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Putting Liens on the Property of Another

Question: I co-signed a loan for my brother so that he could get training for a truck driver job. He has refused to get a job. Can I put a lien on his home until the loan is paid, in order to ensure that he pays it?

Answer: Not unless he signs a note and mortgage, or you sue him and get a judgment. It is not permissible to simply place liens on people’s property, and you can get into serious trouble by recording such liens.

Liens are only permitted by statute or agreement. The only statute that applies here is the one that permits judgments to be recorded against real estate. It requires that you sue the person that owes you money and obtain a judgment for a sum of money against him; one way of collecting a judgment is by recording it against any real estate that the person owns. Because of the homestead exemption ($15,000) and the fact that any existing mortgage takes priority, it is often not practical to enforce the judgment until the property is sold.

Other statutes give persons in certain occupations liens against certain types of property. For example, a warehouseman has a lien on goods stored in his warehouse to secure payment of his charges. A medical provider has a lien by statute on any claim by a person furnished medical services against a person liable for causing the injuries that necessitated the medical services. None of these apply here.

Absent a judgment, the only way you can get a lien is if your brother is willing to sign a note and mortgage.