What is a lien?

What is a lien?  A lien is a right to stand in line when a property sells, to get paid back the lien amount, plus interest/penalties.  Liens stack up in chronological order.  The first lien to be recorded at the clerk’s office is in “first position”. 2nd is in 2nd position, and so on.
1. A lien on real estate, must be recored at the county clerk’s office, in the county in which the property is located.
2. Whenever a lien is recorded at the county clerk’s office, against a person, it automatically attaches to all pieces of real estate that person owns in that county.  The same lien may be recorded in multiple counties, in order to have it attach to all real estate the person owns in those counties – especially when a property is known to span county lines.

3. Types – There are all types of liens: Mortgages, judgment liens, state/fed/local tax liens, unpaid child support liens, HOA liens, etc.
4. Yes, a mortgage is simply a lien held by a lender.  It essentially states, that if you pay you stay, and if you don’t, you won’t = meaning, if you default on your loan, you’ll be foreclosed upon and your home will be repossessed by the bank.  The bank will then sell the house and pay off/down your loan with the sales proceeds.  If there is not enough sales proceeds to pay off your loan (a “shortfall”), then the lender will file a default-judgment-lien against you, and you will not be able to buy another house without first paying off that shortfall, plus legal fees, interest and penalties.  You may be able to negotiate some settlement that is less than the full amount owed, in exchange for release of this default judgment lien – you may even get the lender to foreclose on you withOUT a default judgment for any shortage.
5. Expiration – Different liens are valid for different lengths.  Some do not have expiration dates. Call your local county clerk’s office.
6. Releases – Once a lien is satisfied (either paid in full, or when a partial payment is accepted in exchange for release), then a 1-page lien release must be filed at the county clerk’s office by the lienholder.