What happens with a lien on it is sold?

A lien was placed on a property but the house was transferred to a new owner. What is the effect of this ownership transfer? What will happen to the lien? Can a foreclosure still occur?

Asked on June 2, 2012 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Real estate liens attach to the property; they do not follow the debtor. So when ownership of a property is transferred to someone else, that person then becomes subject to the lien. This is why a title search should (and typically is) performed before a transfer. The search will turn up all liens against the property. Accordingly, they can be paid off before the buyer takes title. This is why, for example, mortgage companies require a title search before closing on a the sale of a home. If such a search turns up outstanding liens against the property, the mortgage company can refuse to finance the purchase. Additionally, the lienholder may seize the home for as long as it holds a valid lien. This could leave a new owner responsible for paying off the previous homeowner’s debt in order to keep the property. And if the new owner is unable to do so, the lienholder can foreclose on the property.

Depending on the type of deed used to convey the real estate and any seller disclosure statements given to the buyer, the new owner may or may not have recourse against the seller. At this point, you need to consult wih a real estate attorney in your area. They can best review the specifics of your case and advise you accordingly.

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