real estate, automobiles, land, and furniture.
What is a Federal Tax Lien
A federal tax lien is the legal right of the U.S. government to seize the properties of individuals who neglect or refuse to pay federal taxes (IRC § 6321). The lien takes effect when any individual fails to pay taxes after being notified of the debt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A federal tax lien attaches to all properties of the defaulting taxpayer, such as financial assets, real estate, and personal property.
What is a Lien Title?
A lien title usually refers to a car title with a lien attached, but it can refer to any title with a lien attached. For instance, when an individual borrows money to buy a vehicle, a lien is attached to the car title until the individual can pay off the loan. Only when the loan is repaid does the property completely become the owner's.
Where and How to Do a Title Search in Texas
A title search describes a search of the existing public records in a state to establish the rightful legal owner of a title and uncover any existing mortgage, lien, or claim attached to a property. The search also brings up the ownership history of a property. In most cases, an individual runs a title search when purchasing a property to determine if the seller is the legal owner or in a legal position to sell the property.
In Texas, public records concerning properties are held by the county clerk where a property is domiciled. Individuals can visit this office to conduct a title search or examine the records online using the office's property search database.
When conducting a title search in Texas, individuals can look into a property's chain of title, which informs them about the previous ownership. They can also determine if the property has a lien, a mortgage, or other questionable documentation. In case of any undisclosed property defect, the buyer can question the seller before proceeding with the transaction. Individuals may also hire a title company or real estate attorney with the experience and expertise to perform the search and guarantee a clean title.
Voluntary Lien vs Involuntary Lien in Texas?
All Texas liens are either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary liens typically involve an agreement between a lienholder and a property owner or debtor. Individuals in debt but committed to paying it back, or those who want to enter into a payment plan may benefit from a voluntary lien. However, if the party cannot fulfill their responsibilities, the lienholder can legally seize their assets. Involuntary liens are placed by organizations, businesses, courts, or individuals due to debt or contract violations. If a property owner doesn't agree to pay the ordered amount, the lienholder can take action.
How Creditors Collect Payment Through a Lien
Creditors who record a lien against a piece of property have a legal hold or claim on that property. Hence, they have the right to claim ownership of such properties, enforce their sale and even demand a share from the proceeds of the sale of the property. The creditor's right to the property remains valid as long as payment of the debt has not been made, and a lien release form is yet to be filed.
How Do I Get a Lien Removed in Texas
Liens, once incurred, are very difficult to remove. There are two methods to remove a lien in Texas. The first is to pay the debt willingly, including any penalties, interest, and fees, so that the creditor can release the lien. The other way to remove a lien is to challenge it in court and establish its invalidity. However, the court will only discharge the lien if the lienholder cannot prove the lien's legitimacy.
In Texas, the process of removing a lien usually involves the filling of a Request to Release a Lien Form, which is filed with the recorder's office in the Texas county where the lien was filed for. The form removes the legal claim the creditor has on the property, and it is issued in tandem with the directives stated in the Texas Constitution and Statutes. A period of 10 days is usually given to the claimant to file a lien release after payment has been made and all debts paid. A lien can also be rendered invalid due to court settlements and other legal grounds. A lienor or lienholder that refuses to file for a lien release form 10 days after payment has been made is liable to face punishments as stated in the law.
How Long Does a Lien Stay on Your Property in Texas?
In Texas, the duration of a lien depends on the type of lien. A voluntary lien sticks to a piece of property until the debt is repaid or property foreclosed. On the other hand, an involuntary lien is established by statute, so the lien is valid so long as its statute of limitations is valid. In Texas, the unpaid lien will stay on the payer's credit report for 10 years after it is filed. After payment, it may stay on the credit history for up to seven years.