Dealing with Surprise Liens on a NJ Title Report

While there are many unknowns when it comes to real estate transactions, when those unknowns become unpleasant surprises, the sale of a property can slow to a halt. One common reason for a stalled or cancelled real estate transaction is surprise liens that the seller wasn’t aware of.

What is a property lien?

“Lien” is one of those terms that gets tossed around all the time in the real estate world, but oftentimes real estate professionals find that their clients don’t fully understand what a lien is.

A property lien, in simplest terms, is a notice that becomes attached to a property (in this case, the home that is listed for sale). The notice states that the current owner of the property (i.e. the seller) is indebted to a creditor.

The reason creditors file liens on real property is because they are of public record. This means that the creditor is more likely to be able to collect the money they are owed.

How does a lien affect the sale of a home?

One of the steps in any real estate transaction is a title search – usually performed by a title company or a real estate attorney. The property up for sale must come back with what is called “clear title” – meaning no liens were found.

If your title search shows a lien on your home that you weren’t expecting, don’t panic. Mystery liens do happen, and as such, most real estate purchase agreements give sellers 30 days to address property liens without significantly delaying the closing.

Do I need an attorney to clear up liens on my property?

While it is possible for some homeowners to reconcile their debt with the creditor in question, many people need to clear up any property liens quickly in order to allow the sale of their home to continue. NJ real estate attorneys who are well-versed in handling surprise property liens can quickly and completely eradicate your lien(s), making their services invaluable at such a time.

Not only will your real estate lawyer help you with any surprise liens, he will also provide legal review of all paperwork surrounding the sale of your home, including the sale contract itself. Working with an experienced real estate attorney in New Jersey will reduce the time it takes to clear up any surprise liens and will ultimately give sellers (and buyers) an optimal result.

Additionally, if your property liens were placed by the IRS because you failed to pay your taxes properly, working with an attorney is in your best interest because of the possibility of tax fraud charges.

What are my options to contest a lien?

In the rare occasion that a lien is found on your property and you feel confident that it was placed in error, it’s possible that the debt was in fact repaid but the lien was simply never removed. While this may sound like an easy problem to resolve, it actually presents sellers and their attorneys with a challenge. Your NJ attorney will have to locate the original lienholder in order to obtain official lien release documentation.

If you refuse to make good on a lien that exists on your property (that has not been paid off already), you will be found in breach of contract. It is rare that a buyer decides to handle paying of a seller’s lien(s), but it does happen if a buyer is very motivated to purchase your property. Upon your refusal to clear up any liens, your buyer is more likely to simply walk away from purchasing your home.

 

 

 

 

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