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Can I Sell My House When It Has A Lien Against It?

A great question from a listener in the Florida Panhandle: I have a judgment filed against me 12 years ago. Can I sell my house without paying the judgment? The simple answer is yes, as long as (1) the property being sold is homestead property, and (2) the owner files a Notice of Homestead in the county public records and gets no response from the creditor.

Because the judgment is 12 years old, I assume it is not related to any type of foreclosure lawsuit, because there is a one-year statute of limitations on a deficiency, and because a foreclosure would most likely result in a foreclosure sale.

Therefore, we assume this is a situation where the judgment is for an unsecured debt. If the property is non-homestead (meaning the seller lives somewhere else) and the judgment is otherwise properly recorded so that it attaches to the house, then yes it must be paid at closing to convey clear title.

However, if the judgment is against homestead property, then the seller can file a Notice of Homestead in the county public records pursuant to Florida statute 222.01(2). Under that statute, the creditor is given notice that the property is homestead and has 45 days to challenge the homestead status. If the creditor fails to challenge the homestead status, the lien is released (note the debt is still owed, it is just removed as a lien against the homestead).

Of course, the one drawback with this process is that it takes a minimum of 45 days and typically the title company finds these judgments less than 45 days prior to closing.

For more information on judgment liens, please subscribe to the Crushing Debt Podcast, on iTunes, Stitcher, and GooglePlay. If you prefer, please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your options at 727-261-0224 or email me directly at shawn@yesnerlaw.com. If you have a judgment lien against your homestead, we may be able to help remove that lien.

Shawn M. Yesner, Esq., is the host of the Crushing Debt Podcast and founder of Yesner Law, P.L., a Tampa-based boutique real estate and consumer law firm that helps clients eliminate the financial bullies in their lives. We assist clients with asset protection, the sale and purchase of real property, Chapter 7 liquidation, Chapter 13 reorganization, bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, debt settlement, landlord/tenant issues, short sales, and loan modifications in Tampa, Westchase, Odessa, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Clearwater, Pinellas Park, Largo, St. Petersburg, and throughout the greater Tampa Bay area.

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