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Liens

What is a Lien in Florida?

In Florida. a lien declares a creditor's legal right to a debtor's property. Liens are issued following unpaid debts or non-performance of contractual obligations. In Florida, the Title XL, Chapter 713 directs the creation and execution of liens, and the process is overseen by Florida courts.

Liens serve as a notice that informs the public of the creditor's security interest. It can also restrict the debtor from selling, transferring, or refinancing the property until all debt obligations are fulfilled.

Creditors can attach a lien to a specific asset or on all of the debtor's assets (general lien). With a general lien, a creditor can recover debts from any property. In contrast, a creditor who places a specific lien cannot repossess or sell any other asset apart from the particular asset put up as collateral.

Types of Lien in Florida

Sometimes, a contractor working on a property may place a lien on it if the owner does not pay. In Florida, this is a mechanic's or construction lien. The state may also impose a tax lien against a person's property or income for failure to pay taxes. Liens result from a lawsuit. Suppose the judgment debtor fails to pay the amount owed, the court may place a lien on the person's property, seize the person's bank account, or order wage garnishment. These are examples of statutory liens that can be placed on a person's assets even without consent.

Liens may sometimes be consensual. These types of liens are called voluntary liens, and they often result from a loan, mortgage, or financing for a car or other property. A voluntary lien is created as security for repayment; the borrower pledges an asset or property to the creditor. It protects the creditor, who may take over the asset to recover the debt, in the event of default.

What is a Property Lien in Florida?

A property lien is any valid and enforceable claim on a debtor's real estate or personal property to ensure the payment of debt. This lien informs the public that there is a superior security interest on the property. By attaching this lien, the debtor's property acts as collateral for debts and, upon a failure to settle these debts, the law permits the creditor to sell or seize the property to retrieve owed amounts. Examples of property liens in Florida include mortgage, UCC, and judgment liens.

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

In Florida, liens are public records, and a visit to the local county or city records office should reveal all relevant information on a property within state limits. In some cases, the property would be aware of any existing lien, such as, in case of a mortgage or a car loan. However, a lien can sometimes be placed on a person's property without the owners consent.

If a court issues a judgment against a person who refuses to pay the amount owed, the court may then place a lien on the person's assets. However, if the person moves or misses the mail notice of the lien, they are likely to remain unaware. Summarily, the best way to know if there is a lien on a property in Florida is to conduct a title search.

How Do I Check for Liens in Florida?

To check for liens in Florida, requestors must first determine which government agency is in charge of the records. Different agencies are responsible for different kinds of liens in Florida. For instance, all judgment liens on personal property are filed with the Florida Department of State. Interested persons may search lien records on the department's online search portal. Alternatively, the requesting party may visit the department in person and during working hours at;

Centre of Tallahassee,
2415 N. Monroe Street,
Suite 810,
Tallahassee, FL 32303

For a search on property liens, the requestor must first find the property's exact location. Then, visit the county courthouse where the property is located and request the public records on the property from the court clerk. The clerk may further furnish interested persons with a copy of liens recorded on the property.

Some counties have an online website that contains public documents that may help a person identify any liens recorded against a particular name or property. In Orange County, for example, there is an official website that records and indexes liens using the property owner's name and legal description. If the inquirer knows the year the lien was recorded, they may contact the Official Records Department at (407) 836-5115 to speak with a customer service representative for assistance.

Another way to find lien information in Florida is to hire an attorney or title search company to search. These companies charge fees that vary from company to company, but this is a stress-free way to find such records. It can take time to go over county records to find existing liens.

Free Lien Search in Florida

Government agencies provides lien information to requestors at no cost. Interested persons may request a search at the relevant agency's physical address or check if the agency has an online search tool. County and city offices also allow free lien searches, and an individual may only pay nominal fees to photocopy the documents.

What is a Tax Lien in Florida?

The government imposes a tax lien upon a debtor's property to collect overdue taxes in Florida. This lien can be attached to a debtor's real estate or personal property. Usually, the government (federal, state, or local) uses this debt collection method as a last resort after the defaulter has refused to comply with a demand for payment. Taxpayers who neglect to pay their taxes may have their assets, earnings, or securities seized by the Florida Department of Revenue or Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and sold to recover owed taxes.

What is a Mortgage Lien in Florida?

Any homeowner who takes out a mortgage loan to buy or refinance property is subject to a mortgage lien in Florida. This lien occurs as a condition of the loan and is placed with the debtor's consent. It ensures that the owner makes regular payments until the full amount for the property is satisfied, or else the creditor may sell or repossess this property to settle debts.

What is a Mechanics Lien in Florida?

Professionals who work on a construction project in Florida have the right to a property lien if the owner fails to pay for services, labor, or materials provided. This type of lien is called a mechanics' lien, or a "construction lien" in Florida and is governed by the Florida Construction Lien Law. The following parties (or lienors) have the authority to file a construction lien in the state:

  • Contractors
  • Subcontractors
  • Sub-subcontractors
  • Laborers
  • Materialmen, and
  • Professional lienors, described by § 713.03, Fla. Stat. to include architects, interior designers, surveyors and mappers, and engineers.

By placing this lien on an owner's property, the lienor can seize or sell the property to collect payment for labor or services rendered.

What is a UCC Lien?

A UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) lien is a notice filed by a creditor that establishes interest in a debtor's property or asset. The Uniform Commercial Code is a set of statutes covering commercial dealings in the United States. As with the other U.S. states, Florida adopts these laws and codifies them under Title XXXIX: Commercial Relations. Per these regulations, a creditor can perfect a UCC lien by filing it with the Florida Secured Transaction Registry. This filing allows the creditor to place a binding and enforceable claim on the debtor's asset(s) until the loan is repaid. If the debtor defaults in repayment, the creditor can legitimately seize the debtor's property or asset. UCC filings can be submitted online, in-person, by mail, or via fax to the Florida Secured Transaction Registry.

What is a Judgment Lien?

A judgment lien is a legal instrument used by plaintiffs or judgment creditors to secure a monetary judgment in Florida. By recording or filing this lien with the appropriate authority, creditors can collect money damages through the sale or seizure of a debtor's non-exempt property.

In the state, judgment liens can be placed on real properties (buildings, lands) and personal properties (jewelry, motor vehicles, furniture, boats). Florida Statutes restrict the execution of judgment liens on properties to 20 years (§ 55.081, Fla. Stat.). Although liens do not exceed this duration, there are varying statutory limits for filing and re-filing real and personal property liens.

Upon recording a certified copy of a judgment, liens on real property have a shelf-life of 10 years, starting from the date of recording (§ 55.10, Fla. Stat.). This means that after the expiry of this duration, a creditor cannot enforce a judgment lien on real estate unless the creditor extends the lien for another ten years by re-recording a certified copy of a judgment. The creditor must re-file the judgment before the initial 10-year limit expires to extend this period.

On the other hand, liens on personal property are valid for five years from the date of recording/filing. These liens can also be extended for an additional five years.

In Florida, judgment liens on real estate are filed with the county recorder in the locality of the debtor's current or future real property. Liens on personal property are recorded with the Florida Department of State. The agency offers more details on filing judgment liens against personal properties in Florida on its Judgement Lien page.

Voluntary Lien Vs. Involuntary Lien in Florida?

A lien can be attached to all of a debtor's assets or a specific asset in Florida. This lien can also be placed with the debtor's consent or without. Generally, the rule of thumb is that it is voluntary or consensual if a debtor consents to a lien. If not, then it is involuntary or non-consensual. Unlike voluntary liens that occur when an individual or entity takes out a home or business loan, involuntary liens occur when the debtor fails to meet a contractual obligation or pay a debt — for example, unpaid taxes, child support, or construction services. Creditors use involuntary liens as a legal means of collecting past-due payments. The lien allows them to sell or repossess a debtor's collateral property to retrieve payment.

How Creditors Collect Payment Through a Lien

A creditor has special rights to collect debts through liens. Once a lien is created, the creditor has priority over other creditors attempting to recover debts from the same debtor. The effect of the lien is that the lienholder has the right to foreclose by selling off the debtor's property to settle the debt.

How Do I Get a Lien Removed in Florida?

A lien against a property will prevent the property from being sold until the debt is settled. The fastest way to remove a property lien in Florida is to pay the debt, provided the debt is valid. Then, fill out a release of lien form and have the lien holder sign the form before a notary. After this, file the lien release at the relevant county office to initiate the removal.

For a motor vehicle lien, the affected person must complete outstanding payments and present a ‘satisfaction of lien' document to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. The person must also submit a written application asking to remove the lien from department records. However, the applicant must first notify the lienholder of their intention to remove the lien.

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

The kind of lien will determine how long it will stay on a person's property. A mechanic's lien, for instance, has a shelf life of one year. If no action is filed within that time, the claim will expire and will no longer be enforceable. The property owner may even demand that the contractor file a lien release. Judgment liens are valid for five years from the original filing date. However, Florida laws allow interested persons to file judgment liens a second time to extend its validity for five more years.

How to Avoid a Lien in Florida

The best way to avoid a lien in Florida is to avoid debts in the first place. Suppose a person falls into debts regardless, it is be to stick to the repayment plan. Defaulting on debt repayments can make a creditor file a lien against the debtor's property, and ultimately, sell off the property to recover the debt.

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