Legal Myths

businessman with boxing glovesYou're upset. Someone owes you money, doesn't pay after reminders and threats - so you decide to record a lien against the debtor's property. A lien is a type of security interest in property. Since there are forms of all types on the Web, you are likely to find one which seems to fit your needs. But ask yourself, if it is that easy, why do other people have to sue for a debt? Why are other creditors doing this the hard way?

It is true that under Florida and the laws in many states that the failure to pay for certain kinds of materials or services allows the filing of a lien. Usually this involves services or materials to improve real property, including construction, repairs, some design and landscaping, and architect and engineering services. These are specifically protected under statutes, and a provider of materials or services of this type may file a protective lien for the payment of their services even before a failure to pay occurs. This is the single most common type of lien other than a "judgment" lien. This lien for improvement of real property has limitation and special notice requirements, and is only applicable to the real property to which the services relate.

Judgment liens are based upon having properly recorded a judgment received after successfully completing a suit against a defendant. There are technical requirements as to what the judgment must contain to be recorded and thus become a valid lien. The judgment lien is against all real property of the defendant in the county where recorded. A creditor holding a judgment may also record the judgment with the State of Florida. This then acts as a lien against all personal property anywhere in Florida.

Now back to the question - why not just file the lien? Unless you are one of those permitted to obtain a lien by merely recording it in the correct form, you may be placing yourself at risk of a suit for falsely claiming a lien. Imagine the you have a debt due to you for $10,000, and you file a lien even though you have no right to do so. How bad can that be? After all, maybe the miscreant who hasn't paid you will sue to get rid of the lien, and you will sue for the debt you're owed, so you are O.K., right? Well, not necessarily. Imagine that your lien disrupted a several million dollar sale of real estate by the debtor to you, who intended to pay you after the sale. Having lost the sale because of your "slander of title" - the filing of an improper lien - you become the defendant in a multi-million dollar suit. Oh, yes, that has happened!

This is not for amateurs. Collect your debt the right way. Do not try this at home - ask a professional!