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Delaware Lien Search

In Delaware, a lien search involves examining public records to uncover outstanding liens against a property. This process is vital for property transactions to ensure a clear title and protect buyers and lenders from assuming unknown debts. Lien searches also aid negotiations and provide peace of mind to the parties involved. 

Typically, a lien search reviews records maintained by county clerks, recorders, and Delaware civil courts. The search may be carried out by oneself or with the assistance of a title company or real estate attorney.

What is a Lien in Delaware

In Delaware, a lien is a legal right that allows a creditor to use a debtor's property as security for a debt. It can be imposed on property voluntarily or involuntarily, with priority based on the filing or establishment dates. 

By placing a lien on a property in Delaware, a creditor can foreclose if the debtor defaults on the agreed terms or conditions. Liens have significant legal implications, which include limiting debtors' property rights.

Types of Liens in Delaware

In Delaware, different situations and parties can create liens. Some common ones include:

However, liens can be sorted into different categories, depending on their type (general or specific), how they link to property (voluntarily or involuntarily), and whether their attachment is required by law. 

  • General Liens in Delaware

A general lien is a type of lien that impacts all of a debtor's property or assets rather than just a specific one. It can arise for various reasons, such as a court judgement, tax debt, or other statutory obligation. A general lien applies explicitly to real estate, including buildings and land, in Delaware.

General liens typically hold priority over other types of liens, except for tax liens. In Delaware, a general lien can endure for 10 years but may be prolonged for another decade if necessary.

To establish a general lien in Delaware, a creditor must file a lien document with the superior court in the county where the debtor's property is situated.

  • Specific Liens

In Delaware, specific liens are targeted at particular properties or assets rather than applying to all of a debtor's belongings. Examples of specific liens include mortgage and mechanics liens.

  • Consensual vs Involuntary Liens

Consensual liens arise from contracts in which the borrower uses their property as collateral or security for a loan (mortgage, car loan, etc.). In contrast, involuntary liens are imposed on a debtor's property without consent. Examples of involuntary liens include judgement and tax liens.

  • Statutory Liens

A statutory lien is a claim on someone's property authorized by law because of an outstanding obligation. Such liens ensure that certain debts or duties are fulfilled, including taxes, monetary judgements, and services performed by contractors or mechanics. A statutory lien can affect real estate and personal property (like money or goods) in Delaware.

What is a Tax Lien in Delaware

A tax lien is a legal claim the government has on a person's property or assets due to their failure to pay taxes. Per Title 25, Chapter 29 of the Delaware Code, tax liens may be imposed on a property for unpaid property taxes, school taxes, water and sewer bills, and fines or civil penalties stemming from local building codes, property regulations, zoning laws, and other related issues. These liens can be attached to real or personal property.

Are Tax Liens Public Record?

Yes. Per the Delaware Freedom of Information Act, tax liens are public information. The law ensures that details about federal, state, or municipal tax liens imposed on property for unpaid taxes are available to the public. 

Public access empowers individuals (property owners, people looking to buy property, real estate agents, etc.) to make informed decisions about property transactions or investments. By being aware of any tax liens, they can better assess the financial implications and potential risks associated with a property. Additionally, transparency fosters accountability among property owners regarding their tax obligations and helps maintain the integrity of property transactions in Delaware.

Delaware Tax Lien Search

Performing a tax lien search in Delaware involves accessing public records to identify any outstanding tax liens against a property or individual. Below is a comprehensive guide for effectively conducting a tax lien search in Delaware.

Determine the County: Individuals must determine the specific county where a delinquent taxpayer resides or their property is located.

Request Records:

Counties in Delaware offer online access to their tax records databases, making it convenient to conduct searches from anywhere if one has an internet connection. Usually, individuals must visit a county Recorder of Deeds or Tax Assessor's website (for example, Newcastle County and Sussex County) to find such online databases. Standard search functions to review delinquent taxes include an address, owner's name, or parcel number.

Where online access is unavailable, or one prefers a physical inquiry, they can visit the Recorder of Deeds or Tax Assessor's office in person to request assistance from staff. The staff may provide one with access to physical records or guide them through their internal database. Requesters typically must provide specific information about the property they seek or its owner.

Review the Results: Individuals should review the tax records to identify where outstanding tax liens may exist against a property or person.

Anyone who encounters difficulties with the tax lien search process may contact the relevant Recorder of Deeds or Tax Assessor's office. Also, consulting a real estate attorney or tax professional for guidance on finding tax lien information can be considered.

Federal Tax Lien Search

A federal tax lien search involves checking for any outstanding federal tax liens filed against an individual or business entity. 

31 Del. C. § 3102 establishes the county recorder's office as the place of filing for federal tax liens affecting real estate and certain personal property. Meanwhile, the Division of Corporations is the primary recorder for federal tax lien filings against personal property.

Thus, individuals can visit or contact the county recorder's office where a person has real property or resides (for personal property) to inquire about federal tax liens. Some county recorder's offices offer online search tools where users can input a taxpayer's name or property address to retrieve lien information.

Again, one can query a Delaware Authorized Searcher to find federal tax liens filed with the Division of Corporations. Details about searching these liens, as well as the associated costs, are provided on page 23 of the Division's UCC Administrative Rules manual.

What is a Lien on Property in Delaware

In Delaware, a lien on property is a legal claim or encumbrance that a creditor holds against a property to guarantee the payment of a debt or obligation. The lien serves as a security for the creditor, ensuring that if the debtor fails to fulfill their obligations, the creditor can initiate foreclosure proceedings on the property to satisfy the debt.

Who can put a lien on a property?

In Delaware, contractors, subcontractors, judgement creditors, government entities, and homeowners' associations can put a lien on a property. Contractors and subcontractors can file mechanics' liens for unpaid work, judgement creditors can place liens for unpaid money judgements, government entities can impose tax liens for unpaid property taxes, and homeowners' associations can place liens for outstanding dues or fines.

How to put a lien on property in Delaware

Placing a lien on a property follows a distinct procedure, depending on the type of lien. However, individuals must identify property that a debtor owns and file appropriate documentation (often a notice of lien) with the relevant office. Recording the lien ensures that it becomes a matter of public record and is legally binding against the property. Admittedly, many filings occur in the recorder's office of the county where a property lies or a debtor resides. 

After filing the documentation, it may be necessary to notify the property's owner of the lien. This often involves mailing a copy of the lien notice to the property owner's address. 

Understanding the requirements and deadlines for each type of lien is vital to ensure its validity and enforceability.

How to Find a Lien on Property in Delaware

To find liens on a property in Delaware, individuals can employ two primary methods:

Visit a County Recorder of Deeds Office: The County Recorder of Deeds office maintains a comprehensive repository of documents pertinent to real estate transactions within a county, including records relating to liens. By visiting a recorder's office, individuals can ascertain the existence of any liens on a property. The Recorder of Deeds can also furnish copies of lien documents upon payment.

Utilize the County E-Recording Database: Several recorder's offices in Delaware offer convenient access to their land records through an electronic recording (e-recording) database. This allows individuals to conduct searches remotely from their homes or offices. However, accessing an e-recording database may require user registration and payment of subscription fees. An example of such a database is the Kent County Land Records system, an efficient online interface for obtaining property lien records in Kent County.

  • Property Lien Search By Address

Individuals may conduct property lien searches in Delaware by address through the County Recorder of Deeds offices or online via electronic recording databases provided by many recorder offices. Visiting a Recorder of Deeds office allows for expert assistance and direct access to official records, while online databases offer convenient access from anywhere.

  • Free Lien Search on Property

Individuals can check liens on property at no charge in Delaware via online search portals overseen by county recorders' offices. These portals facilitate free searches for liens on properties. However, anyone requesting standard or certified copies of property lien records from county recorder offices or affiliated websites may incur a fee.

What is a Mechanics Lien in Delaware?

A mechanics lien in Delaware represents a legal right to claim unpaid dues for labor or materials supplied to construct or enhance a property. Per 25 Del. C. § 2702, this claim can be made by any individual or entity who has contributed labor, materials, or both, amounting to over $25 towards the erection, alteration, or repair of a structure or for specific services linked to land improvement. The lien extends not only to the structure but also to the land on which it stands or has been erected.

Delaware Mechanics Lien Search 

To conduct a mechanics lien search in Delaware, requesters should visit the County Recorder of Deeds office or access their online search portal. Details like a property owner's name, the lien's filing date, or a book/page number are often needed to search a recorder's files. 

A person may also seek assistance from a title search company or real estate lawyer to conduct a thorough search.

What is a Mortgage Lien in Delaware?

A mortgage lien in Delaware secures a loan using real estate as collateral. The lien is created when a borrower signs a mortgage contract, which the lender records in the county where the property is located. If the borrower defaults, the lender (mortgagee) can foreclose on the property. 

To enforce a mortgage lien, the lender must file a praecipe for monition with the county prothonotary within 120 days of the last payment due date. If the borrower fails to respond, the prothonotary can issue a judgement in favor of the lender and sell the property. However, if the borrower contests, the case will be transferred to the Superior Court. 

In Delaware, mortgage lien priority dates back to a loan's inception, though certain conditions may affect priority. Additionally, mortgage liens do not always precede tax, mechanic, and judgement liens. 

Individuals can learn more about the mortgage liens in Delaware by reviewing Title 25, Chapter 21 of the Delaware Code.

What is a UCC Lien in Delaware? 

A UCC lien represents a creditor's legal assertion over a debtor's assets. The acronym "UCC" refers to the Uniform Commercial Code, a comprehensive set of regulations governing commercial transactions across the United States. To formalize a UCC lien, creditors must file documentation with the Secretary of State's office where a debtor is situated or incorporated. In Delaware, this responsibility falls to the Division of Corporations.

Any creditor with a secured interest in a debtor's assets, such as lenders, suppliers, or lessors, can file a UCC lien. The objective of establishing a UCC lien is twofold: first, it provides notices to potential creditors about an existing claim, and second, it establishes the priority of that claim in the event of default, bankruptcy, or foreclosure proceedings. UCC liens can affect various collateral, including inventory, equipment, accounts receivable, and intellectual property.

UCC Lien Search Delaware

To search for a UCC lien in Delaware, a creditor or any other interested party can contact a Delaware Authorized Searcher—a service provider, registered agent, or law firm certified by the Division of Corporations to conduct online UCC filings and searches. These entities possess access to the Delaware UCC Information System, which houses comprehensive data on all UCC filings within the state. Through an Authorized Searcher, inquirers can obtain a certified UCC search report detailing the specifics and current status of any UCC lien attached to a debtor's assets.

A list of UCC Authorized Searchers is available on the Division of Corporations website. An individual can contact the Division at (302) 739-3073 for more details. It is important to note that authorized UCC searchers offer varying fees and services.

What is a Lien Title in Delaware?

A title lien represents a legal claim on a vehicle's ownership. Typically, the lien is placed on a vehicle when the owner borrows money to purchase the vehicle. The lender becomes the lienholder and can repossess the vehicle if the owner fails to repay the loan. A title lien is recorded on a vehicle's certificate of title, issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Delaware.

Delaware Title Lien Search

To perform a title lien search in Delaware, individuals should contact the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). When contacting the DMV, individuals must provide specific details about the vehicle they are searching for, such as the VIN (vehicle identification number); model, make, and year; and owner's name. Individuals may also need to provide identification and pay any associated fee. Once the DMV completes the search, they will furnish results detailing any existing liens on the vehicle's title. 

Individuals may consult with a title search company or legal professional well-versed in vehicle title matters in case of difficulties.

  • Free Title Lien Search in Delaware

In Delaware, conducting a title lien search involves contacting the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and this service may have associated fees. Delaware's DMV does not currently provide a free online search option.

What is a Judgement Lien in Delaware?

A judgement lien in Delaware is a legal claim against a debtor's property stemming from a court judgement. This lien grants the party who won a lawsuit the right to collect the court-ordered amount from the proceeds of the sale of the debtor's real estate. Personal property like jewelry or art is not subject to judgement liens in Delaware.

Typically, a judgement lien is placed automatically on a judgement debtor's real estate in the county where a superior court rendered a judgement. For other properties, the creditor must file the judgement with the superior court in the relevant Delaware county where the debtor's property is situated.

According to 10 Del. C. § 4711, a judgement lien remains effective for 10 years, with the option for renewal for an additional decade by filing a praecipe with the court before the initial lien expires.

Delaware Judgement Lien Search

To conduct a judgement lien search in Delaware, individuals should contact the prothonotary's office in the county where they believe a lien may have been filed. Researchers must provide details about the debtor, such as their complete name, to facilitate the search process. It should be noted that fees may be charged to check for liens. 

If necessary, individuals can also seek assistance from title search companies or legal professionals specializing in finding judgement liens to ensure a thorough search is conducted.

How to Get a Lien Release in Delaware 

To obtain a lien release in Delaware, individuals can follow these steps.

Identify the Lienholder: Determine the entity or individual holding the property's lien. This could be a lender, creditor, or any other party with a legal claim against the property.

Contact the Lienholder: Reach out to the lienholder and request a lien release. Provide all necessary information, including details about the property and the reason for requesting the release.

Provide Documentation: The lienholder may require specific documentation to process the lien release. This could include proof of payment or satisfaction of the underlying debt, such as a paid-in-full statement, a certificate of satisfaction, or a release of lien form.

Complete Necessary Forms: Some lienholders may require individuals to complete specific forms or paperwork to request the lien release. 

Submit the Request: Once individuals have gathered all required documentation and completed any necessary forms, they must submit their request for a lien release to the lienholder. Depending on the lienholder's preferences, this can typically be done via mail or electronic means.

Pay the Applicable Fees: Some lienholders may charge a fee for processing the lien release. Individuals must be prepared to pay any applicable fees as part of the request process. 

Wait for Confirmation: After submitting the request, individuals must wait for confirmation from the lienholder that the lien release has been processed. This confirmation may come as a written letter, email, or official document.

Record the Release: Once individuals receive the lien release letter, they must record it with the appropriate government office, such as the county Recorder of Deeds office. This will ensure that the lien release is officially recognized and recorded in public records, thus clearing the encumbrance from the property title.

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