How Long Can a Lien Stay On My Property?

Posted: June 18, 2019 3:27 pm


What is a Lien?

In a court case when a verdict or court-approved settlement is final, a judgment is entered in the court records. If payment is part of that judgment, and the party owing payment doesn’t pony up, the creditor may record the judgment with the county clerk in any county where the debtor owns (or may, in future own) property. That county record of judgment is a lien.

In simple terms, the creditor attaches the court-imposed debt to property owned by the debtor and the law assures that the debt is paid to the creditor when the property is sold.

A property lien in Pennsylvania will remain attached to the debtor’s property for five years. The lien remains in effect until the debt is paid or the term expires and is valid even if the property changes hands.

There are limits and exceptions, of course. For example, in some states, a judgment lien can attach to personal property — antiques, art, jewelry, anything valuable. Pennsylvania, however, limits liens to real property only — condo, home, land or a business building owned by an individual. Sound complex? It can be, that’s why you need an experienced real estate lawyer — like C. James Vendetti — to make sure your rights are protected.


How Can I Prevent a Lien?

There is a difference between a Notice of Intent to Lien and a Lien attached to your property. A notice is a warning, no legal action has been taken. It’s a ploy to get you to pay and, on occasion, one used improperly (we’re being nice here). For example, a contractor does part of a job but expects you to pay in full even though work wasn’t completed to your satisfaction. The contractor can use a notice of lien to push you around. If you receive a notice of intent which you feel is not legitimate, you can send a letter to the contractor, objecting to the debt. You could also send that letter through your attorney, adding a warning that you’ll pursue legal action if an unwarranted lien is filed.

If, by the way, the problem is taxes, the IRS will always start with a notice, giving you an opportunity to clear (or challenge) any debt before a lien attaches. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is not required to send a notice before attaching.


The Attorney Who Looks Out for You

When you have questions or complications in any real estate transaction — purchase, refinance, sale, title search, title insurance or liens — C. James Vendetti is Erie, Pennsylvania’s, choice to get a fast, satisfactory resolution. Contact us today, we’ll find the answers for you.