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Everything You Need to Know about Liens on Residential Properties

What is a Lien?

Generally, a lien is recorded with the county recorder or auditor to put the world on notice that you owe money to someone.  The lien attaches to the title or deed of your home until released.

What are Common Types of Liens?

There are several types of liens that may be recorded against your home.  These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Mechanic’s Lien – An unpaid contractor or material supplier may place a lien on your property for work performed or supplies delivered to your home.  
  • Homeowner Association Lien – A lien on your property for unpaid common or special assessments.
  • Judgment Lien – A court order/judgment giving the creditor the right to place a lien on your property for an unpaid debt.

What are the Implications of a Recorded Lien Against Your Home?

If the recorded lien is valid, it is rarely in your best interest to do nothing.  The lien claimant who records the lien against your home has the power to file a lawsuit to foreclose on the recorded lien to satisfy the debt.  This means that litigation can ensue and, if the lien claimant prevails, the Court will issue an order authorizing the sale of your property at public auction to satisfy the lien amount.  And under pertinent Washington statutory laws, if the lien claimant obtains that order, then as the prevailing party in the lien foreclosure action, the lien claimant may be entitled to recover their reasonable attorneys’ fees from you.  

Also, a recorded lien against your home may prevent the sale of your home or limit your ability to refinance your mortgage.  Each state has its own deadline of when a lien claimant must foreclose on the lien from the recording date.  For example, in Washington, a lien claimant must foreclose on a mechanic’s lien within 8 months from the lien recording date.  If the lien claimant does not foreclose during that time, then the lien essentially expires.  However, the lien remains on your property’s title report, which may cause some confusion to a potential buyer or mortgage company if you try to sell or refinance your mortgage.  

How Can You Remove a Lien Against Your Home?

If you agree that you owe the money asserted in the lien, the best and quickest way to remove the lien is to settle the lien claimant’s claim in exchange for a release of lien, and if applicable, a satisfaction of judgment.  If you do settle a lien claimant’s claim, insist on receiving a copy of the recorded lien release for your records.  Also, be sure that any credit agencies that were notified of the debt are also notified that the debt has been satisfied.

Liens are creatures of statute.  All statues require strict adherence to procedural and substantive procedures to record a valid lien.  If you have reason to believe that the lien against your home is not valid, then you should contact us to see if it is in your best interest to file an action remove the lien.  You may have a claim for a frivolous lien or a basis for filing a quiet title action to have the lien removed.

Your home is often your largest and most revered asset.  With that in mind, it is worth spending an hour or more with an attorney to ensure your home remains just that – your home.  If you have any additional questions or if a lien has been recorded against your home, please contact attorneys Seth Chastain ( or Christian Lawler ( to assist you.