Understanding Liens
The primary function of the County Recorder is to place documents affecting people and their property on “record” so that the public in general and persons interested in that individual or property can determine whether there are other persons or agencies who have a claim on that individual or property. One common form of claim is a “lien” which accounts for about 6 per cent of the documents recorded in Tuolumne County. Placing a lien against someone or their property is a way show that an obligation is owed by that person or property owner to the person who holds the lien.

The most common form of lien is a tax lien recorded by a government agency to indicate an outstanding tax obligation. Such liens can be for unpaid income or payroll taxes or for unpaid property taxes on a boat, manufactured home or business equipment. The other common form of lien is a mechanic’s lien which is recorded by a supplier or contractor to show that they have delivered materials or services to a property for which they have not been paid. These liens are placed on the public record to alert anyone who is planning to do business with the person, such as a purchase, lease or loan that they may become subject to an outstanding obligation if they proceed.

Once a lien is recorded, as is true with any recorded document, it always remains “of record” under that person’s name. When a lien is satisfied, i.e. the taxes or debt is paid; a release of lien is recorded which has the effect of notifying the public that the person or property is now free of that obligation. Unfortunately, credit reporting agencies often have a hard time matching up the release with the original lien and the credit of the person against whom the lien was recorded may suffer long after the obligation was released. Tuolumne County Recorder does NOT notify credit reporting agencies of releases.

If you have a question or dispute with regard to a lien, you may contact the person or firm that recorded the lien to attempt to resolve the matter, or consult your own attorney to advise you of your rights or obligations. You can obtain records of liens yourself by visiting the Recorder’s Office at 2 South Green Street, 3rd Floor, Sonora, California, or, if real property is involved, obtain a preliminary report from a title company as part of the escrow process.

Should you have any questions please contact Tuolumne County Assessor-Recorder, Carol Jackson at 209.533.5531 or by e-mail cjackson@co.tuolumne.ca.us or Recorder@tuolumnecounty.ca.gov.

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1. Understanding Liens