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Pennsylvania Liens Search

A Pennsylvania lien search is an investigatory look into a property's history to uncover any liens or other encumbrances on the property's title. In Pennsylvania, lien searches can be conducted by reviewing public records maintained by relevant government agencies, including local Prothonotary Offices or Pennsylvania Recorder of Deeds Offices. Besides mortgages, which are filed in the latter, most liens are filed in the former. 

A lien search may also be outsourced to a third-party search provider, such as a title company and a real estate attorney or firm. Before buying real estate or personal property, lien searches and other due diligence procedures are done to ensure the property is clear of any future encumbrances that may cause legal issues.

What is a Lien in Pennsylvania?

A lien is a legal charge or claim placed on a property due to an unpaid obligation or debt. It is a debt collection strategy that entities and individuals can use to ensure a debt a property owner owes them will be paid. In cases where the property owner does not satisfy the owed debt or duty of their own accord, liens on their property are legally enforceable under Pennsylvania Statutes. Depending on the type of lien, its holder may be given priority over the proceeds from the sale of the property subject to the lien or the right to repossess the property to recoup what they are owed.

Types of Liens in Pennsylvania

Different types of liens may be issued in Pennsylvania, and each type differs in how they are enforced and the reasons for their issuance. Some of the most common types of liens in Pennsylvania include:  

  • Judgements liens
  • Real estate tax liens
  • Mechanic liens
  • Child support liens 
  • Municipal liens
  • UCC liens

The aforementioned types of liens can be further grouped according to the distinct qualities they share. For instance, their reach and subsequent effects (general or specific), cause of issuance (consensual or involuntary), and whether their issuance is automatic or required by law (statutory). 

General Liens in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania general lien a legal claim against all or some of a debtor's property or assets due to an unpaid debt or obligation. It lien provides its holder with a legal claim to use any of the debtor's property or assets to the value being owed. A good example of a general lien is a tax lien which the government can place against all property a taxpayer owns within a specific jurisdiction for unpaid property taxes or other imposed taxes.  

Specific Liens

A specific lien, as its name suggests, is a legal claim against a specific property or asset a debtor owns. Specific liens usually arise when a property is linked to an outstanding debt or obligation or when a property is utilized as collateral for a loan. Some examples of a specific lien include a mortgage, mechanic, and UCC liens. 

Consensual vs Involuntary Liens

Consensual liens occur when an individual wilfully accepts debt against a property or asset they own. An example of a consensual lien is a mortgage lien. Conversely, involuntary liens are imposed against properties without needing the owner's express consent. An example of an involuntary lien is a tax lien. 

Statutory Liens

Like an involuntary lien, a statutory lien may be issued against a property without its owner's express consent or a security agreement. Generally, a statutory lien arises automatically due to state or federal laws. Some examples of statutory liens under Pennsylvania law are tax, mechanic, and municipal liens.  

What is a Tax Lien in Pennsylvania?

A tax lien is a charge in favor of the government on real or personal property owned by a taxpayer for the satisfaction of unpaid delinquent taxes. In Pennsylvania, tax liens are imposed under PA. Code § 119.11, PA. Code § 35.3, and other relevant statutes. Generally, a tax lien guarantees that the government is a priority creditor that must be paid before any financial transactions (such as sales, transfers, or loan applications) are made involving the affected property.  

Are Tax Liens Public Record in Pennsylvania?

Yes. Tax liens are subject to Pennslyvania's Right to Know Law (RTKL), making them public records.  

Per PA. Code § 119.11, a government agency can perfect (appropriately file and make legally enforceable) a tax lien against a taxpayer by recording the lien with the county prothonotary office where the property is located. Once recorded, tax liens become a matter of public record, and the owner of any affected property is notified of the presence of a lien on their property. 

One of the many negative implications of tax liens is that they can make it difficult to sell or refinance affected property. Furthermore, a tax lien can make it impossible to utilize the affected property as collateral for loans. It can also affect the property owner's credit score, as liens are usually reported on credit reports. This can make sourcing loans through other means difficult.  

Pennsylvania Tax Lien Search

A tax lien search in Pennsylvania can be conducted through the Prothonotary Office in the county where the property is located or where the taxpayer resides or does business. 

Generally, tax liens are filed locally by government agencies such as the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue at the county level at each local Prothonotary office. In turn, these offices perfect the liens against taxpayers' properties by recording and maintaining case records on each recorded lien. Hence, queries for tax liens in Pennsylvania should be directed to the local prothonotary offices serving each county. Inquiries about Pennsylvania tax liens can be made at a local Prothonotary Office either in person or online:

  • Online: Most county prothonotary offices provide online case search portals that people can use to search for tax lien cases their office has recorded. These portals are usually accessible through the county or prothonotary office website. Some examples include the Montgomery County Prothonotary Case Search portal and Bucks County Web Viewer. Searches may be conducted using a lien's case number, parcel number, commencement date, and filing date.  
  • In-person: In-person queries for tax lien records can be made by visiting a local Prothonotary Office during regular office hours. Some offices provide public workstations that record seekers can use to conduct searches in person at their physical office for free. Physical copies of Pennsylvania lien records may also be made for a fee. 

Federal Tax Lien Search

Interested persons can conduct a federal tax lien search in Pennsylvania by querying a county's Prothonotary Office in person or through the office's online resources, as previously explained. Alternatively, an inquirer can hire a real estate attorney/firm or a title company to conduct a title search on their behalf. Federal tax lien lookups can also be conducted through certain third-party websites. 

According to Pennsylvania state statutes (PA. Code § 119.11 and § 35.3), government agencies must file liens with the Prothonotary Office in the county where a taxpayer resides, does business, or owns real property to perfect the lien against the tax player. As a result, a county's Prothonotary Office is the primary government agency that interested parties can contact to obtain information on federal tax liens.

What is a Lien on Property in Pennsylvania?

A lien on property in Pennsylvania is a legal claim against an individual's real or personal property to secure a debt or obligation they owe. Whereas personal properties include vehicles or other tangible assets, real properties include real estate and lands.   

After a lien has been placed on a property, the lienholder may be able to enforce the lien if the property owner still refuses to pay the debt or obligation. This would enable the lienholder to lawfully seize the affected property to satisfy the debt or obligation or to collect the owed amount through the sale of the property. 

Who Can Put a Lien on a Property?

In Pennsylvania, anybody with a legitimate and verifiable claim that a property owner owes them money or other obligations can put a lien on said individual's property. This can be an individual, entity, or government agency. 

How To Put a Lien On Property In Pennsylvania 

The procedure for putting a lien on a property in Pennsylvania are usually dependent on the type of lien. For certain types of liens, state statutes require that a "Notice of intent to lien" must first be issued to the property's owner before a lien claim can be put on their property. Some types of liens are also subject to filing deadlines under state statutes. Hence, it is advised to seek professional legal advice before filing to put a lien on a property. Nonetheless, the general process for placing a lien on a property in Pennsylvania usually includes the following steps. 

  • Identify the property and verify its ownership information: Before filing to place a lien on a property, reviewing the property's records is crucial to ensure that the debtor is the rightful owner. While reviewing the property records, look for liens or other encumbrances the property may already have. Priority is typically accorded to liens according to the date of filing. Older liens are, therefore, usually given priority over newer ones. 
  • Prepare a lien claim form: a lien claim form is a legal document that informs the appropriate office of an individual's desire to put a lien on a property. These forms are obtainable through third-party channels or may be requested from a county Prothonotary Office. A lien claim form must contain information about the lien claimant, the property owner, a property description, and the owed amount. Depending on the type of lien, other information, such as the date the required notice was sent, must also be provided in the claim form. 
  • File the lien claim form with the Prothonotary Office in the county where the property is located: As previously stated, these offices are responsible for perfecting liens on properties within their county. Depending on the type of lien, the lien claim form must be filed alongside other required documentation, for instance, a certificate of compliance. Most county Prothonotary Offices accept lien claim forms filed in person at their physical location or sent by mail. Some county Prothonotary Offices also provide an online e-filing portal claimants can use to file their lien claims. An example is the Montgomery County Prothonotary office's Electronic filing portal.
  • Pay the filing fee: Lien claims are usually subject to filing fees. These fees vary depending on the type of lien and the Prothonotary Office. 

How to Find a Lien on Property in Pennsylvania 

In Pennsylvania, Interested persons can find out if there are any liens on a specific property by querying the local Prothonotary or Recorder of Deeds Office in the county where the property is located. Besides mortgages filed with the Recorder of Deeds Office, most liens filed against a property are filed in the local Prothonotary office in the county where the property is located. Hence, individuals can review these offices' records to find a lien on a property in Pennsylvania. 

Alternatively, interested people can hire a title company to conduct a title search on a property to find liens and other encumbrances. 

Property Lien Search By Address

Most government agencies, such as local Prothonotary and Recorder of Deeds that maintain records on property liens in Pennsylvania do not index liens by property address. Instead, their records are usually indexed by other information, such as an individual or business name, document number, and recording date. As a result, these offices typically do not allow inquirers to search their records by property address. 

The only viable means of conducting a property lien search by address in Pennsylvania is through third-party aggregate websites. These websites usually allow users to search for property liens by address.  

Free Lien Search on Property

Individuals can conduct a free property lien search in Pennsylvania through online record search portals and databases provided by local Prothonotary and Recorder of Deeds offices. Individuals can also visit a local Prothonotary Office during regular business hours to use public workstations they provide to find liens on a property within their jurisdiction. 

What is a Mechanics Lien in Pennsylvania?

A mechanic lien is a legal claim against a property to secure a debt owed by the property owner due to services rendered on the property or materials furnished for such services. According to Pennsylvania Mechanic Lien Law, the only persons eligible to file a mechanic lien are contractors or subcontractors whose claims are at least $500 in value. 

A mechanic lien on a property can prevent its owner from being able to sell or refinance the property until the lien is satisfied or released. Furthermore, the lienholder may enforce the lien by foreclosing the property to recover the money they are owed.

Pennsylvania Mechanics Lien Search

Interested persons can conduct a mechanic lien search in Pennsylvania by querying local Prothonotary Offices. These offices are responsible for maintaining case records of mechanic and other liens filed against properties within their respective county.  

Pennsylvania mechanic lien searches may be conducted in person at the applicable county Prothonotary's office (where a property is situated) or through online databases these offices maintain, as previously explained. 

What is a Mortgage Lien in Pennsylvania?

A Pennsylvania mortgage lien is a legal claim a lender has on a property until the property's owner repays a mortgage loan. A mortgage lien is a security for ensuring a lender gets back their money when entering into a mortgage agreement with another party. Mortgage liens may be enforced if a borrower defaults on a mortgage loan, enabling the lender to foreclose on the borrower's property to recover the amount owed. 

What is a UCC Lien in Pennsylvania?

A Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) lien, also known as a UCC financing statement, is a security interest on a personal property "collateral" that a lender uses to secure a loan. A UCC lien also serves as a public notice that informs third parties of a creditor's interest in a property. UCC liens in Pennsylvania are subject to and enforceable under the Pennsylvania Commercial Code

UCC Lien Search Pennsylvania

Interested persons can conduct a UCC lien search in Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) or locally through a County's Recorder of Deed Office. The DOS maintains records of UCC lien filed against personal property. Meanwhile, records of UCC liens against real property (i.e. real estate and lands) are accessible through the Recorder of Deed Office in the county where the property is located. 

Individuals can search for UCC lien records maintained by the DOS through the UCC search portal the agency provides. Searches are conducted using a lien number, debtor's name, or a secured party's name as search criteria. For further inquiries, interested persons can contact the DOS Uniform Commercial Code section at (717) 787-1057 or mail questions to:

Mailing address

Uniform Commercial Code, 

PO Box 8721, 

Harrisburg, PA 17105

On the other hand, A UCC lien search on real property can be conducted by contacting the Recorder of Deed Office in the county where the property is located. Most county recorder offices usually provide online search portals that can be used to search for and access the public records they maintain, including UCC lien. An example is the Lancaster Recorder of Deeds online services database. This database and similar databases provided by other county recorder's offices are usually searchable using an individual's name, instrument number, or property address. Inquirers can contact a county's Recorder of Deed Office directly to make UCC lien inquiries when online access to their records is not provided.  

What is a Lien Title in Pennsylvania?

A lien title is a legal claim against the title of a vehicle or car due to a loan. When someone finances the purchase of a vehicle, a lien title is typically created, giving the lienholder the legal right to reclaim the vehicle until the loan balance is paid back.

Pennsylvania Title Lien Search

Individuals can conduct a Pennsylvania title lien search on a vehicle by submitting a request for vehicle information to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). This would provide information about a vehicle's history in the state, including any liens that have been recorded on the vehicle's title. Note that requests are subject to a service fee. Furthermore, certain information about the vehicle information such as its tag number, title number, or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is required to make a request.   

Free Title Lien Search in Pennsylvania

There are no free title lien search options in Pennsylvania offered by government custodians. Conducting a title lien search in Pennsylvania through PennDOT usually incurs a fee. However, some third-party aggregate sites may offer limited lien-related information for free. In most cases, the inquirer will need to pay a fee to access extensive information.

What is a Judgement Lien in Pennsylvania?

A judgement lien is a legal claim against a property arising from a monetary judgement awarded in a lawsuit. A lawsuit can result in a court awarding the winning party a monetary judgement over the losing party. A monetary judgement is a court order to pay a specific sum. 

After a monetary judgement has been awarded, the judgement may be filed in any county where the debtor owes real property. The judgment serves as an automatic lien against any real property the debtor owns in the county and may restrict the sale of an affected property until the judgment is satisfied. A judgment lien essentially guarantees the payment of a monetary judgement awarded by a court. In Pennsylvania, judgement liens are subject to the provisions of Penn Statutes Chapter 81.

Pennsylvania Judgement Lien Search

Interested persons can conduct a judgement lien search in Pennsylvania by querying the local Prothonotary office in any county where the judgement's debtor owns real property. Prothonotary offices usually provide public workstations at the physical address interested persons can use to search for records of different types of liens, including judgement liens, filed on properties within their jurisdiction. Some Prothonotary's offices also provide online access to their lien record through databases hosted on their websites. 

Meanwhile, to search for judgement lien against personal properties in Pennsylvania inquirers must query the Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS). 

How to Get a Lien Release in Pennsylvania

To get a lien release in Pennsylvania, the subject of a lien can resolve the condition of the lien (i.e. paying off a debt or performing an action). After that, the subject can contact the lienholder to complete a "certificate of satisfaction of lien" form, which should then be filed with the relevant authority. Once the form has been filed, the lien will be marked as satisfied.

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