How to Put a Lien on a Property in California: A Guide

How to Put a Lien on a Property in California: A Guide

Putting a lien on a property in California is a legal process that involves following specific procedures to secure debts, obligations, or possession. Whether it’s for a loan or to enforce tenant laws, understanding the steps involved is crucial. Liens can have significant implications for both the debtor and the creditor, affecting legal claims, loan possession, and payment transactions. Understanding how to put a lien on a property is essential knowledge for anyone involved in real estate dealings, whether you’re a realtor, tenant, or have a legal claim. It’s important to conduct thorough research, such as reviewing the title report, to ensure accurate information before proceeding.

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In California, the process of putting a real property lien requires careful attention to detail and adherence to state-specific guidelines. This includes ensuring that the loan document waives any claims on the property taxes. This includes providing proper notice, filing the necessary documents to release real property liens, and ensuring all terms are met for job or divorce liens. From obtaining a payment notice to executing a release form that releases lien, each step must be followed meticulously to document waives the divorce lien and clear the unpaid debt.

Whether you’re a contractor seeking payment for a job, including labor or materials provided, or an individual looking to protect your interests as a paid creditor, knowing how to put a lien on a property in California is crucial. This can help ensure that you receive proper notice and compensation for your work or equipment.

Who Can Legally Put a Lien on Your House in California?

In California, real property liens can be placed on your house by several parties. These liens are a result of community property laws and can be enforced through a document that waives the right to the lien once paid. Let’s explore who the claimant is and why they can place real property liens. It is important to understand that once a lien is paid, the document waives the claimant’s rights.

Contractors, Subcontractors, and Suppliers

Contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers who provide labor or materials for construction projects on real property have the ability to put liens on houses. This allows them to claim what is owed to them by the claimant and their spouse. This is known as a mechanic’s lien. If you hire a contractor to remodel your house or build an addition to your home, for example, and fail to pay the claimant for their services, they can file a lien on your property to claim the money.


  • Protects contractors from non-payment.
  • Encourages homeowners to fulfill their financial obligations.


  • Homeowners may face difficulties selling or refinancing their real property, such as a house, with liens attached. This can affect their ability to receive the money they are owed or have paid.

Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs)

Homeowners’ associations also have the right to place liens on real property if homeowners fail to pay their dues or assessments. The claimant can then seek payment from the house owner. When you purchase a house in an HOA community, you agree to abide by certain rules and regulations set forth by the association. This includes signing a waiver that releases any lien on your home. These house rules typically include paying monthly or annual fees that contribute towards maintenance and upkeep of common areas. This document ensures that money is properly allocated for the house’s expenses. Additionally, a waiver may be required to exempt certain individuals from these fees.


  • Ensures homeowners contribute their fair share for shared expenses.
  • Helps maintain property values within the community.


  • Failure to pay HOA dues can result in foreclosure of real property if left unresolved. Real property liens may be placed on the house until the dues are paid. Homeowners can release the lien by paying the outstanding amount or by negotiating a payment plan. Alternatively, a stop payment notice can be issued to halt the foreclosure process.

Government Agencies

Government agencies, such as tax authorities, can place liens on real property for unpaid taxes or fines. The claimant must provide the necessary documents to prove ownership of the house. If you owe back taxes or have outstanding fines related to your property, the government has the authority to file a payment notice lien against your house. The claimant can then use this document to assert their claim. This ensures that the claimant has recourse to collect what is owed. Additionally, the claimant releases the lien upon receiving the payment notice and waiver.


  • Promotes compliance with tax laws and regulations.
  • Provides government agencies with means of collecting unpaid debts.


  • Liens from government agencies can be particularly challenging to resolve, especially when it comes to real property. The legal authority of these liens can complicate matters for the claimant trying to document their ownership of the house.

Mechanics and Auto Repair Shops

Mechanics and auto repair shops may file liens against vehicles if payment is not received from the claimant for services rendered. This legal document, known as a waiver, allows the shop to assert their rights over the vehicle until the outstanding payment is made. If you fail to pay the bill for car repairs, the mechanic has the right to place a payment notice on your vehicle, which serves as a lien. This prevents you from selling or transferring ownership of the vehicle until the payment debt is settled.


  • Protects mechanics and repair shops from non-payment.
  • Encourages prompt payment for services rendered.


  • Vehicle owners may face challenges if they need to sell or transfer ownership of their cars while a lien waiver is in place. The claimant may require payment before releasing the lien on the vehicle.

In California, various parties, including claimants, have the legal right to put a lien on your property under specific circumstances. This can result in a payment obligation for the property owner unless a waiver document is provided. Contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, homeowners’ associations, government agencies, mechanics, and auto repair shops all have different reasons for placing liens on a claimant’s property in order to secure payment. As a homeowner or property owner, it is crucial to understand the rights and obligations related to claimants, waivers, payments, and releases. This understanding will help you avoid potential complications in the future.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Put a Lien on a Property in California

To put a lien on a property in California, the claimant must follow several important steps, including filing a claim, obtaining a payment, and obtaining a waiver and release. Let’s break it down:

Obtain Necessary Documentation

Before proceeding with putting a lien on a property, it’s crucial to gather all the necessary documentation from the claimant. This documentation may include proof of payment, a signed waiver, and a release form. This includes contracts, invoices, and proof of non-payment. These documents will provide evidence of the payment, claimant, waiver, release of the work or materials you provided and the amount owed.

Serve Preliminary Notices

To protect your lien rights in California, it’s essential for the claimant to serve preliminary notices within specific timeframes to ensure prompt payment and avoid the need for a waiver or release. These notices inform property owners, general contractors, and other interested parties that you, as the claimant, have performed work or supplied materials and may file a mechanics lien if payment is not made. The purpose of these notices is to provide a waiver and release. Failing to serve these notices can result in losing your right to file a lien waiver. The claimant must ensure timely payment and release of the claim.

File Mechanics Lien

After completing the necessary work or delivering the materials, the claimant must file a mechanics lien with the county recorder’s office to secure payment. Once the lien is filed, it acts as a release and waiver of any potential disputes regarding payment. This step ensures that the claimant’s payment against the property is officially recorded and the release is processed. Be aware that there are strict deadlines for the claimant to file this lien after completion of work or delivery of materials in order to receive payment and obtain a release.

Serve Notice of Recorded Lien

Once you have recorded the mechanics lien, you must serve notice of the recorded lien to interested parties involved in the project, including the claimant. This notice is crucial to ensure timely payment and eventual release of the lien. This includes property owners, general contractors, lenders, and any other relevant parties who have an interest in the property, such as claimants seeking payment or release. Properly serving this notice ensures that the claimant is aware of your claim against the property and facilitates payment and release.

Now that we’ve covered these essential steps, let me give you some additional information about the payment process and how it relates to the release of funds to the claimant.

  • When preparing your preliminary notices and mechanics liens, make sure they comply with California law and follow the required form format. This is especially important for the claimant, as it ensures that their release is valid and legally binding. Using incorrect forms or failing to include necessary information can invalidate the claimant’s claim.
  • Change Order: If the claimant has any changes or additions to their original contract, it’s important to properly document them with a change order. This ensures that the claimant is compensated for any additional work or materials provided beyond the original scope of the contract.

Putting a lien on a property is a legal process that requires attention to detail and adherence to specific timelines and procedures. When a claimant wants to secure their rights to the property, they can file a lien. This process involves following specific steps and meeting certain deadlines. It’s crucial for a claimant to consult with an attorney or seek professional advice to ensure they follow all the necessary steps correctly.

Remember, when all other attempts at payment have failed, putting a lien on a property should be the last resort for the claimant. It’s always best for a claimant to try resolving payment disputes through negotiation or mediation before resorting to legal action.

By understanding the steps involved in putting a lien on a property in California, you can protect your rights as a contractor or supplier and increase your chances of receiving payment as a claimant for the work you’ve done.

Duration of Judgment Liens in California: Timeframes and Renewals

In California, judgment liens filed by creditors typically last for ten years from the date they are recorded with the county recorder’s office. This applies to both individual claimants and business claimants. Once a judgment lien is filed, the claimant must take specific actions to remove it from the property within a decade.

Creditors have the option to renew judgment liens before they expire, allowing them to extend the duration beyond ten years. This is beneficial for claimants who want to ensure their rights are protected and their debts are collected. This can be beneficial for creditors who have not yet received payment and want to continue pursuing their claim against the debtor’s property. Additionally, this process can provide a favorable outcome for the claimant.

However, it’s important to note that if the judgment debt is paid off by the claimant during this ten-year period, it is essential to release the lien promptly through proper procedures. Failure to disclose any outstanding claims by the claimant can lead to complications when selling or refinancing the property.

Renewing Judgment Liens

Renewing a judgment lien in California involves filing an application for renewal with the court before the original lien expires. This process is necessary for the claimant to maintain their legal rights and interests. It is crucial to file this application within three months before or after the expiration date of the original lien. Failing to meet this deadline may result in losing your right to renew.

Once you’ve submitted the application, you must serve notice of renewal on all interested parties involved in the case. This includes both the debtor and any other creditors who may have an interest in the property.

Upon receiving notice of renewal, interested parties have 30 days to object or contest your request for renewal. If no objections are raised within this timeframe, and all requirements are met, your judgment lien will be renewed for another ten years.

Releasing Judgment Liens

Releasing a judgment lien is just as crucial as renewing it when necessary. When a debtor satisfies their debt or pays off their financial obligations, it is essential for creditors to release the lien promptly.

To release a judgment lien in California, you must file a satisfaction of judgment with both the court and county recorder’s office where the original lien was recorded. This document serves as proof that the debt has been paid in full and releases the lien from the property.

Failure to release a judgment lien can have serious consequences for both parties involved. For creditors, failing to release a satisfied lien may result in legal repercussions and potential liability for damages. For debtors, an uncleared lien can hinder their ability to sell or refinance their property.

Can an Ex-Spouse Place a Lien on Your House in California?

In certain circumstances, an ex-spouse may be able to place a lien on your house in California. This can occur if there are outstanding debts related to divorce settlements, such as spousal support or child support. The court may issue a judgment that allows the ex-spouse to place a lien on the property as collateral for unpaid obligations.

Outstanding Debts and Liens

When going through a divorce, it’s essential to address any financial obligations and debts between spouses. If one spouse fails to fulfill their responsibilities, such as paying spousal support or child support, the other spouse may seek legal recourse. In California, this can result in obtaining a judgment that allows them to place a lien on the former marital home.

Court-Ordered Judgments

To place a lien on the property, the ex-spouse must go through the legal process and obtain a court-ordered judgment. This means they must present evidence of unpaid obligations and convince the court that placing a lien is necessary to secure payment. Once the judgment is granted, it becomes enforceable by law.

Collateral for Unpaid Obligations

The purpose of placing a lien on the property is to provide collateral for any unpaid obligations. By doing so, it ensures that if the debtor fails to pay their debt according to the terms outlined in the judgment, the creditor (ex-spouse) has rights over the property. This gives them leverage and increases their chances of recovering what they are owed.

Consult with Legal Professionals

If you find yourself in a situation where your ex-spouse is attempting to place a lien on your house in California due to outstanding debts from divorce settlements, it is crucial to consult with legal professionals who specialize in family law. They can guide you through this complex process and help protect your rights and interests.

Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

Navigating the legal system can be overwhelming, especially during a divorce. It’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities. By seeking professional advice, you can gain clarity on the specific laws and regulations that apply to your situation.

Implications of Having a Lien on Your Property in California

Having a lien on your property in California can have significant implications for your financial well-being and property rights. Let’s take a closer look at what these implications are.

Hinders Selling or Refinancing Property

When you have a lien on your property, it can make it challenging to sell or refinance until the debt is resolved. Potential buyers or lenders may be hesitant to proceed with the transaction because they don’t want to take on the responsibility of dealing with the outstanding debt. This can potentially delay or even derail your plans to sell or refinance your property.

Negative Impact on Credit Scores

Liens also have a negative impact on credit scores. When a creditor places a lien on your property, it becomes part of your credit history and can lower your credit score. A lower credit score makes it more difficult to obtain future loans or lines of credit, as lenders may view you as a higher risk borrower. It’s important to note that even after the lien is released, its presence on your credit report may still affect your credit score for some time.

Risk of Foreclosure

Creditors who have placed liens on properties in California may have the right to foreclose if their debt remains unpaid. If you fail to resolve the lien and satisfy the creditor’s claim, they could potentially initiate foreclosure proceedings against your property. Foreclosure is a serious matter that can result in losing ownership of your home and having it sold at auction to pay off the debt.

Prompt Resolution is Essential

To protect both your property rights and financial well-being, resolving liens promptly is crucial. By addressing and satisfying the outstanding debt, you can remove the cloud of uncertainty hanging over your property and regain control over its sale or refinancing options. It’s essential to work closely with creditors, negotiate payment arrangements, and ensure timely release of any liens.

Resolving Liens on Properties in California: Options and Considerations

Negotiating with Creditors for Settlement Agreements

If you find yourself facing a property lien in California, negotiating with your creditors can be a viable option to resolve the issue without going through foreclosure proceedings. By engaging in discussions with your creditors, you may be able to reach a settlement agreement that satisfies both parties involved. This could involve negotiating a reduced payment amount or establishing a structured repayment plan.


  • Allows for direct communication with creditors to find mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Provides an opportunity to potentially reduce the overall debt owed.


  • Requires effective negotiation skills and open lines of communication.
  • Success is dependent on the willingness of creditors to negotiate.

Paying Off the Debt in Full

Another option for removing liens from properties in California is by paying off the debt in full. If you have the means to settle your unpaid debt entirely, this can effectively eliminate the lien on your property. Once the final payment has been made, it is essential to obtain documentation that waives any further claims or interests against your property.


  • Provides a clear resolution by completely satisfying the outstanding debt.
  • Offers peace of mind knowing that there are no lingering financial obligations related to the lien.


  • May require significant financial resources depending on the amount of debt owed.
  • Not always feasible for individuals facing substantial liens or multiple debts.

Filing Bankruptcy under Specific Chapters

In certain cases, filing bankruptcy under specific chapters may provide options for dealing with certain types of liens effectively. Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows for liquidation of assets to repay debts, which could include satisfying liens on properties. On the other hand, Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves creating a repayment plan over three to five years, which may allow you to address and resolve property liens during this period.


  • Offers legal protection from creditors while navigating through the bankruptcy process.
  • Provides a structured framework for addressing and resolving various types of debts, including property liens.


  • Bankruptcy can have long-term implications on credit scores and financial standing.
  • Requires careful consideration and consultation with a bankruptcy attorney to determine the most suitable chapter.

Seeking Legal Advice from Experienced Professionals

When dealing with property liens in California, seeking legal advice from experienced professionals is crucial. Navigating complex lien resolution processes requires expertise in real estate law and an understanding of your rights as a debtor. An attorney specializing in this field can guide you through the necessary steps, help explore available options, and ensure that your interests are protected throughout the process.

Key Considerations:

  • Research and choose an attorney who specializes in real estate law and has experience handling lien-related cases.
  • Consultation with an attorney can provide valuable insights into your specific circumstances and available options for lien resolution.

Navigating Property Liens in California

Congratulations! You have now gained a comprehensive understanding of how to put a lien on a property in California. Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently navigate the complex world of property liens and protect your rights as a creditor or homeowner. Remember, putting a lien on someone’s property is not a decision to be taken lightly, but it can be an effective tool for securing payment or resolving legal disputes.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to put a lien on someone’s property, make sure to follow the step-by-step guide provided earlier. Seek professional advice if needed and ensure that you understand the implications and potential consequences. Remember, each case is unique, so it’s essential to consider all factors before proceeding.

Now that you have learned about property liens in California, take action and apply this newfound knowledge when necessary. Whether you’re protecting your interests as a creditor or dealing with the possibility of having a lien placed on your own property, understanding the process is crucial. Stay informed, stay proactive, and make informed decisions regarding property liens in California.


Can I remove a lien from my property?

Yes, it is possible to remove a lien from your property under certain circumstances. One option is to pay off the debt or resolve the issue that led to the placement of the lien. Once resolved, you can request that the lienholder release the lien. Another option is to challenge the validity of the lien through legal means if there are grounds for doing so.

How long does a judgment lien last in California?

In California, judgment liens typically last for ten years from their date of entry unless renewed by filing appropriate paperwork within five years after they were recorded.

Can I sell my house with a lien on it?

Technically, yes; however, selling your house with an existing lien can be challenging. The proceeds from selling the property would first go towards satisfying the lien before you receive any money. It’s crucial to address any liens on your property before attempting to sell it.

Can a lien affect my credit score?

Yes, having a lien on your property can negatively impact your credit score. Credit bureaus may consider liens as derogatory marks on your credit report, which can lower your score and make it more difficult to obtain credit in the future.

What happens if I ignore a lien on my property?

Ignoring a lien on your property is not advisable. The lienholder has legal rights and can take action to enforce the lien, such as foreclosing on the property or pursuing other legal remedies. It’s essential to address any liens promptly and seek professional advice if needed.

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