Types of Property Liens in Real Estate

The Different Types of Property Liens Used In Real Estate

A comprehensive property lien and title search can produce many different types of property liens (encumbrances) that can be levied against a person or entity and their real estate by a debtor. According to property lien records, these can either be consensual or non-consensual, depending on the circumstances surrounding them.  Each of these specific types of liens have different purposes and conditions. What are the main types of liens placed on property in the United States?


Equitable Lien

An equitable lien is a lien where a debtor demands repayment of a debt through a fund or some property belonging to the person in debt. An equitable lien is very commonly applied against a piece of real estate.  This type of lien can be set against a person’s property if it fulfills any of the four set circumstances. Those circumstances are:

1)      When someone makes improvements on a piece of land believing they will be repaid for their work.

2)      When one of two or more property owners make improvements such as in section one.

3)      When a tenant for life makes permanent improvements that were begun earlier by the will holder

4)      When property is transferred to a third party for payment of debts, annuities, legacies, or portions.

Equitable property liens are a piece of legal compensation, as opposed to a security interest. This lien can be placed against any property owner until their debt is paid.


Common-Law Lien

Common-law property liens are a limited type of lien that can be placed against property and especially real estate. There are two types of common-law lien: special liens and general liens. Ironically, according to property lien records, a special lien is more common. With special property liens, it is necessary for the property and the services performed to be closely related. It can only be applied in relation to services rendered, not to previous debts. A general lien is a lien against the entirety of a person’s property in exchange for payment of debts.


Statutory Lien

A statutory lien allows a debtor to retain the property belonging to the lienee (the person against whom the lien is set) as insurance for debt repayment. Basically, the debtor is allowed to retain possession of property if a debt needs to be paid. This lien can use real estate and property items as collateral. A property lien search indicates that some do not consider this to be, strictly speaking, a lien because it falls under different criteria.


Contractual Lien

Much like a statutory lien, a contractual lien is one set up in a contract between two parties. This type of lien is one set up between two parties dictating that one party can possess the property of another party until the debt is paid. Again, like a statutory lien, property and real estate can both fall under the lien if it is so desired.


Maritime Lien

While not regarding real estate, this is a very interesting and important type of lien. A maritime lien is a lien placed against a seafaring vessel in exchange for payment of a debt. It can also be set against a vessel by someone who was injured by that vessel in some way, either physically or monetarily.  This lien is much different than other types of property liens because it has priority over all other types of claims against the vessel and it can be transferred to wherever the vessel goes.


Municipal lien (Utility Lien)

A municipal lien is given by a municipality (or municipal authority) against a property owner(s). This is filed when the property owner is to benefit from a public improvement plan by the municipal authority.


Property lien records show that there are many different types of property liens that can be placed on a person’s property and real estate in exchange for repayment of debts. Each type of lien is important and useful for its own reasons. Discovering which type of lien is levied against you or can be implemented for you is a key aspect of any situation regarding debt and repayment.


Utility Lien

Some utility providers are subsidiaries of your local government and can place a utility lien on your property if the utility bill is not paid.