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Can I Put a Lien on Someone's Real Estate to Ensure I Get Paid For Money Owed?

Video Transcript

Hi, my name is David Allen and I'm a partner at Jaburg Wilk.  I specialize in commercial litigation with an emphasis on real estate litigation and also handle some transactional work.

If somebody owes me money, can I put a lien against their real estate to make sure that I get paid?

The short answer to that question is usually no.  If somebody owes you money you could sue them, you could obtain a judgment, you can obtain what's called a "judgment lien" and once you get the judgment lien, you can have the court record that against their property including the real estate.  That way, when they go to sell their property, or refinance their property, they'll have to pay you.  There is one exception to this however, when you can record something before a judgment and that's called a "notice of Lis Pendens."

What is a notice of Lis Pendens?

A notice of Lis Pendens is Latin for pending action and a notice of Lis Pendens is recorded to tell the world or anyone that checks the County Recorder's Office that there is a lawsuit pending.  The type of lawsuit that will allow you to record a notice of Lis Pendens is typically something called "an action for a specific performance" when you're trying to force somebody to sell you the property.  If it's not that type of action, even though it might involve real estate, or perhaps a claim for damages, you're not allow to record a notice of Lis Pendens and doing so would be wrong.

What can I do if somebody wrongfully records a lien against my property?

If somebody wrongfully records a lien against your property, you can file a lawsuit for what's called "quiet title" to ask to have the court order that the lien be removed.  If you've been damaged by the recording of a lien against your property, you also could sue them for damages under something called "slander of title."


About the Author: David Allen, a partner in the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg & Wilk, has been representing clients in both transactional and litigation real estate and business related matters over thirty years.  He is licensed as an attorney in both Arizona and California, and is also a licensed Arizona real estate broker.