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North Carolina Lien Search

A North Carolina lien search is a process that allows interested persons to discover any outstanding lien that is attached to real or personal properties in North Carolina. This process typically involves querying relevant government agencies and offices such as local Register of Deed offices, clerk of Court offices, and North Carolina Secretary of State office for public records regarding liens. Judgment liens are also managed as part of North Carolina civil court records since the state’s civil courts are responsible for establishing them.

When a property has a lien, it becomes less desirable for sale or purchase due to potential legal complications and other issues. Thus, in the course of a real estate transaction, it is necessary to conduct a North Carolina lien check to ensure the property's title is clear. By performing a lien search, any existing liens can be identified, along with details such as their value and creditor, providing important information for prospective buyers or sellers. 

What is a Lien in North Carolina?

A lien in North Carolina is a legal claim against a property used to secure a debt or obligation owed by the property's owner. Different North Carolina state statutes, such as  N.C.G.S. § 44A-7, permit the issuance and enforcement of liens in the state. 

A lien on a property can make the property sale difficult or overly complicated. Furthermore, the lienholder can begin foreclosure proceedings if a specific amount of time elapses after a lien attachment to a property. This can result in a property owner losing the affected property. Generally, foreclosure allows a lienholder to seize or sell a liened property to satisfy the debt or obligation they are owed.    

Types of Liens in North Carolina

Some of the most common types of liens that can be filed and enforced in North Carolina include:

  • Tax lien
  • UCC lien
  • Mechanic's lien
  • Mortgage Lien
  • Judgment liens
  • Bank lien
  • Real estate lien

The reasons for filing, the parties who may file them, and the methods by which they may be enforced vary for each of the aforementioned types of lien. However, liens can also be categorized based on their shared features. These categories and features are outlined and explained below: 

General Liens in North Carolina

General liens in North Carolina are types of liens that can affect any property a debtor owns. General liens can be attached to real property, such as real estate and land, bank accounts and personal property, such as a debtor's vehicle. An excellent example of a general lien is a tax lien, which the lien holder (the government) can file against all properties a taxpayer owns within a jurisdiction for failing to pay overdue tax bills.

Specific Liens in North Carolina

Specific liens are types of liens that can be filed against only one particular real estate property or personal property a debtor owns. A specific lien usually arises due to a debt linked to the specified property. Some of the most notable examples of specific liens are mechanic liens and mortgage liens following a mortgage loan.  In this case, the lien holders will be authorized to sell real estate property to recoup the outstanding debt.

Consensual vs. Involuntary Liens

A consensual lien, also referred to as a voluntary lien, is a lien a property owner agrees to as a means of securing a debt or loan. An example of a consensual lien is a mortgage lien. On the other hand, involuntary liens can be attached to a property without its owner's approval or consent. Some examples of involuntary liens include tax, judgement, and mechanic liens. 

Statutory Liens

Liens that result from the enforcement of federal or state statutes are known as statutory liens. These liens are usually involuntary. Therefore, a property owner's consent is not required before a statutory lien can be filed against a property. Some examples of statutory liens include tax and mechanic liens. 

What is a Tax Lien in North Carolina?

When a taxpayer owes delinquent taxes in North Carolina, the government can impose a tax lien on real and personal property(ies) the taxpayer owns in the state. Essentially, a tax lien protects the ability of state and local government agencies to collect unpaid taxes (for instance, unpaid property taxes).

In North Carolina, tax liens have characteristics of both statutory and general liens. For instance, the operation of N.C.G.S. § 105-355 and other pertinent state statutes may give rise to a tax lien. Furthermore, a tax lien can affect all personal and real property a taxpayer owns within the jurisdiction in which they are filed.   

Are Tax Liens Public Record?

Yes. In North Carolina, tax liens (and other liens) are subject to the state's public records law. As a result, tax liens are subject to public disclosure. Furthermore, per N.C.G.S. § 105-369, tax collection agencies in North Carolina are required to publicly advertise tax liens imposed on real property due to delinquent taxes.  

North Carolina Tax Lien Search

Interested persons can search for tax liens against real property, such as real estate and lands, in North Carolina by querying the local tax collector within the county where the property is situated. North Carolina state statutes (N.C.G.S. § 105-369) require these public offices (local tax collectors) to advertise records of tax liens they maintain on real properties within their jurisdiction. 

For convenience, most local tax collector offices in North Carolina advertise tax lien records they maintain through online resources, such as portals and online databases or tools. These resources are usually hosted and accessible through a tax collector's respective county's website. Some examples of these online resources include the Cumberland County delinquent taxes portal, Orange County Delinquent bill search portal, and Randolph County tax liens directory. These resources are usually searchable using a property owner's name or the property's description. 

In cases where these online resources are not easily accessible or unavailable, inquirers can contact a county tax office directly to inquire about tax liens on real properties within the office's jurisdiction. Fortunately, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles maintains an online directory containing the contact information of every North Carolina County Tax Office. 

Federal Tax Lien Search

The easiest way to conduct a federal tax lien search in North Carolina is through the North Carolina Secretary of State—the N.C. SOS maintains an online search portal that interested persons can use to conduct a federal tax lien lookup for free. On the portal, users can search federal tax lien records by a subject's (individual or organization) name, file number, serial number, and tax ID.

Alternatively, interested parties can hire a real estate lawyer or a title company to search for federal tax liens against properties on their behalf; such services are typically provided for a fee.   

What is a Lien on Property in North Carolina?

A Lien on property in North Carolina is a claim in favor of a third party against the property to secure a debt the property's owner owes until the debt has been satisfied or discharged. North Carolina state statutes, such as N.C.G.S. Chapter 44A, permit liens on real property and personal properties when certain conditions are met. According to the statute, "real property" includes lands, leaseholds, tenements, and hereditaments. Meanwhile, "personal property" includes furniture, vehicles, baggage, animals, and other forms of personal property an individual can own. 

Who Can Put a Lien on a Property In North Carolina?

In North Carolina, government entities, as well as private persons, businesses, and organizations, can place a lien on a property. Provided the owner of the property owes them a debt or obligation.

How to Put a Lien on Property in North Carolina

A claimant is required to follow state-specified procedures to put a lien on property in North Carolina. While the general process involves filing a lien claim with the appropriate government agency, some types of lien are subject to specific filing requirements under state laws. For instance, mechanic liens are subject to the "time of filing" requirement established under N.C.G.S. § 44A-12. Under the statute, a mechanic lien must be filed within 120 days after the last furnishing of labor or materials on the property to be liened. 

Due to the intricacies of North Carolina state laws regarding putting a lien on property, claimants are generally advised to seek professional legal advice. Doing this would help ascertain the legal requirements for the type of lien in question. Nonetheless, a claimant can undertake the following steps to put a lien on a property in North Carolina: 

  • Ascertain who owns the property to liened and review the property title and public records and title for other pre-existing liens and encumbrances. 
  • File a claim of lien form with the appropriate government agency. This form generally outlines details about the lien. These include the claimant's name and the address of the claimant, the name and address of the property owner, and a description of the real property, amongst other information. 
  • File the claim of lien form with the appropriate government agency and pay the required filing fees. Claims of liens against real property, such as lands and real estate, are filed in the office of the clerk of the superior court in the county where the real property is situated. Meanwhile, liens for personal properties are filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State's office. 

How to Find a Lien on Property in North Carolina

To find liens on a property in North Carolina, Interested persons can review land records maintained by the Register of Deed in the county where the property is located. To facilitate easy and convenient access to documents they maintain, most Register offices in North Carolina allow remote access to their record through online portals they retain. Some examples of these portals include the Cumberland County Register Of Deeds record search portal and the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds web access portal

On the other hand, inquirers would need to query the Secretary of State Office to check for a lien against personal properties in North Carolina. Inquirers can also opt to hire a third party, such as a title company or real estate attorney, to check for liens on property on their behalf. Outsourcing the task to a professional third party is usually the most efficient approach since there is no central database for information about liens on real properties in North Carolina. 

Property Lien Search By Address in North Carolina

Most government agencies that maintain records of liens against properties in North Carolina do not index lien records by a property's address. Instead, documents are usually indexed by the property owner's name, filing date, instrument number, or other information about the lien. Hence, these parameters are typically used to facilitate property lien searches through such government agencies instead of a property's address. 

Inquirers may, however, choose to use third-party aggregator websites that offer property lien search services if the address of a property is all the information they have. However, these websites usually charge users a fee. 

Free Lien Search on Property

Interested persons can conduct a free lien search in North Carolina using online tools and resources from Register Offices. Alternatively, inquirers may be able to conduct liens searches by making queries in persons at a county Register of Deeds Office. 

What is a Mechanics Lien in North Carolina?

A mechanics lien (also known as a material man's lien) is a legal tool that parties who provide construction-related services can use to secure owed payments for services they have provided on a property. These services include labor, materials, or equipment used to improve a real property. A mechanic lien may be filed by professionals in the construction field, including general contractors, material suppliers, architects, and others. Furthermore, mechanics liens are usually filed against the property where the service was rendered.

Mechanic liens in North Carolina are filed and enforceable according to N.C.G.S Chapter 44A. Like any other type of lien, a mechanics lien can affect a property owner's ability to sell or refinance the affected property. 

North Carolina Mechanics Lien Search 

In North Carolina, records of most types of liens against real properties, including mechanics liens, are maintained by the Register of Deed in the county where the property is located. Hence, interested persons can conduct mechanic lien searches in the state by querying a county's register office. As previously explained, queries can be made in person or through online tools and resources provided by a register's office. 

What is a Mortgage Lien in North Carolina?

A mortgage lien is a security interest in a real property that its owner can voluntarily provide to a third party (i.e. a lender) when the property is used as collateral to secure a debt. If the property owner fails to repay the debt, the mortgage lien may be enforced. This typically results in the mortgaged property being seized or repossessed by the lender to satisfy the debt.

What is a UCC Lien in North Carolina? 

A UCC lien is a security arrangement placed against personal property in North Carolina that grants a lender or other third-party rights to the property when it is used as security for a loan. UCC liens in North Carolina are subject to the North Carolina Uniform Commercial Code (N.C.G.S Chapter 25). 

UCC Lien Search North Carolina

In North Carolina, interested parties can conduct a UCC lien search through the North Carolina Secretary of State Office or locally through the county Register of Deeds Offices. According to the North Carolina Uniform Commercial Code, UCC liens against specific types of properties are filed locally at a county's Register of Deeds office. These include UCC liens against fixtures, timber to be cut, and those involving extracted collateral (i.e. oil, gas, or other minerals). Meanwhile, UCC lien against all other types of personal properties are filed in the N.C. Secretary of State office. Hence, inquirers can query these offices to search and review records of UCC liens recorded in North Carolina.  

Interested persons can search records of UCC liens filings maintained by the N.C. Secretary of State office through the NC SOS UCC search portal. On the portal, inquirers can search for UCC liens filings by file number, filing date, lapse date, and a subject's or organization name, amongst other search criteria. For information about NC SOS UCC lien filings, individuals can visit the NC SOS website, specifically the Uniform Commercial Code page.

Record seekers can also query a county Register of Deeds office to obtain information and records of UCC liens they maintain. Queries can be made in person at a county Register of Deed's physical address or remotely through online record search portals most Registers provide, as previously explained. 

What is a Lien Title in North Carolina

A lien title is a legal claim against a vehicle or car that arises when a creditor finances the purchase of the vehicle. The lien title is a security for the loan the creditor provided to purchase the vehicle. A lien title typically remains against the financed vehicle until the lienor completely pays back the loaned amount owed. Where the lienor defaults on the loan, the lien title can be enforced to allow the creditor to recoup the amount owed. This typically results in the vehicle getting repossessed by the creditor.  

North Carolina Title Lien Search

Record seekers can search for liens against a vehicle's title in North Carolina by submitting a vehicle's record request to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles. Requests can be made by completing the Request for Motor Vehicle Information (MVR-605A) form and submitting it in person or by mail to the NC DMV along with appropriate fees. To complete the form, record seekers must provide their personal information (i.e. their name, address, signature, and telephone) and information about the vehicle such as its VIN. Note that the fee for Vehicle information is $1 for regular copies and $14 for certified copies. For information, inquirers can visit the NC DMV Vehicle Records page. 

Free Title Lien Search in North Carolina

There are no free title search options in North Carolina. Title searches through North Carolina DMV are subject to fees. Similarly, title searches through other third-party service providers are also usually subject to fees. 

What is a Judgement Lien in North Carolina?

A judgement lien in North Carolina is a legal claim against an individual's property that arises due to a judgement awarded in a court case. Generally, a civil court case can result in a monetary judgement, where the losing party is ordered to pay the winning party a specific sum of money. In such cases, the judgement awardee can request a judgement lien against properties the judgement debtor owns to ensure that receive what they are owed. By implication, if the affected property ever gets sold proceeds of sale would first go towards satisfying the judgment.

To attach judgement lien against a debtor's real property, the judgement must be docketed with the clerk of the superior court in the county where the debtor owns property per N.C.G.S § 1-234. Note that judgement liens remain valid for 10 years from their filing date. It is also worth noting that lien judgements can only be attached to real property, such as real estate and lands in North Carolina. Furthermore, filings, attachments, and enforcement of judgements lien are governed by N.C.G.S Chapter 1 Article 23.  

North Carolina Judgement Lien Search

Interested members of the public can conduct judgement lien searches in North Carolina by querying the Clerk of Court office of any county where a debtor owns property. Queries can be made in person at the courthouse. Alternatively, inquirers can contact clerks by phone. Fortunately, each county Clerk of Superior Court contact information is accessible through the North Carolina Judicial Directory

How to Get a Lien Release in North Carolina 

To get a lien release in North Carolina, debtors must satisfy the underlying reasons for the lien, such as paying a debt or performing an obligation. Subsequently, the lienholder may be contacted to request the discharge of the lien. In response, the lienholder would submit the required paperwork to the relevant government office, such as a lien release letter, to remove the relevant liens. 

Another way to get a lien release is via a court order. In such cases, the owner of the liened property can file a lawsuit with a court of appropriate jurisdiction to state their case and explain why the lien is unwarranted. However, going through this process can be both cost-intensive and time-consuming.

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