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West Virginia Court Records

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West Virginia Lien Search

A lien search in West Virginia helps verify the existence of liens attached to properties or real estate in the state. A lien search entails inspecting and reviewing public property records maintained by record custodians such as county clerks' offices across the state. 

Lien searches are typically done by property owners and intending property owners in West Virginia to guarantee that a property title or real estate they intend to buy, sell, or invest in is free of legal encumbrances. 

What is a Lien in West Virginia

A lien in West Virginia is a legal charge against a debtor containing a stake interest that allows an individual to lay claims to another person's property due to unpaid debts or commitments (W Va Code 38-16-105).

Liens are used to secure the settlement of a debt or fulfillment of an obligation and thus give the lienholder an interest in the lienee's property. Consequently, a lienholder can sue the lienee or take ownership of their property if the linee defaults on debt repayment. 

Types of Liens in West Virginia

Any debt or pending financial commitments in West Virginia may result in a lien placement. Liens in West Virginia, per W Va Code 38-1, include: 

  • State and local tax liens
  • Judgement liens
  • Mechanic liens
  • Mortgage liens
  • Federal superfund lien
  • Lien on insurance proceeds for debris removal
  • Lien of bailee of animals or vehicles.
  • Liens on stocks of goods and inventories of cooperative associations
  • Improver's, storer's, or transporter's lien on personal property and animals
  • Workman's or material man's lien on a vessel
  • Vendor's and trust deed liens
  • Lien for lodging and board
  • Lien of a humane officer
  • Lien for lodging and board
  • Lien for service of male animals
  • Self-service storage liens
  • Property liens
  • Federal tax liens.

Generally, liens are classified as general or specific; voluntary or involuntary, or statutory liens.

General Liens in West Virginia

In West Virginia, general liens are placed on all property owned by a debtor. This lien is applicable to property the debtor has legal rights to, such as a house, automobile, or parcel of land. A general lien grants the lienholder the right to foreclosure on or seize any or all of the lienee's properties to ensure a debt reimbursement. Tax liens and liens are examples of general liens.

Specific Liens

Specific liens are attached to a particular property or asset. Here, the lienholder can only lay claim to the specific property that has the lien tied to it to satisfy a debt. The mortgage and deed of trust liens are common examples of specific liens in West Virginia.

Consensual vs Involuntary Liens

Consensual or voluntary liens are placed on a property or real estate by an agreement between the debtor and the creditor. A voluntary lien is attached with the endorsement of the property owner. Involuntary liens, on the other hand, do not consider the proprietor's approval. Examples of consensual and involuntary liens are Mortgage liens and tax liens, respectively.

Statutory Liens

Statutory liens are liens placed on properties by state law. These liens are involuntary and do not require the consent of the property's owner. Examples of statutory liens are construction liens, judgement liens, and tax liens.

What is a Tax Lien in West Virginia

A tax lien in West Virginia is a lawful claim imposed on a tax defaulter's properties or assets by the government. Local, state, and federal government agencies have the authority to place a lien on a citizen's property when they fail to pay their taxes (W VA Code § 11-10-12, W VA Code 38-10, W Va Code 10A, W VA Code 10C). 

A tax lien prevents the debtor from selling or leasing the property with a lien attached to it until the tax debts are cleared. Tax liens are involuntary, statutory, and general liens in that they affect all of the properties owned by a debtor and are not based on the proprietor's consent.

Are Tax Liens Public Records?

Yes. Tax lien documents are considered public records under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act (W Va Code §29B-1-1 et seq). The Tax Commissioner or other officials of a tax division are mandated by law to file a notice of tax liens or their release with the clerk of the county's office (W Va §38-10C-2). 

This record ensures that tax lien information is publicly available and accessible to interested members of the public. Consequently, creditors are notified of the government's interest in the debtor's properties which could affect the lienee's eligibility to acquire credit. A tax lien that eventually becomes publicly available may also affect the debtor's ability to sell, transfer, or refinance the property with a lien. 

West Virginia Tax Lien Search

The County Clerk's offices in West Virginia are custodians of Tax Lien records and these documents are available to interested members of the public. An inquirer can query the county clerk's office in the county where the taxpayer resides or where the property is located. 

Likewise, the State Tax Commissioner's office and the regional offices of the West Virginia Tax Division also maintain records of tax liens filed in the various counties. Similarly, some counties, like Brooke County, have agencies in charge of collecting and maintaining tax lien records. 

The tax lien record inquiry and retrieval options vary across different government agencies but typically include:

  • In-person visits: Many county clerk's offices in the state allow in-person visits at will, while others require pre-scheduled appointments for record searches. Interested individuals can visit a record custodian during working hours to inspect tax lien records. One may also retrieve certified copies of the tax lien record for a fee from the clerk's office in person or by a proxy. For walk-in visits to the State Tax Division, the requesting party must schedule an appointment online or by calling the agency. 
  • Mail requests: The procedure and fees for ordering tax lien records through mail can be acquired by contacting the clerk's office in the county where the lien was filed. Typically, mail requests require the requester to fill out a provided record request form or compose one following specific instructions given by the record custodian. The request form must include the subject's name, record title, book and page/instrument number, recording date, and any other information needed to ease the search or required by the county clerk's office. Other contents of the request form include the requestor’s contact information, a return address, and specifications of the documents ordered. The requester must enclose the completed request form and a check or money order payable to the county clerk in a stamped envelope. Then, they must mail the envelope using the record custodian's mailing address. 
  • Online Searches: Most county clerk offices have online indexes and search portals through which members of the public can research tax lien records, e.g., the Marshall County IDX search portal. Some county clerk offices also provide public terminals in their physical locations for online access to tax lien records in their custody. Likewise, the West Virginia Tax Division has an online search tool for retrieving tax lien information. This online search tool requires the requester to log in with a username and user code to begin the search process. To inspect tax lien records online, an individual will need to enter search criteria like the taxpayer's first/last name, property description, or an approximation range of the tax return date. 

Federal Tax Lien Search

Per the Code of Federal Regulations and W Va 38-10-1, federal tax liens are attached to all properties owned by a debtor and are filed with the county clerk's office in the county where the property is located or where the tax defaulter lives.

To conduct a federal tax lien lookup, one may query the county clerk's office in a county online, in person, or via mail. Individuals can also use a real estate solicitor, a title company, or aggregate websites to find federal tax lien records.   

What is a Lien on Property in West Virginia

A property lien is a legal privilege put on a property and filed with a county clerk that protects the lienholder's financial interests or guarantees the satisfaction of an obligation. Unpaid property taxes and court actions can attach a lien to a property in the state.

West Virginia laws define "property" as real estate and personal items. Real property refers to permanently fastened buildings or constructions, residences, and empty lands. Personal properties, on the other hand, include tangible and intangible items, such as motorcars, aircraft, machinery, yachts, and other personal equipment. Mortgage liens and mechanics' liens are other examples of liens that can be put on a property. 

Who can put a lien on a property?

Generally, any individual owed a debt or unfulfilled obligation can put a lien on a debtor's property in West Virginia. Entities that exercise this license to place liens include creditors, banks, financial establishments, state or county tax divisions, contract workers, the federal government, and courthouses. 

How to put a lien on property in West Virginia

The process of putting a lien on a property in West Virginia varies depending on the type of lien. Generally, to put a lien on a property in West Virginia:

  • Ensure other debt repayment methods have failed, the owed debt is credible and chargeable to the lienee, not a third party.  
  • Verify state and county statutory provisions and protocol for the type of lien. State laws may require the lienholder to give the lienee prior notice before they are filed while others have specific time limits for their filing. 
  • Confirm that debtor is the property owner. To do this, confirm the property address, legal description, and ownership rights. Also, check for outstanding liens and their payment priority based on state laws.
  • If the lien requires preliminary notice, file a notice within the stipulated time at the clerk's office and serve to the parties involved. 
  • Draft the lien document following approved specifications. A lien typically contains the creditor's name and contact information, the amount of money owed, the debtor's contact information, a description of the property, and any other vital information required by the filing agency. 
  • File the completed lien document and an affixed affidavit with the county clerk's office. Lien filing fees vary by county and depend on the number of filed documents.

How to Find a Lien on Property in West Virginia

Individuals conducting a property lien search in West Virginia can start the process by inspecting land records and deeds stored by the clerk's office in the county where the property is located. One may also engage the services of a title company to find property liens or check the Secretary of State UCC Online Filing, Search & Retrieval System for UCC liens placed on personal property. 

Property Lien Search By Address

An individual looking for property liens by address can query a county assessor's office in person, online, or via mail to retrieve lien information. A valid address and legal description of the property is needed for the search.

Another option is to visit a county tax office where it is obtainable to search for a property lien. Most county tax offices maintain online search portals on their websites that contain information on the taxes and liens attached to the properties in the county. For example, the Brooke County Sheriff Tax Office allows individuals to lookup property liens by address online.  

In addition, persons willing to check liens on property by address can use third-party record providers. These aggregate websites are usually fee-based and contain vast information about public lien records.

Free Lien Search on Property

Free lien searches in West Virginia can be done by visiting a county clerk or assessor's office to inspect lien records. An individual can also examine lien records for free via online search portals provided on the county clerk's website for free. The requestor may be charged for copying or certifying the original document.

What is a Mechanics Lien in West Virginia?

A Mechanics' lien in West Virginia is an encumbrance that facilitates the payment of wages due to contractors, subcontractors, materialmen, laborers, suppliers, and any other party to a construction project. 

This lien gives the construction worker or supplier a financial stake in the project owner's property and secures payment of the agreed contract price. A mechanics lien ensures that the property attached cannot be sold, used as collateral, or refinanced without the repayment of debt owed. W Va Code 38-2 outlines the statutory requirements for filing, claiming, and releasing mechanic liens. 

West Virginia Mechanics Lien Search

Individuals may search for mechanic liens in West Virginia through the processes used to retrieve other lien information in the state. They can visit the county clerk's office, send mail requests, or utilize online search tools maintained by the record custodian. One may also query third-party websites for information on West Virginia Mechanics' liens. 

What is a Mortgage Lien in West Virginia?

A mortgage lien in West Virginia is a legal right of ownership to another person's home transferred to an owed individual or institution. A mortgage lien becomes effective when the homeowner defaults on the payment of mortgage loans. 

Per W. Va. Code § 55-2-5, mortgage liens are property liens and expire 35 years from the filing date. A mortgage lienholder can file an action with a court of jurisdiction to impose a mortgage lien and ensure the debt is paid before the stipulated expiration date.

What is a UCC Lien in West Virginia?

A UCC Lien, aka UCC financing statement or Uniform Commercial Code Lien, is a legal motion filed against a business or property due to unpaid loans that secures a financial interest or obligation. The UCC lien process in West Virginia follows the Uniform Commercial Code. A UCC lien is typically filed with the West Virginia Secretary of State and becomes invalid after five years. 

UCC Lien Search West Virginia

A West Virginia UCC lien search can be conducted via state and county agencies. At the county level, one may request UCC lien records attached to real estate or personal property from the clerk's office in the county where the property exists. At the state level, UCC liens are usually filed with the Secretary of State's Office. 

To perform a UCC lien search with the Secretary of State's office:

  • Visit the UCC Online Search portal
  • Choose the type of search to be performed; either debtor, secured party, or filing number
  • Enter the search term depending on the type of search selected
  • Set the search option to either active( unlapsed only) or active ( with lapsed plus one year)
  • Enter a filing date range and finish the search. 

Alternatively, requestors may contact the Business and Licensing Division via phone at (304) 558-8000 or send an email to ucc@wvsos.com. In-person visits to the Secretary of State's office must during business hours. 

West Virginia Secretary of State's Office

Building 1, Suite 157-K

1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East

Charleston, WV 25305. 

What is a Lien Title in West Virginia

A lien title is a document that affirms the legal claim of a lienor to a vehicle, real estate, or personal property due to a debt. It mandates that the property owner clear a debt or obligation before the sale or transfer of the ownership right of the asset. A lien title may be filed by a government agency or a creditor and authorizes the lienholder to repossess, confiscate, or sell the property to reclaim a debt.

West Virginia Title Lien Search

A property title lien search is usually done by prospective vehicle owners and real estate buyers to verify property ownership history and active legal encumbrances. 

To do a real estate title search, the searcher must provide information about the property, such as the legal description, address, name of owner, and parcel number. This information is available through the county assessor's office or the Secretary of State's office. County assessors can only perform title searches for properties located within their jurisdiction. 

Interested persons may perform a vehicle title search with the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to check for liens attached to them or with a car seller before acquisition. There is also the option of querying third-party aggregate websites to find title lien information in a county.

Free Title Lien Search in West Virginia

The options for conducting a free title lien search in West Virginia are limited. One may obtain free property title lien records from the clerk's office in the county where the real estate is located. However, free vehicle title lien search may be not possible as there are fees attached to title searches done with the West Virginia DMV.

What is a Judgement Lien in West Virginia

In West Virginia, a court may pass a judgement that imposes financial obligations on the losing party. If a debtor defaults on the obligation within a specified period, a judgement lien ensures that the lien holder is paid by claiming the debtor's property. 

A judgement lien in West Virginia affects all property owned by the debtor before and after the court issues the lien decree. The general statutory provisions for West Virginia judgement liens are outlined in W. Va. Code § 38-3. The code sets the expiration period of judgement liens to ten years from the filing date. 

West Virginia Judgement Lien Search

Judgement liens are typically filed with a court clerk's office in West Virginia. Persons interested in searching for judgement liens in West Virginia can do so at the Court Clerk's office in the county where the verdict was passed. 

The Clerk's office in the county where the affected property is located can also be queried for judgement lien records. Interested persons may obtain the information they seek in person, online, or by mail request. The Secretary of State's Office in West Virginia also provides public access to judgement liens filed against real property on its UCC search portal. 

How to Get a Lien Release in West Virginia

The process of obtaining a lien release in West Virginia depends on the lien type. The general procedures for obtaining a lien release include:

  • Payment of outstanding debts: The standard prerequisite for obtaining a lien release in West Virginia is to clear all outstanding debts and obligations. 
  • For real property, upon complete payment of debts, the lienholder must prepare and file a written Lien release letter with the county clerk and serve the debtor within thirty days from the date the debt was repaid (W.Va.C §38-12-1).
  • In the case of Vehicle title liens, the lienor will need to complete and file the Lien Release form approved by the State Division of Motor Vehicles. The DMV's Electronic Lien and Title ( ELT) online database can also be utilized by lien holders to file and release liens.
  • For statutory liens like the Tax lien, the State Tax Commissioner issues a Certificate of release to the debtor when owed property taxes are paid and also files a copy with the Clerk's Office (West Virginia Code § 11-10-12)

Besides the guidelines listed above, a lienee may file a court action to request a lien release if the lien was put on a property without following stipulated statutory requirements. This option is time-consuming, requires a lot of paperwork, and is cost-intensive compared to paying off the outstanding obligation. Persons who wish to obtain a copy of a lien release letter may contact the County Clerk's office.

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