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What Is a Municipal Lien Search?

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Jan 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

Everything you need to know about ordering a municipal lien search and why it's recommended in Florida

When you or your client is thinking about purchasing a property in Florida, an important step in the process is conducting a municipal lien search. These are especially crucial in foreclosures and short sales but are also included in most Florida real estate transactions.

After closing on a property, the last thing you want to deal with is the sudden appearance of undisclosed fees related to liens and outstanding debts on the property. These can quickly add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars that should be taken care of before the sale.

A municipal lien search is a crucial step to protect yourself from these fines. So, what is a municipal lien search and why is it so important for Florida property buyers?

What is a municipal lien search?

A municipal lien search helps you to avoid undisclosed fees and costs after you close on a property, whether it's a house or commercial building. The search will show you any unrecorded liens, code violations, outstanding utility or tax bills, open or expired permits, or special assessments on the property.

Other examples of municipal liens in Florida also include things like a mechanic's lien from construction work, debts in the county, or building violations. These debts are not always recorded with the county clerk, so these liens may not show up when you do a simple title search. It's thus crucial to do the municipal lien search.

In short, you don't want to buy a property that has existing liens, and a municipal lien search allows you to see if this is the case for the home or building under consideration.

Why is a municipal lien search important in Florida?

Conducting the municipal lien search is especially important in Florida. If you purchase a property with unrecorded liens or other violations, these issues are attached to the property, not the owner. So, the search is part of the closing process in Florida to make sure there isn't anything attached to the property that could impact the buyer after the purchase has been finalized.

You don't want to be responsible for a property that isn't meeting regulations or has outstanding bills and issues.

This search isn't a requirement under state law, but many Florida counties require it and most transactions include it.

How do you conduct a municipal lien search?

There are a few steps to take when you're ready to do the search on a property. You first have to figure out the property's municipality, which verifies with the property appraiser which governing authority files code violations on the property, such as the county. You then need to verify whether utilities on the property are managed by the county or elsewhere (the city, for example). You also need to verify the governing authority that can levy special assessments (city versus county).

You then need to follow the directions of the municipality in which you're conducting the search. You could be required to send an email or fill out a form, so be sure you follow their process closely. There are also companies that provide these services for you. The cost of a municipal lien search will vary based on municipality, but it's a small price to pay to avoid thousands of dollars in liens after you purchase a property (or, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Even though Florida state law doesn't outright require a municipal lien search on properties before closing, many counties do, and thus most real estate transactions include them. These searches are crucial to help you avoid a lot of fees and costs due to outstanding debts and other issues post-closing.

You don't want to take on responsibility for liens that went unrecorded on the property prior to your interest in it, no matter how great the property is.

If you are dealing with issues related to municipal liens and fines, contact the attorneys at PeytonBolin right away for a free phone consultation. We can help you do the municipal lien search and resolve any real estate litigation matter. Let our experienced team worry about the legal details. While a realtor provides important services, you need an attorney to walk you through each and every legal requirement.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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