If you want to buy a property, it is essential to ensure it has a clean title, which means it does not have any liens against it. According to Realtor.com, a lien is a legal interest someone holds against a property. 

It gives the lienholder interest in the property and the right to take it to satisfy the debt. 

How it happens

A lien may result from the homeowner not paying a debt. It may also be due to the homeowner using the property as collateral for a debt. Although, that is not very common for mortgage liens. That type of lien is most common with auto purchases where the lender puts a lien on the title. 

A mortgage lien can come from any type of creditor, but liens for taxes are most common. If the homeowner fails to pay property taxes, for example, the city or county can put a lien against the property. 

Another common lien is a mechanical lien, which is one a contractor may put on the property if the homeowner hired him or her to do work and never paid the debt. 

Lastly, judgment liens are also possible. A court can place a lien for failure to pay a court-ordered payment, such as child support. 

How it affects you

If you are the buyer, you cannot buy a home with a lien on it. The seller is unable to sell until he or she clears the lien by paying the debt. The lien takes away his or her legal right to do as he or she wishes with the property because the lienholder has some ownership rights as well.