A lien gives a creditor legal claim to real or personal property as security or payment for delinquent debt or tax liability. There are several types of liens, including tax liens, which are imposed to secure payment of a state or federal tax; attorney liens, which are imposed against funds and documents to secure payment of attorney fees; and judgment liens, which are imposed to secure payment of a court-ordered judgment.
A lien is a legal claim to secure debt. It attaches to property and is subject to a statute of limitations -- a period of time in which legal proceedings can take place. Before a lien is put into place, the owner of the debt must receive advance written notice of the lien by mail.
When a lien is created for the amount of your debt, you receive written notification in the mail. Written notification is required to make the assessment official. If the debt is not paid promptly, a lien is put in place by the court. The full amount of your lien will remain a matter of public record at the county recorder's office or secretary of state's office until the lien is paid in full.
Either a lien has to be paid or the statute of limitations must be reached before the lien expires. In general, a lien is valid for up to 10 years from the assessment date. After you pay off the tax lien or the statute of limitations is reached, a certificate of release is sent to you by mail. Delivery times may vary but, in some cases, may be as short as 30 days.
Having a lien on your consumer credit reports can hurt your consumer credit scores, making it difficult for you to obtain new lines of credit. In general, the courts report liens to the applicable county recorder's office and to the credit reporting bureaus for up to 10 years. If a lien is created in error, notify the court and ask the three major credit bureaus to promptly remove the erroneous lien from your credit reports.