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Georgia Lien Search

A lien search in Georgia identifies legal claims or encumbrances on real estate or personal property. This search is critical for property transactions, informing parties of any claims that may affect a property title. 

Lien searches also help current or potential property owners determine how much they must pay or the underlying obligation they must satisfy to release an existing lien. In Georgia, liens are held by County Clerks' Offices as well as Georgia civil courts

What is a Lien in Georgia

A Georgia lien is a legal right or claim against a debtor's property. It is granted to creditors as security for a debt or obligation. The lien entitles the creditor to proceeds from the sale of a debtor's property if an underlying obligation is not fulfilled. 

Georgia liens come in various forms, each with distinct attributes and objectives. For example, some secure debts with all of a debtor's properties, while others target specific properties. At the same time, some liens last for a limited period, and others continue until the debt is paid.

Types of Liens in Georgia

Liens in Georgia vary, each with specific implications and filing processes. Understanding these differences is vital for property owners, creditors, and legal professionals.

  • General Liens

General liens affect all property a debtor owns. These liens provide broader security to creditors, ensuring that obligations will be met. Examples of general liens include judgement and federal tax liens.

  • Specific Liens

Specific liens target a particular property or asset to retrieve an obligation. Examples of specific liens include mortgage and mechanics liens.

  • Consensual and Involuntary Liens

Consensual liens arise from a property owner's agreement, often as part of securing a loan or credit. In contrast, involuntary liens are placed without the owner's consent, typically resulting from legal actions or unpaid debts. Examples include tax and judgement liens.

  • Statutory Liens

Statutory liens in Georgia are established by law, automatically granting creditors rights against a debtor's property under specific conditions. An example is a tax lien, which arises from a taxpayer's failure to pay federal, state, or local government taxes.

What is a Tax Lien in Georgia?

A Georgia tax lien (or tax execution) is a legal claim against a property, including real estate, personal property, or financial assets, due to unpaid state, county, municipal, or special district taxes. It is also called fieri facias (Fi. Fa) in Georgia, a Latin term that means "cause it to be done." 

Tax liens ensure compliance with tax obligations under Georgia law, specifically O.C.G.A. § 48-2-56. 

When a person's unpaid property taxes or other unfulfilled tax obligations become due, the state or local taxing authority can attach a lien to their property, securing the government's right to enforce payment. This lien has priority over almost all other claims on the property, making it a critical concern for property owners and potential buyers.

Are Tax Liens Public Record?

Yes. Tax liens are considered public records in Georgia since they are filed with the clerks of superior court, and Ga. R. Super. Ct. 21 establishes the public's right to access court records, except where access is prohibited. This transparency ensures that potential property buyers, creditors, and other interested parties are informed of any existing tax obligations tied to a property.

Due to their public nature, tax liens can also affect a person's credit rating, impacting their ability to get loans.

Georgia Tax Lien Search

To conduct a Georgia tax lien search, one must determine the type of lien they want to check for, the record custodian, and the resources or methods the custodian provides.

Before beginning the search, individuals should collect as much information as possible about the property or its owner. Details such as the property address, legal description, owner's full name, and parcel identification number can improve one's odds of finding a tax lien.

Individuals can search for tax liens through these agencies:

  • County Tax Commissioners

Failure to pay county-levied taxes can attract liens imposed by a county's tax commissioner. That is why local offices should be the starting point for real estate and personal property tax liens searches. 

Every county tax commissioner offers different means for members of the public to find tax payment details, allowing them to view each property's paid and outstanding tax bills. For example, the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner provides online search tools for real estate and personal property, which can be accessed using different parameters, including owner name, parcel ID, and address.

Individuals can also visit their tax commissioner's office or contact them via mail or telephone to inquire about the tax lien search processes.

  • County Clerk of Superior Courts

County clerks serve as the official recorder for counties in Georgia, maintaining superior court and real property records. These offices record all sorts of liens generated in their respective counties, including state and federal tax liens. Options for obtaining the records include in-person, online, or via mail. 

For example, lien searches through the Fulton County Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Court may be conducted during business hours at the clerk's Deeds and Records Room.

  • The Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority (GSCCCA)

Per O.C.G.A. § 15-6-94, the GSCCCA is the central resource for superior court records, especially real estate records. The authority's lien index search allows members of the public to find every type of lien issued within the state, including tax liens. Individuals can also request copies of documents and certify lien records through this website.

  • Georgia Department of Revenue

The Georgia Department of Revenue's website is the primary repository for state tax liens. Individuals can visit the agency's Georgia Tax Center to look up tax liens with SOLVED, the Search for a Lien tool. The tool disseminates information on tax liens filed by the state for unpaid taxes.

The system can be searched with a State Tax Execution Number or Lien ID. However, if the Lien ID is not known, searchers can provide other search parameters, such as a taxpayer's first and last name or the last four digits of their social security number (SSN).

Searchers can also contact the department's Taxpayer Services division via email, phone, or in-person to search for state tax liens.

It should be noted that tax lien records are updated regularly. If an initial search is inconclusive, repeating the process after some time is advisable. The DOR can impose tax liens without notifying property owners.

  • Third-Party Services

Given the complexity of tax lien searches, hiring a professional, such as a title search company or lawyer specializing in these searches, can ensure no lien is overlooked.

Individuals can also use third-party websites that provide tax liens search services. These vendors offer consolidated databases that allow researchers to check for tax liens issued against a property. That way, one does not have to query different agencies for tax liens.

Federal Tax Lien Search

A federal tax lien is the federal government's claim to taxpayers' property when they fail to fulfill their tax obligations. The lien secures the government's interest in a taxpayer's properties, including personal property, real estate, and financial assets. 

Generally, a federal tax lien exists after the IRS assesses an individual's due federal taxes and sends a bill explaining how much they owe, and the individual still fails to pay off the tax in time.

Subsequently, the IRS will file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, a public document, with the Clerk of Superior Court in the individual's county per O.C.G.A. § 44-14-571. The lien notifies creditors that a person failed to pay federal taxes and the government has placed a claim on their assets.

A federal tax lien lookup helps potential buyers, creditors, and property owners find federal tax liens, especially during property and financial transactions.

Interested persons can contact a county superior court clerk's office to search for federal liens filed in that county.

What is a Lien on Property in Georgia

A lien on property in Georgia is a public notification that a particular property has a legal claim due to the owner's failure to settle a debt. It is a security interest that grants creditors or lienholders a legal stake in the property as collateral for the due debt.

It is important to note that a lien does not transfer ownership or rights to a property to a lienholder.

Who can put a lien on a property?

According to O.C.G.A. § 44-14-320, the following parties can place a lien on property in Georgia:

  • Tax authorities: For taxes owed to the state, counties, and municipal corporations.
  • Creditors: By judgement or decree.
  • Laborers: For work performed on any property.
  • Landlords: Against tenant property.
  • Mortgagees: Holders of a mortgage on a property.
  • Mechanics: For work on real and personal property.
  • Contractors: Including subcontractors, those supplying materials to subcontractors, and laborers furnishing labor to subcontractors.
  • Service Providers: Including innkeepers, boarding housekeepers, carriers, livery stable keepers, pawnbrokers, depositories, bailees, factors, acceptors, and attorneys at law.
  • Other entities that can file legal claims against properties in the state include jewelers, laundrymen, hospitals and nursing homes, non-profit organizations, and courts.

How to put a lien on property in Georgia

The law clarifies how a lien claimant must create and file a lien on property in Georgia, and the process varies depending on the type of lien. 

For example, mechanics liens claimants must file the lien paperwork with the clerk of the superior court where a property is located, send true copies of the claim to the property owner, and commence the lien action within 365 days. 

On the other hand, a person who obtained a court judgment can lien the losing side's property by recording the judgment with the superior court clerk's office in the county where the debtor owns or will acquire property. 

How to Find a Lien on Property in Georgia

Georgia residents and other interested parties can perform a property lien search as follows:

County Records

Individuals can visit or contact the clerk of the superior court in the county where a property is located. Since most liens are filed with the clerk, one can get all necessary information from such offices.

Online Databases

Many local authorities offer accessible databases accessible on their websites, where lien searches may be conducted using a property owner's name or property address. Note that while most tax assessors and commissioners offer online resources for land records, their databases may not contain claims by parties other than the government.

Professional Services

Engaging a title search company or legal professional can ensure a comprehensive search for any liens on a property. People can also use third-party sites that allow users to search for local and state liens from one database.

  • Property Lien Search By Address

Interested persons can search for property liens by address via online databases provided by county clerks of superior courts. They can also perform an address search through the GSCCCA for statewide searches, provided they have premium accounts. Many third-party aggregate websites also allow customers to check liens on property liens using addresses as search parameters.

  • Free Lien Search on Property

Lien search databases on the websites of the county clerk's offices and the GSCCCA are available to individuals who want to find liens on a property for free. However, users may have to pay for certain services offered by the GSCCCA, such as address search, and one must pay for copies and certified documents obtained through a clerk's office.

What is a Mechanics Lien in Georgia?

A mechanics lien in Georgia is a security interest granted to contractors, laborers, and material suppliers who have yet to receive payment for services rendered or materials provided for property improvement. It is also called the material man's lien and is regulated by O.C.G.A. § 44-14-360 - 44-14-369. 

A Georgia mechanics lien affords a claimant the legal right to a property equivalent to the value of the unpaid work or materials furnished. However, it is considered one of the weakest liens in Georgia, as it expires after 12 months unless the claimant initiates a lawsuit. It also does not prevent a property's sale, transfer, or renting.

Georgia Mechanics Lien Search 

In Georgia, mechanics liens are recorded in the superior court clerk's office of the county where a property is situated. These liens become public records after filing. 

Thus, interested parties can contact a clerk's office or use the office's remote search resources to look up mechanics liens in Georgia. Individuals can also access search tools on the GSCCCA website to search for mechanics liens statewide.

Third-party websites also provide mechanics lien searches, allowing members of the public to look up properties from a central database. Individuals must note that these websites are private entities not affiliated with any government body or department.

What is a Mortgage Lien in Georgia?

A mortgage lien in Georgia is security for a loan provided for a property's purchase or refinancing. It affords the creditor (the mortgagee) a means of recovering their money if the borrower fails to pay off the loan.

In Georgia, mortgages do not affect real estate ownership. The lender can only claim proceeds from the sale of the property.

What is a UCC Lien in Georgia?

UCC liens are security agreements designed to protect a lender's financial interests in a specific personal property. They are called secured transactions in Georgia and are governed by O.C.G.A. § 11-9-101 - 11-9-808. 

UCC financial statements or liens can be filed with any superior court clerk's office in Georgia, and the clerk uploads the document to the GSCCCA's central database within 24 hours. These liens can be filed against personal property, such as jewelry, vehicles, electronics, and furniture. 

UCC Lien Search Georgia

Members of the public can find UCC filings through a local superior court clerk's office or the GSCCCA database. Searchers can also confirm if a UCC lien has been paid off by checking if a UCC3 form has been filed and whether it contains payment details.

Interested parties can also search for UCC liens using unofficial websites that offer lien lookup services.

What is a Lien Title in Georgia

In Georgia, a lien title is a vehicle title that indicates a lien against the vehicle. This means that a lender or other entity has a legal claim on the vehicle as security for a debt.

When such a lien exists on a vehicle, the vehicle will be titled in the owner's name. However, the title will also indicate details of the lien and will remain in the custody of the lienholder (lender) until the debt is satisfied. Once the vehicle owner settles the debt, the lienholder can indicate the lien's release on the paperwork and return the title to the owner.

Georgia Title Lien Search

Individuals can look up title liens through the following avenues:

Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR)

The DOR's Motor Vehicle Division maintains records of vehicle titles, including any liens on a title. Members of the public can request a search through this office to check for any existing liens on a vehicle.

County Tax Commissioners

Tax commissioners in Georgia operate motor vehicle divisions responsible for vehicle registration and title issuance. Individuals can submit open record requests to these bodies to obtain title liens information. One can also call the tax commissioner's office in the county where a vehicle was registered to confirm whether they dispense such information.

Third-Party Title Search Websites

Some third-party services offer online vehicle title searches for a fee, providing information on liens recorded against a vehicle.

  • Free Title Lien Search in Georgia

Members of the public can perform title lien searches for free with the Department of Revenue and county tax commissioners unless they want to obtain copies.

What is a Judgement Lien in Georgia 

A judgement lien in Georgia is a court-awarded monetary settlement converted to a legal claim against a losing party's personal or real property. It is a legal instrument that helps secure the party's debt.

Judgement liens in Georgia only become effective when creditors (the prevailing parties) enter their judgements on a superior court clerk's execution docket. They can also obtain a writ of fi fa to record the lien against a property. These liens bestow on creditors the right to collect proceeds from the sale of properties to recover the settlement amount.

Georgia Judgement Lien Search

Individuals in Georgia have different options for looking up judgement liens in the state.

The Clerks Authority's Website

Individuals can access the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority's (GSCCCA) consolidated liens index search tool to find judgement liens tied to any property in the state. A search can be conducted by name, address, or book/page number.

Clerks of Superior Courts

Interested parties can visit the clerk of the superior court's office in the county where a property is located to find judgement liens. It is advisable to check a clerk's website for pertinent information about the request process or contact the office via telephone. Following liens search links on most county clerk websites usually redirect users to the GSCCCA website.

How to Get a Lien Release in Georgia 

A lien release in Georgia discharges a lien from a person's real or personal property. While different processes are used for different liens, they all start with satisfying the inherent debt, provided the debtor does not want to challenge or wait out the lien.

Title Liens

To discharge a lien on a vehicle title, the owner must ask the lender for an electronic title release. Once the debt is satisfied, the lienholder will fill out the Release of Lien section on the title, including their name, authorized signature, and release date. The title will then be sent to the next lienholder or, if none, to the vehicle owner within five days. Form T-4 (Satisfaction of MV Title Lien or Security Interest Affidavit) must be provided as a release if the title is unavailable. 

Tax Liens

The Department of Revenue releases a taxpayer's lien within five days after the individual fulfills their tax obligations, pays off any outstanding penalties, and the payment reflects on their tax account. 

On the other hand, the IRS releases a federal lien 30 days after complete payment is confirmed.

Judgement Liens

To release a judgement lien, individuals can pay off the lien and obtain a "satisfaction of lien" form, commonly known as a lien release letter, from the plaintiff or creditor. A debtor can also petition the court to vacate the original judgement and release the lien if they believe sufficient grounds exist. A judgement lien can also be released by declaring bankruptcy.

Mechanics Liens

Individuals have different options for releasing a mechanics lien in Georgia. They can wait until the lien expires in 12 months, as a claimant may not move forward with a lawsuit due to costs. They can challenge the lien and get it canceled by a court if the claimant wrongly filed the lien. Finally, an individual can bond off the claim with a bond company, and the lien will be against the bond instead of their property.

Waiting for the Statute of Limitations

Many liens in Georgia have expiration dates. For example, tax liens last 10 years, mechanics liens are valid for 12 months, and judgement liens last 7 years. If the creditor does not recover their debt after a lien's valid period elapses, it automatically lapses. However, state law may permit a lien to be renewed for the same duration under specific circumstances to allow a debt or obligation to be met.

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