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Massachusetts Lien Search

Massachusetts lien search allows residents verify the existence of legitimate third-party claims or holds on property located within the state. Massachusetts liens are public records, meaning interested parties can find information on liens on any property in the state. Lien searches are typically done as part of due diligence when one intends to purchase or lease a property. Doing this search before completing the transaction can help one avoid becoming embroiled in legal disputes, incurring resource loss, or wasting invaluable time. County Assessors and Recorders of Deeds are the official custodians of liens and other Massachusetts property records. Interested persons may contact them directly or use online repositories to do a lien search. 

What is a Lien in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts liens are legal claims on a particular property by a creditor against a debtor to guarantee the payment of an obligation or debt. A lien gives its holder a legal claim over a piece of property and the right to pursue property liquidation to recover unpaid debt. Furthermore, a lien holder may seize the property if the debt owed to them is not paid after a specified time.

Types of Liens in Massachusetts

There are different types of liens in Massachusetts, and they differ based on why they were created. The different types of liens in Massachusetts include:

  1. Tax liens
  2. Judgement liens
  3. Mortgage liens
  4. Mechanic’s liens

Besides the aforementioned types of liens, Massachusetts liens can be further classified into other categories based on criteria such as how they are generated (voluntary and involuntary), the nature of the lien (general and specific liens), and whether or not a lien is imposed on a property by statute. 

General Liens in Massachusetts

General liens are a type of lien that gives a lien holder the right to all the properties owned by the debtor. They are also known as floating liens. Examples of general liens include tax liens and judgement liens. A general lien on real estate entitles the creditor to the property until the owner pays off the applicable debts. This means that any property can be sold to clear the debt.

Specific Liens

Specific liens are liens imposed on a specific property a debtor owns or has rights to. Also known as particular liens, they remain attached to a specific property as insurance pending payment of a debt or fulfillment of some other obligation created due to an agreement or transaction involving the property. 

Common examples of a specific lien are mortgage liens and mechanic’s liens. Mortgage liens, for example, remain attached to the house a person purchases with a mortgage. If a person fails to pay off the mortgage in the agreed tenor, the house may be sold to pay off the debt. 

Consensual vs Involuntary Liens

Consensual liens are liens placed on a property following a debtor’s voluntary consent or actions, such as a loan or credit advancement. An example is a residential mortgage, which a mortgagee agrees to during negotiations for the loan contract. On the other hand, an involuntary lien is a type of lien attached to a property by law or a regulatory authority against the will of its owner for unpaid debt obligations. An example of an involuntary lien is one the Massachusetts Department of Revenue places on a property due to its owner’s unpaid taxes. 

Statutory Liens

Statutory liens are liens placed based on state laws and do not require the debtor's consent or other contractual provisions. They are initiated when a court issues a judgement that gives the creditor security interest in a debtor’s property. For a statutory lien to be valid, certain strict requirements must be satisfied. Examples of statutory liens are tax, artisan’s, mechanic’s, construction, and judgement liens.

What is a Tax Lien in Massachusetts?

A tax lien in Massachusetts is a type of lien filed by a city, town, or municipality against a property owner to collect their property to enforce the collection of local taxes. In Massachusetts, tax liens are filed with the Registry of Deeds. 

According to M.G.L. c. 60 § 52, tax liens give municipalities the right to suspend property ownership rights and take over ownership of the property specified in the lien.

Are Tax Liens Public Record?

Yes, according to the Massachusetts Public Records Law. Once filed with the Massachusetts Registry of Deeds, tax liens are public records. Information about tax liens, such as details about the property and the unpaid property taxes owed, is typically available to the general public. Consequently, interested parties such as lenders, creditors, and potential buyers can access them.

The existence of a tax lien on a property imposes serious implications, such as the inability of the debtor to sell or refinance the property and obtain credits. Furthermore, the municipality where the affected property is located may file a lawsuit, requesting permission to sell the property. 

Massachusetts Tax Lien Search

Generally, the Registry of Deeds is responsible for filing liens and typically allows interested individuals to search its database for liens on any property in the state. Most documents filed with this office are available online.

Generally, the offices of the county recorders, tax collectors (treasurers), clerks, and assessors are the first sources of information when searching for liens in specific counties (where the property is located or where the taxpayer resides). The office of the Massachusetts Secretary of State may also facilitate a tax lien search.

More often than not, the aforementioned record custodians facilitate tax lien inquiries by letting an inquirer know whether or not a tax lien exists on a specific property and providing specific details about the lien, such as the owed tax amount. To check for liens on a property, a person may use any of the following methods:

  • Online: A majority of the aforementioned agencies provide online land records search portals on their websites. Interested parties may use these portals for tax lien searches. These sites are typically accessible for free and allow users to search their database using keywords such as owner’s full name, parcel number, bill number, and street name. For example, the Massachusetts Secretary of State maintains a lands record search portal
  • In Person: Residents of Massachusetts may visit the Register of Deeds Office or Recorder's Office in the county where a property is located to conduct their search. In-person visits must be during official business hours and in compliance with other protocols applicable to the custodian's office. Interested individuals may call the office (on phone lines available on its website) or visit the office’s website for visitation guidelines before their visit. Often, visits to record custodian offices are by appointment only. While this method is typically free, inquirers must pay a fee to make duplicates or obtain certified copies of tax liens. 
  • Mail: Several offices allow tax lien lookup requests via mail and fax. Applicable procedures, fees, and processing time are available on the website of the clerk-recorder or treasurer of the county they wish to search, and vary with different offices. A requester typically has to send a written request to the custodian in question.

The request must include specific details about the property, such as its address and parcel identification number. It must also contain the requester’s contact information, such as their name, phone number, and mailing address. Lastly, a requester may need to include a statement requesting the tax information and also specify the period of interest. Note that fees such as administrative fees and copying fees may apply.

Federal Tax Lien Search

In Massachusetts, federal tax liens on real property and fixtures are typically filed with the Register of Deeds of the county where such real property or fixtures are located. Consequently, parties interested in conducting a federal tax lien lookup may visit the office of their local Registry of Deeds during office hours to search their record physically. Alternatively, they may check their website for online search options. Where available, requesters can also use the mail-in option.

What is a Lien on Property in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, a lien on a property is a legal claim that gives the lien holder the right to claim ownership of the property in the event that the property owner fails to pay a certain debt or fulfill certain obligations. 

In other words, lien holders have the right to force the property in question to be sold to satisfy the unpaid debt. A lien can be imposed on a property for unpaid taxes or by another third party, such as a contractor owed wages for work on that property. Also, liens can be created when a court passes a judgement against the owner of a property or by any operation of the law.

Who can put a lien on a property?

Various parties can put a lien on a property under specific circumstances. The kind of lien on a property is characterized by its implications, procedures, and the requirements to place that lien. 

Liens are placed on properties by parties or entities to which the property owner is indebted. Examples of parties that can do this include: 

  • Utility companies
  • Judgement creditors 
  • Government agencies 
  • Mortgage lenders 
  • Contractors.   

How to put a lien on property in Massachusetts

The process of placing a lien on a property in Massachusetts depends on the lien type and the jurisdiction where the property is located. Nevertheless, putting a lien on a property typically follows the steps outlined below. 

  • Cross-check the laws governing liens within the jurisdiction and verify eligibility.
  • Notify the debtor of intent to file a lien on their property if they fail to pay the debt.
  • Locate the debtor’s property and verify that they are the owner. This step also includes collecting relevant details, such as the property’s description, the amount of money owed, the name of the debtor, or details of the goods or services provided.
  • Draft the lien affidavit. This step may require the guidance of a competent legal professional to ensure compliance with local laws and accuracy. Necessary supporting documents, such as contracts, receipts, and invoices, should be attached to substantiate claims.
  • Notarize and file the affidavit at the Registry of Deeds. Notarizing the affidavit involves signing the document in the presence of a notary public who will verify the identity and signature of the lien holder. The recording fee for federal liens at the Registry of Deeds is $5.
  • Notify all entities included in the lien, such as any other lien holder and the owner of the property.
  • If the debt is unpaid, enforce the lien by filing a foreclosure lawsuit against the property owner. This typically results in the property being sold and the proceeds being channeled towards settling the debt.

How to Find a Lien on Property in Massachusetts

Once filed, a property lien becomes public record and is accessible to any interested person. Local registries of deeds in various counties are responsible for the filing and handling of all liens filed within their legislative jurisdiction. They also provide several means of public access to lien information. Alternatively, lien information may be found among land records filed at the clerk-recorder's office in the county where the property is situated or the owner is a resident. 

Property Lien Search By Address

To retrieve lien information on a property, inquirers must furnish administrative staff at the record custodian’s office with specific information about the property. Most agencies require the address of the property as a search parameter. 

One may also do a property lien search by address on third-party aggregate databases. This option is handy when the searcher does not know the complete address or record custodian. However, note that because aggregate websites are not affiliated with the government, there is no guarantee of the completeness or accuracy of the information obtained. 

Free Lien Search on Property

There are few free options for lien searches in Massachusetts. Searches at the local registry of deeds are typically free. Similarly, online options provided by government agencies are usually free. Many independent third-party websites allow free access to basic lien information but typically require a fee for detailed search results. 

Results found during a lien search on a property differ with different types of liens but typically include the following:

  1. Lienholder information, typically their name and contact information
  2. Debtor’s names and contact details
  3. Identifying information about the property mentioned in the lien, such as its legal description, address, and parcel number
  4. The amount of money secured by the lien
  5. The type of lien
  6. The filing date
  7. Release information (if the lien has been satisfied or released). 

What is a Mechanics Lien in Massachusetts?

A mechanic lien is a type of lien filed by a contractor, subcontractor, design professional, or builder on a property to ensure payment for supplied materials or labor. In Massachusetts, a mechanic lien is an involuntary lien. It may be filed without the property owner’s consent or judicial review.

A mechanic lien gives its holder the right to initiate foreclosure proceedings to claim the owed amount by compelling the sale of the property. The M.G.L. Chapter 254 outlines Massachusetts mechanic lien laws. While a mechanic lien may be resolved by a written statement from the filing party at the registry of deeds, waivers are not possible for mechanic’s liens.

Massachusetts Mechanics Lien Search 

Like other kinds of liens, information about Massachusetts mechanic liens is available at the Registry of Deeds. Interested parties may visit the record custodian’s office in the county where the property is situated during official hours to conduct the records search. Alternatively, the offices of the Massachusetts SOS and the clerk-recorder may also facilitate mechanic lien searches. Some county clerk-recorder offices maintain online databases where the public may do online searches. 

What is a Mortgage Lien in Massachusetts?

A mortgage lien in Massachusetts is a claim placed on a property by a lender or creditor to secure the payment of mortgage loan. A mortgage lien is typically initiated when a property owner signs a mortgage agreement while purchasing a home or other real property. 

The mortgage lien provides security for loan repayment if the property owner defaults on the loan. A mortgage lien on a property carries several implications, such as a negative impact on the property value and title and the risk of foreclosure.

What is a UCC Lien in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, a Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) lien is a type of lien a creditor places on a debtor’s property to secure payment of a debt or other obligation. It is typically created when a debtor grants a creditor a security interest in their personal property as collateral for a secured transaction. Creditors place UCC liens on a property to inform other creditors about their interest in a person’s property. 

UCC Lien Search Massachusetts

Any interested person can find UCC lien information on any individual or corporation in Massachusetts by performing a search on the Massachusetts UCC database maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office. Searches can also be performed through local agencies, such as the Registry of Deeds. 

UCC lien searches are generally done using a business’s name, a filling number, or a person’s last name as search parameters. Advanced search portals allow inquirers to filter search results using parameters such as status, file date, lapse date, and file type.

What is a Lien Title in Massachusetts?

A title lien is a legal claim placed on the title of a property, such as a house or a car, to act as security due to a debt or obligation owed by the property owner. It is also known as a title encumbrance. The lien remains attached to the title of the car until the associated debt is paid. The existence of a title lien on any property prevents its sale or transfer of ownership.

Massachusetts Title Lien Search

In Massachusetts, interested parties can search for title liens on any vehicle or real estate through several methods. The Registry of Deeds and Title Search Companies may furnish a requester with title lien information. 

A requester may hire a real estate attorney to assist with the search since they are more familiar with the state’s property laws. Lastly, online resources provided by the Registry of Deeds or other third-party providers may be used for these searches. For lien searches involving vehicles, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles can help with a vehicle’s title check.

Regardless of the method, searches are typically done using identifying information as search parameters, such as an owner’s name or a property’s address.

Free Title Lien Search in Massachusetts

In-person searches at the offices of registries of deeds across Massachusetts are usually free. Similarly, searches performed on their websites are typically free. In addition, inquirers may be able to retrieve basic title lien information for free from third-party search databases.

What is a Jugdement Lien in Massachusetts? 

A judgement lien is a legal claim that gives the person who won a court case (usually the creditor) a right to be paid a certain (owed) amount from proceeds realized from the sale of a debtor’s property. The debtor can be an individual or an organization.

According to Massachusetts General Law, a judgement lien shall terminate no later than 20 years from the date it was created. If the debtor defaults on payment, the commissioner may cause a civil action to be filed in a district or superior court with jurisdiction over a municipality in which the debtor has personal property to subject such property to the payment of the owed amount.

Massachusetts Judgement Lien Search

Interested parties may submit queries at the local registry of deeds in the county where the debtor named in a judgement lien owns (or has rights to) real estate. This method is usually free. 

Records of judgement liens can also be found at the Court Clerk's office in the municipality where the judgement was issued. To obtain information through this method, a requester must provide the case number, names of the parties involved, or the date of the judgement. This information may help a court clerk find the specific record they seek.

How to Get a Lien Release in Massachusetts 

A lien release is a legal document that removes a lien from a specific property. The procedure for releasing a lien varies with different counties and depends on the type of property. 

  1. Get a lien release form from the lender. If the lien involved is a mechanic’s lien, the form is usually created along with the contract. If a person seeks to remove a lien from a vehicle, the creditor shall send the lien release once the debt has been completely settled. 
    All parties involved in the lien must sign the lien release form along with the date. Depending on the jurisdiction, this form may need to be notarized, and a recording fee may be necessary. In Worcester, for example, a recording fee of $105 is required.
  2. File the completed lien release form with the same Registry of Deeds where the lien was initially recorded. A lien release typically features information such as the date a debt was paid off, the total amount paid, a description of the property subject to the lien, and the names of the creditor and the debtor.

How to Get a Copy of a Lien Release in Massachusetts

After a lien release has been effected, the lienholder typically sends a lien release letter to the debtor, confirming that the lien has been satisfied. Interested parties may query the office of the Registry of Deeds of the county where the lien in question was recorded or released. Official queries can be made by mail or in person. Requesters must pay certain fees to obtain copies of a lien release.

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