A real estate lien restricts the homeowner's ability to refinance his property or sell it to another individual without first paying off his debt to the lien holder. Although property transfers are possible, mortgage companies will not finance a buyer's purchase of a home that carries outstanding liens. Mortgage companies and major creditors are not the only ones with the ability to attach real estate liens to debtors' homes. State rules vary regarding lien attachment, but in California, private creditors have the right to attach property liens following a lawsuit.
Visit the court clerk's office. Provide the court clerk with your lawsuit's case number and ask for an Abstract of Judgment. An Abstract of Judgment is a formal document proving that you previously won a lawsuit against the debtor.
Review your court records or business documents for the debtor's address. Use the address to determine which California county the debtor owns property in.
Call the tax assessor's office in the appropriate county. Confirm that the debtor does, in fact, own a home in that county.
File the Abstract of Judgment with the county recorder's office in the debtor's county. If you suspect that the debtor owns property in more than one county, California allows you to record judgment abstracts in each county the debtor could potentially own a home in.
Renew your judgment and re-file your lien as necessary. California judgments expire after 10 years. Once your judgment expires, you lose your right to renewal. Lien expire with the original judgment. Thus, you must re-file your lien every 10 years until the debtor pays off the amount she owes.
Notify the debtor that you intend to file a real estate lien against his home before you do so. Your debtor may make payment arrangements with you or satisfy the judgment in full to avoid a property lien, saving you the trouble of filing one.
Filing a property lien in California is not free. Fees vary by district, but you must pay the court clerk a fee for the Abstract of Judgment and pay a fee to the county recorder to formally record the lien. These fees typically range between $20 and $25.
Things You'll Need
Lawsuit case number
Abstract of Judgment
- NOLO: Collect Your Court Judgment With a Real Estate Lien; 2010
- Judicial Council of California: California Courts Self-Help Center – Putting a Lien on a Debtor’s Property; 2011
- California Department of Consumer Affairs: After the Judgment
- Microsoft Business: Collect a Debt –- 5 Ways to Make Them Pay
- Sacramento County Public Law Library: Renewing a Judgment