Lien Definition

A lien is a security interest attached to property with the intent of securing the payment of debt should the debtor otherwise default. The most familiar type of lien in the US is the home mortgage-the mortgage loan is secured against the home itself, and if the lienor, or homeowner, defaults on the mortgage the lienee, or bank, gains legal control over the property in order to liquidate it (e.g. foreclose and sell) to satisfy the outstanding mortgage debt.

Automobile loans generally place a lien on the automobile itself, such that if the owner does not service the loan the creditor may repossess and sell the vehicle to satisfy all or part of the outstanding debt. Various other types of liens can be attached to properties, including banker’s liens, carrier’s liens, demurrage liens, environmental liens, garnishment liens, maritime liens, mechanic’s liens, statutory liens, tax liens, and many others.