The steps you’ll have to take to file a lien may depend on the jurisdiction in which you file it. Laws and procedures often vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In general however, you may have to go to court to secure a judgment against the person who owes you money. Once you’ve obtained this judgment, you may have to go to the land records office, or a similar entity in your area, to register the judgment and file a lien. Since procedures do vary from place to place, you may find it beneficial to obtain a lawyer's help or visit a local courthouse for specific filing information.
Many people try to work with debtors before they file liens against their property. Ideally, a debtor will make payment in full or payment arrangements you find acceptable when he learns you’re planning to take the matter to court. If this doesn’t happen, however, you may decide to go to court to seek a judgment against the defendant. This is often the first step in securing a lien.
Since seeking a judgment against a debtor can be time-consuming and may even be confusing if you don’t know the law, you may do well to seek help from an attorney. An attorney may handle the paperwork in your case, represent you in court, and even negotiate with the debtor on your behalf. He may also have other legal ideas for collecting the money you are owed. The downside of using an attorney, however, is the fact that attorney’s fees can be expensive.
Whether you decide to secure help from an attorney or not, you'll typically need a judge to rule in your favor before you file a lien. If this is the case in your jurisdiction, you will have to sue the debtor in court. If you win, the judge will order the defendant to pay the money that is due. After giving the defendant a reasonable amount of time to satisfy the judgment against him, you may obtain a certified copy of the judgment and file it with the land records office, the county clerk-recorder's office, or a similar entity in your jurisdiction.
After you file a lien against a debtor's property, you may still have some time to wait before you receive the money that is due to you. Unless, the debtor chooses to pay, you may not receive the money you are owed until the debtor is selling or refinancing the property. In most places, such sales and refinance deals cannot be finalized until the liens on the property have been satisfied.