If you’re planning on buying a home in New York, finding out whether there are any liens against the property is crucial. A lien occurs when there is an unpaid debt associated with a property title. As a result, another party could have a stake in the home, or any future sales or refinancing may be prevented altogether. Realtor.com explains more about liens and how to determine if a property is at risk.

Know how to search for a lien

To check for a lien, start by performing an online search. You can check out the county clerk or assessor website using an address, which will pull up public records associated with the home. Some companies will also perform a title search on your behalf, although you will be charged a fee. From here, it’s best to understand the different types of liens that can be attached to a property.

What is a tax lien?

As the name suggests, a tax lien arises from unpaid property taxes. Judgement liens stem from unpaid debt, which can include credit card debt, medical expenses, or back child/spousal support. There are also contractor liens. For instance, if the contractors who constructed your home were not paid for their work, there could be a lien attached to the title. Additionally, you won’t necessarily be made aware of this when purchasing a home. It’s also possible that a lien was mistakenly assessed on your property.

Clearing a lien

Clearing the lien can be a bit complex. If the debt has already been paid, the seller will need to show proof of payment and the lien will usually be released. However, if payment is pending and you still want to purchase the property, the seller will need to cover the cost of the lien. Otherwise the responsibility for payment will fall to you, and this can be quite exorbitant when added to the original purchase cost. If you believe the lien was assessed in error, you may want to contact an attorney for legal guidance.