Debt collection is my business. I help small business owners when they do not get paid. I like to think that I also assist my customers with their credit practices. Truth be told, the better job they do, the easier my job can be.
Still, I continue to hear the same questions about debt collection and small business credit practices. So, I thought I would list them one more time.
One question I am often asked is, “Can’t you just lien their home?”
Answer: A lien is a record placed against a piece of property that can prohibit the sale of said property until the lien is released. In most cases, it means that the underlying debt gets paid. So it would make sense to put a lien on someone’s home to make sure you get paid, right?
You cannot file a lien against a piece of property unless you have a legal right to do so.
Most of time when my clients ask this question, they are not referring to a mechanics lien, which can be placed on a property when the contractor does not get paid. They are only valid for a limited time, usually 90-120 days, depending on the state. To keep this type of lien in place, you would file a court action and obtain a court judgment. And again, this type of lien applies only to contracting work – repair or improvements to fixed property.
A judgment is a decision by a judge in a court of law. If you obtain a judgment in your favorite, then you have the right to file a judgment lien against a piece of real estate. The lien stays on the property until you release it. So, sit back and relax and one of these days, you will get a phone call from the property owner (your debtor), who will pay you in full in exchange for a release of lien, right?
As I write this, most court systems are closed. Your best bet is to keep trying to settle the matter without litigation, at least for the immediate future.
Once courts do open, be smart about any litigation. Do some research before you file. Make sure that the person you are suing actually owns the property. Determine, as best as you can, if there is enough equity, or value after mortgage or any other liens, to pay your debt. Make certain that the property is not in foreclosure.
So while judgment liens can be a great way to secure and collect money owed to you, you have to make sure you use them in the right way, and in the right circumstances.