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Illinois Lien Search

An Illinois lien search involves probing public records relating to a property to determine if there are any claims against it. This is typically done before the purchase of a tangible item or before investing in an asset or business to verify any potential risks and ensure a secure transaction. In Illinois, liens are managed by the state's county accessor's offices across various judicial districts. They are also held and disseminated by the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Illinois Secretary of State

What is a Lien in Illinois?

In Illinois, a lien is a legal claim against property that gives the lienholder the right to seize and sell the property to satisfy a debt or obligation. This means the property is collateral for the debt, and the lienholder can take possession of it if it goes unpaid. Liens can negatively impact the owner's ability to sell, refinance, or borrow against the property. They can be removed by paying off the debt, obtaining a court order, or negotiating with the lienholder.

Types of Liens in Illinois

Various lien types exist, each with specific implications. The most common ones include:

  1. Federal Tax liens
  2. Mechanic's liens
  3. Property tax liens
  4. UCC
  5. Mortgage liens.
  6. Judgement liens

Liens are generally prioritized based on the "first in time, first in right" principle. The first lien filed against the property gets paid first if the property is sold. Lienholders can enforce their liens through foreclosure proceedings, which involve selling the property at auction to recover the debt.

General Liens in Illinois

In Illinois, a "general lien" doesn't have a specific legal definition and isn't a commonly used term, unlike some states like California. Instead, Illinois primarily operates with statutory liens, which are clearly defined claims against various types of assets.

Specific Liens in Illinois

These types of liens are narrowed down to specific properties and assets. Some examples are vehicle liens and mortgage or a real estate lien.

Consensual vs Involuntary Liens in Illinois

Consensual liens are created with the debtor's consent and serve as security for a debt or obligation. The debtor retains ownership of the property but risks foreclosure if the debt isn't repaid. Some examples include mortgage liens and car loan liens. In contrast, involuntary liens are imposed by law without the debtor's consent and can lead to foreclosure if the underlying debt remains unpaid. An example is property tax liens.

Statutory Liens

In Illinois, statutory liens are legally defined claims against various types of assets created by specific statutes. They are imposed by law without the debtor's consent. These liens secure payment for debts or obligations, and upon default by the debtor, the lienholder can initiate foreclosure proceedings to claim or sell the property and recover their debt. These may include a bank lien or lien on bank accounts or mortgage liens, which authorize the creditor or lien holder to sell real estate property to recover the debt.

Tax Lien in Illinois

In Illinois, Compiled Statutes 35 ILCS 200/10-20 governs the legal framework for property tax liens. A tax lien is a statutory lien that arises when a taxpayer fails to pay their property taxes. It's a legal claim against the property, securing the government's right to collect the unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest.

A tax lien automatically attaches to all real property owned by the taxpayer in the county where the taxes are owed, regardless of when the taxes were assessed. Tax liens have high priority over most other liens, except for federal tax liens and specific types of government liens. This means that the tax lien will be paid before most other debts in the event of foreclosure. However, the taxpayer can redeem the property before the foreclosure sale by paying the full amount owed, plus penalties and interest.

Are Tax Liens Public Records?

Yes, tax liens in Illinois are public records. The Illinois Department of Revenue specifies that tax liens become part of the public record when filed with the county recorder. Tax lien information can also be accessed via county websites like Cook County's Taxpayer Portal and the Illinois Secretary of State's UCC Search tool.

Illinois Tax Lien Search

There are both online and offline options for searching for tax liens in Illinois. Online platforms offer convenience and real-time access, while offline options might provide more comprehensive details or historical records.

Here's a detailed breakdown of online and offline options for searching tax liens in Illinois:

Online Options:

  • County Websites: Most Illinois counties and their recorder/accessors offices offer online platforms to search for property tax information and associated liens. The accessibility varies by county, but many provide user-friendly search functionalities. The information typically made available through these databases include:
    • Property details
    • Current tax assessment
    • Unpaid property taxes
    • Existence of tax liens
    • Outstanding balance
  • Illinois Department of Revenue: Inquirers may visit the State Tax Lien Registry website and search for liens by debtor name or tax lien number. The information accessible through this registry includes: 
    • Lien filing date
    • Tax type (e.g., income, sales, unemployment)
    • Outstanding balance
    • County where filed
  • Illinois Secretary of State UCC Search: Visit the website, (it is primarily for UCC filings and can include some federal tax liens) and search by debtor name or UCC filing number. Some information available via this tool includes:
  • Type of lien (UCC-1 financing statement)
  • Secured party (usually the government agency)
  • Filing date and expiration

Offline Options:

  • County Court Clerk's Office: Visit the clerk's office in the county where the property is located and request a tax lien search for the specific property. The information available through the county clerk's office is similar to online platforms but often more detailed. However, custodians will, in most cases, charge a nominal fee for the search and for copies if applicable.
  • County Treasurer's Office: Similar to the clerk's office, Illinois county treasurers may offer in-person tax lien search services. The contact information for each county treasurer can be found on their respective websites. It is worth noting that some platforms or custodians might require fees for detailed information or report downloads. In addition, consulting a qualified legal professional is usually recommended for complex situations or in-depth analysis of specific liens.

Federal Tax Lien Search

A federal tax lien search is a procedure to determine if a taxpayer has any outstanding federal tax debts secured by a lien on their property. These liens arise when a taxpayer fails to pay their federal taxes, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) files a public document called a Notice of Federal Tax Lien. This document alerts creditors that the government has a legal claim against the taxpayer's property to satisfy the unpaid taxes. 

A federal tax lien can significantly impact the ability to sell, refinance, or borrow against a property. Interested members of the public may lookup federal tax liens using one of the following options:

  • IRS website: The IRS offers a free online search tool; National Automated Lien System (NALS) on their website. This tool allows inquirers to search for federal tax liens by taxpayer name, address, or Social Security number.
  • Third-party services: Several private companies offer paid services for searching federal tax liens. These services may provide additional features, such as historical records or notifications of new liens.
  • County records: In some cases, federal tax liens may also be filed with local county recorders' offices. Inquirers may contact their local county recorder's office to inquire about their search procedures.

A federal tax lien search will typically provide the following information:

  • Taxpayer name and address;
  • Type of tax owed (e.g., income, payroll);
  • Amount of the lien;
  • Date the lien was filed;
  • County where the lien is filed.

What is a Lien on Property in Illinois?

In Illinois, a lien on property is a legal claim against a specific asset (real estate, vehicle, etc.) that secures a debt or obligation. This means the lienholder has a legal right to take possession of or sell the property to satisfy the outstanding debt if the owner fails to fulfill their obligations.

Who Can Put a Lien on a Property?

Different entities (like government agencies, individuals, or businesses) can put a lien on a property, depending on the nature of the debt or obligation. The lien must have a legal basis, such as a statute, court judgment, or specific legal agreement.

How To Put A Lien On Property In Illinois

Due to the diverse types of liens and their specific requirements, there's no single "standard procedure" for putting a lien on property in Illinois. However, below is a general overview of the primary steps involved that may help to understand the process:

  • Identify the type of lien: Determine the basis for claims and which type of lien applies (e.g., mechanic's lien, judgement lien, etc.). Each has its legal framework and procedures.
  • Gather documentation: Collect supporting evidence for claims, including invoices, contracts, court judgments, or other relevant documents.
  • Research specific filing requirements: Consult relevant Illinois statutes or seek legal guidance to understand the specific procedures, deadlines, and forms required for the chosen lien type.
  • Prepare and file the lien: Complete the necessary forms and file them with the appropriate authority. Depending on the lien type, this may involve the county recorder's office, circuit court clerk, or other designated agency. Incorrectly filing a lien or failing to follow proper procedures can render it invalid. Filing fees may apply.
  • Serve notice to the property owner: Notify the owner of the lien placement and their rights, as required by specific lien laws. This typically involves serving a formal document detailing the lien information.
  • Record the lien (if necessary): Some lien types require recording after filing to become publicly accessible and enforceable.
  • Enforce the lien (if needed): If the debt remains unpaid, legal proceedings might be necessary to enforce the lien and sell the property to recover your debt. This often involves filing court documents and appearing before a judge.

How to Find a Lien on Property in Illinois

To search for a lien on property in Illinois, inquirers may begin by assembling basic information about the property, including the address, land records, and legal description. This information can be found on the property deed or tax records.

With details of the property on hand, the requesting party can proceed to search public records relevant to the property. This involves visiting the recorder's office in the county where the property is located. Each county maintains its records, so inquirers must first verify the property's location and then proceed to query the specific county's recorder's office. 

Property Lien Search By Address

Many county recorder offices offer online search tools or databases that allow users to search for property records by address. To begin a property lien search by address, inquirers must obtain or confirm relevant details of the property, such as the street address and its legal description.

Afterward, visit the website of the county recorder of deeds office for the county where the property is located. These websites typically offer subscription-based services but may provide an option to pay per search. In most cases, the options available to users include property search by address, taxpayer name, or tax lien number. These online databases may provide access to scanned images of recorded documents, including liens on property, deeds, mortgages, and releases.

Free Lien Search on Property

There are limited options for free lien searches on property in Illinois. Notwithstanding, inquirers can walk into the county recorder of deeds office to check or find the liens on the property. However, the requester will likely only be able to view the document. 

What is a Mechanics Lien in Illinois?

According to the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act (770 ILCS 60), a mechanic's lien is a legal claim placed against a property to secure payment for labor, services, materials, fixtures, or machinery used to improve the property. This means that if the owner fails to pay the contractor or subcontractor for their work, the lien will offer the contractor a legal claim over the property.

A mechanic's lien applies to real estate improvements, including houses, apartments, commercial buildings, and land. This must be filed within four months after completion of the work to be effective against subsequent property owners. 

Illinois Mechanics Lien Search

Conducting a mechanic's lien search in Illinois involves understanding the different types of resources available and choosing the most suitable method based on the required information. The primary options available include:

  • Searching for mechanic's liens filed against a specific property via the county recorder's office, third-party services, or by querying the county clerk's office.
  • Finding out if a specific contractor has filed a mechanic's lien by directly contacting the contractor and checking with the county recorder's office.

What is a Mortgage Lien in Illinois?

According to the 765 ILCS 905/ Mortgage Act, a mortgage lien in Illinois is a legal claim against a property that secures a mortgage loan used to purchase or refinance the property. This means the lender (mortgagee) can take possession of or sell the real estate property if the borrower (mortgagor) fails to make their loan payments.

This lien is attached to the specific property, and it guarantees repayment of the loan principal, interest, and any associated fees. A mortgage lien is usually prioritized over other liens filed after the mortgage is recorded, except for certain exceptions like property tax liens.

Types of mortgage liens in Illinois:

  • First mortgage: This is the primary lien on the property and has the highest priority.
  • Second mortgage: This is a subordinate lien that ranks behind the first mortgage in priority.
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC): This is a revolving line of credit secured by the property and operates similarly to a second mortgage.

What is a UCC Lien in Illinois?

A UCC-1 Financing Statement, commonly referred to as a UCC lien, is a legal document filed to perfect a security interest in personal property under Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). In Illinois, the UCC is codified as the Illinois Commercial Code (UCC) - Division A Secured Transactions.

UCC liens are filed to secure a creditor's interest in personal property as collateral for a debt. The Uniform Commercial Code is a set of standardized laws governing commercial transactions in the United States, including creating and enforcing security interests in personal property.

UCC Lien Search in Illinois

Interested members of the public perform a UCC lien search in Illinois using any of the following options:

  • Illinois Secretary of State UCC Search: This website allows inquirers to search for UCC liens filed in Illinois by debtor name, secured party name, or file number. However, it only provides basic information like the type of collateral and filing date.
  • County Recorder's Office: Some counties might offer online or in-person searches for UCC liens filed as fixtures (attached to real estate). However, coverage and accessibility vary by county.
  • Commercial UCC Search Companies: These companies offer more comprehensive searches that include historical data, additional information about the lien, and sometimes monitoring services for changes. Costs vary depending on the service and scope of the search. 
  • Title Companies: When conducting a title search for a property, title companies can also identify UCC liens associated with the property owner.

For better results, inquirers may consider doing any of the following:

  • Debtor name variations: Search using different variations of the debtor's name to capture potential misspellings or aliases.
  • Secured party variations: If known, search by the secured party's name to identify potential liens filed by different entities.

For thorough searches, consider paid services offering historical data to capture past liens that might have been released.

What is a Lien Title in Illinois?

In Illinois, a lien title refers to a legal document indicating a lien on a vehicle's title, typically due to an unpaid debt or other financial obligation related to the vehicle. This lien title serves as a notice to potential buyers and other interested parties that there is a claim against the vehicle's ownership rights until the debt is satisfied or resolved.

Lien titles in Illinois are governed by state laws and regulations, primarily outlined in the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/) and administered by the Illinois Secretary of State's office.

Illinois Title Lien Search

To perform a title lien search in Illinois, individuals may start by gathering essential information about the vehicle, such as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and the current or previous owner's name. This information can be obtained from the vehicle's registration documents, title certificate, or previous sales records.

Once the necessary details are gathered, individuals can conduct the title lien search through the Illinois Secretary of State's office, specifically the Vehicle Services Department. The Illinois Secretary of State maintains a comprehensive database of vehicle titles, including any recorded liens or encumbrances. Individuals can access the title lien search service through the Secretary of State's online portal or by visiting a local Secretary of State facility to inquire about the vehicle's title status.

Free Title Lien Search in Illinois

Visit the county website and search by property address to access delinquent tax history and lien information. The Illinois Department of Revenue State Tax Lien Registry also allows searching for state tax liens filed for unpaid state income taxes, sales taxes, and unemployment taxes. Inquirers may search by:

  • Taxpayer name
  • Tax lien number
  • Property address 

Inquirers may also visit the office in person to search court records for judgment liens filed against the property.

What is a Jugdement Lien in Illinois?

In Illinois, a judgment lien is a legal claim against a debtor's real estate (houses, land, etc.) that arises from a court judgement. It secures the creditor's right to collect the owed amount by forcing the sale of the property if the debt remains unpaid.

Having a judgment lien can make it difficult for individuals and businesses to sell or refinance the property freely. Lenders may be hesitant to provide financing with an existing lien. Judgment liens can also negatively impact your credit score and damage your reputation, thereby making it harder to obtain loans or credit cards at favorable rates.

Judgement liens in Illinois typically last for 7 years from the entry date or until the judgment is satisfied. After 7 years, the lien automatically becomes dormant, but it can be revived within a certain timeframe.

Illinois Judgement Lien Search

In Illinois, conducting a judgement lien search involves accessing official records maintained by county circuit courts to identify any judgments rendered against a debtor. Individuals can visit or contact the clerk's office of the relevant county circuit court where the debtor resides or where the judgement was entered, providing the debtor's name for the search. 

Upon accessing court records, individuals can review the case information to determine if any judgements have been entered against the debtor, including details such as the judgment amount, court case number, and judgement creditor's information.

How to Get a Lien Release in Illinois

Having a lien on a property can restrict the possibility of selling or refinancing it. However, once the debt associated with the lien is satisfied, debtors can obtain a lien release to remove it from the public records. To get a lien release in Illinois:

  • Ensure the full amount owed to satisfy the lien has been paid;
  • Request a lien release form from the lienholder and complete it, providing all the required information;
  • File the Lien Release;
  • Pay any associated filing fees;
  • After filing, follow up with the relevant office to confirm the lien has been officially released.

How to Get a Copy of a Lien Release in Illinois

In Illinois, lien releases can be obtained online via county websites and portals or by visiting a county office to request a copy of the release. Most entities charge a fee for providing copies of public records, including lien releases. However, requesters must be prepared to pay the required amount, which might vary depending on the office and delivery method.

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