February 11, 2023 1:12 pm

Maria Center

What are Liens?

A lien is a legal claim on a property that gives the holder the right to seize the property if the owner fails to pay a debt or fulfill an obligation. Liens serve as a form of security for creditors and ensure that they receive payment for the goods or services they have provided.

Basically, a lien means that the owner of the property owes someone money!

What is the Difference Between Liens?

Voluntary Liens

A voluntary lien is a lien that is voluntarily placed on a property by the owner. This type of lien is typically used when the owner takes out a loan or borrows money from a lender. By placing a voluntary lien on the property, the owner is giving the lender a legal claim on the property as security for the loan.

A mortgage lien is a common example of a voluntary lien in real estate. The owner of the home has agreed to let the lender place a lien on the real estate in order to borrow money from them in the form of a mortgage loan. 

A mortgage lien is a legal claim on a property by a lender who has provided a loan to the owner. This type of lien gives the lender the right to seize the property if the owner fails to repay the loan.

Involuntary Liens

An involuntary lien is a lien that is placed on a property without the owner's consent. This type of lien is typically used to secure payment for goods or services that have been provided to the property.

Examples of involuntary liens include mechanics liens, tax liens, and judgment liens. In each of these cases, the lien is placed on the property without the owner's consent, and the holder of the lien has the right to seize the property if the debt is not paid.

Involuntary Liens


  1. Mechanics Liens: A mechanics lien is a legal claim on a property by a contractor, subcontractor, or supplier who has not been paid for work performed or materials provided for the property. This type of lien is typically used in the construction industry. This is an involuntary lien, 
  2. Tax Liens: A tax lien is a claim by the government on a property due to the owner’s failure to pay taxes. This type of lien gives the government the right to seize the property if the taxes are not paid.
  3. Judgment Liens: A judgment lien is a legal claim on a property by a creditor who has won a lawsuit against the property owner. This type of lien gives the creditor the right to seize the property if the debt is not paid.


It is important to understand that a lien does not give the holder ownership of the property. Instead, it gives the holder the right to seize the property if the debt is not paid. Once the debt is paid, the lien is typically released.

Remember that voluntary liens are placed on the owner's property with their consent, whereas involuntary liens are placed on the property without the owner's consent.

Want to review some key vocabulary terms? Check this out.

About the Author Maria Center

Maria Center began her real estate career in 2003 as a real estate agent in Ohio. Currently she works as a real estate license exam tutor/instructor at PrepAgent. She is also Principal Broker at Nestiny Realty in Cincinnati, Ohio and Richmond, Virginia. She was licensed as an Ohio real estate broker in 2011 and owned her own brokerage from 2011-2017. She currently works as Principal Broker at Nestiny Realty in Cincinnati, Ohio and Richmond, Virginia. She is also a licensed Florida and Alabama Real Estate Broker and is a Florida Real Estate Instructor.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Ready to Study?

Join Our Next Study Session

Register to join our next FREE live real estate exam study session with real estate tutor Maria Center

This is a Bottom section. You can edit it or choose a ready-made design 

>