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South Carolina Lien Search

South Carolina lien search refers to inquiries, scrutinization, and reports to reveal the presence of liens and confirm the legal ownership and description of a property. Lien searches show the presence of any matter, such as inaccuracies, fraudulent practices, or bankruptcy proceedings affecting the ownership or value of the property.

Lien searches involve an in-depth look into various government records such as court records, county recorders' records, and the Secretary of State's records. Lien searches are important as it discloses whether the property owner is indebted. It shows the public whether creditors have a legal claim to a portion of the property once sold. Sometimes, a lien search can disclose discrepancies and intrusion into the property’s financial value. 

What is a Lien in South Carolina

Liens in South Carolina are the security charges or collateral claims on a property to ensure debt repayment. A lien in South Carolina gives the creditor the freedom to retain the debtor's property. Liens in South Carolina give the creditors the legal right to seize, foreclose, or sell all or part of the property used as collateral to ensure the debt payment. A lien in South Carolina protects a lender's risk and secures their investments.

Types of Liens in South Carolina

Per the South Carolina Code, liens in the state can be mortgage liens, mechanics’ liens, liens on ships and vessels, liens on mining and manufacturing employees, state tax liens, and agricultural liens. Liens arise from court orders, unpaid property taxes, mortgages and home equity loans, and unpaid business taxes. However, they all fall under the following categories:

General Liens in South Carolina

A general lien is attached to all the debtor's assets, such as land, cars, bank accounts, houses, and other personal property. General liens in South Carolina allow the creditor to take any possession the court permits to repay monies owed. General liens include tax liens and judgment liens.

Specific Liens in South Carolina

Specific liens in South Carolina refer to a claim against a specified or predetermined property. In specific liens, only the asset offered as collateral can be used in debt repayment. Mortgage, mechanics, and Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) liens are examples of specific liens.

Consensual vs Involuntary Liens

Consensual liens, also called voluntary liens, refer to lien used with the owner's consent. In consensual liens, the borrower puts up their property as collateral for a loan. On the other hand, involutory liens may attach to a debtor's property without their consent. An outside authority places the lien against the owner's will. Mortgage liens are consensual liens.  Tax liens and mechanics liens are involuntary.

Statutory Liens

Statutory liens in South Carolina are created automatically by the law and do not require the consent or agreement of the debtor. Therefore,  lien-holders may legally withhold the debtor's property without prior consent until payment occurs. Mechanics and tax liens are examples of statutory liens in South Carolina.

What is a Tax Lien in South Carolina

A tax lien in South Carolina is a claim against a debtor's personal property or real estate located within the state. When a taxpayer fails to pay a tax debt in South Carolina, the South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) can issue a state tax lien to secure its claim on the defaulter's assets. Per Section 12-54-120 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, the SCDOR may legitimately seize, levy, or sell the delinquent taxpayers' assets to settle their tax debt.

Tax liens in South Carolina are public records. They are public notices of debt; anyone can request, view, or obtain copies of them. When a Notice of South Carolina tax Lien is filed against a debtor, it attaches to any assets owned by the debtor for up to 10 years and becomes public record. By implication, creditors may gain knowledge that the SCDOR has a claim against the debtor's property. Consequently, federal tax liens have a negative effect on the defaulting taxpayer's credit rating. In most instances, the debtor cannot sell or transfer their assets until the past-due tax is paid. In addition, delinquent taxpayers may be unable to keep a job or get a business or personal loan.

South Carolina Tax Lien Search

Previously, in South Carolina, the Register of Deeds was responsible for indexing and recording all tax liens, including state, federal, and employment commission liens. In addition, record seekers could visit the office of the Recorder of Deeds in the various counties to obtain a South Carolina tax lien. However, since November 2019, the state tax liens are no longer filed, reported, or issued at the Register of Deeds offices in the county.

The SCDOR records all state tax lien in a comprehensive registry online. The registry, known as the State Tax Lien Registry, includes all unpaid state tax liens previously filed across counties in South Carolina. Record seekers may search the registry using the lien ID, individual names, or business name. To search for a tax lien using the lien ID search, input the lien identification number, the date the lien was issued, and the status of the lien. For individual tax lien searches, record seekers must have the full name on the lien, the period the lien was issued, the status of the lien, and the last four digits of the Social Security Number (SSN). Business search involves using the business name and the last four digits of the Federal Employer ID Number (FEIN) to obtain the tax lien. Record seekers can refine their search by sorting by date, active liens, or county.

Federal Tax Lien Search

Federal tax liens searches provide access to public information on outstanding federal tax liens. Such records may include the name of the party responsible for the lien, the lien holder, and the amount due. Persons interested in conducting a federal tax lien search must provide the company or individual’s name, state and county where the business is located, state of residence, and other states and counties where the company conducts business.

Per Section 12-57-30 of the South Carolina Uniform Federal Tax Lien Registration Act, records of federal tax liens are available at the Register of Deeds office or the Clerk of Court offices in counties without Register of Deeds offices. Requests for public records for federal tax lien may be by mail or in person at the Register of Deed or Clerk of Court offices. In addition, some title companies offer federal tax lien lookup services, where record seekers can conduct more efficient searches using their tax lien database to simplify their search. 

What is a Lien on Property in South Carolina

In South Carolina, a lien is set on a property, either personal or real, to secure the amount owed by the property owner. Per Section 12-37-10 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, real property refers to land and all structures contained or attached to the land, such as buildings, and any structural improvement to the buildings. The law defines personal property as anything other than real estate with monetary value, such as investment bonds, credits, stocks, furniture, jewelry, and electronics. Therefore, a lien on a property title in South Carolina is a legal claim on assets, permitting the holder to obtain the property when the debt goes unpaid.

Who can put a lien on a property?

Anyone owed a debt can put a lien on a debtor's property in South Carolina. It typically includes government entities, mortgage lenders, family members, neighbors, debt collectors,  or contractors, provided the debtor owes them money. Placing a lien on a property gives creditors the legal right to control or prevent the debtor from refinancing or selling the property. Usually, the property title belongs to the lienholder until the debt is paid.

How to put a lien on property in South Carolina

In South Carolina, a judgment lien is deemed a lien permitting creditors to obtain the debt. Therefore, a creditor may place a lien on a debtor's real property in South Carolina after a court judgment. The process of putting a lien on a property in South Carolina involves the following steps:

  • Research and locate the property. Get the full details of the South Carolina real property owner. It typically includes their full names and the address of the property. In addition, note the names of any identifiers or local landmarks close to the property, such as schools, to help identify the property location on a map.
  • Draw up the lien document. Typically, the form varies per state. Although South Carolina does not have a specific statutory form, the lien holder must include some information to be valid. The lien claimant must include their personal information, amount of claim due, property description and location, property owner information, and notary signature.
  • File your lien at the Secretary of State's Office or the County Clerk Recorder's Office. Lien claimants must file the lien in the county where the property is domiciled. Generally, liens on real property are filed in the recorder's office, while personal property liens are filed at the Secretary of State offices in South Carolina.
  • Pay the filing fees. The fees vary per Secretary of State or Clerk Recorder's office. Generally, it costs $25 in most South Carolina counties.
  • Notify the property owner and other lien holders immediately after filing the lien,

How to Find a Lien on Property in South Carolina

The Clerk-Recorder and the Secretary of State offices are the principal finding aid to locate a lien on a property in South Carolina. To check for liens on property in South Carolina, interested persons must visit these offices in the county where the debtor resides or where the property is located and search land records at these offices. Persons seeking property lien records in South Carolina may also enlist the services of a title company to search.

Property Lien Search By Address

Interested persons may search property lien by address at the county recorder or clerk's office. The lien search is usually made online and at no cost to the record seeker. However, there are fees associated with obtaining copies of the report. The fees vary by county across South Carolina. To find liens on a property by address, record seekers must have the name, file number, and document number.

Persons seeking to conduct a property lien search by address may also title companies or third-party companies with online portals having access to property lien. There is a charge to use their services.

Free Lien Search on Property

Free lien search on properties in South Carolina is available at all county recorder or clerk offices statewide. Record seekers can conduct a lien search on the property on the computer terminals provided by the offices for public use.

What is a Mechanics Lien in South Carolina?

Per Section 29-5-10 of the South Carolina Code of Law, a mechanics lien is a security, claim, encumbrance, or charge against a specific property. Mechanics liens are automatically created by statute to protect anyone whose monies are due for materials furnished or work done in the repairs, erections, or alterations of a building or structure on a real estate. Mechanics lien, otherwise called construction lien, allows a contractor or supplier to recover the outstanding value of materials supplied or labor provided for the benefit of a property owner.

Mechanics liens are legal documents intended to ensure creditors get paid for work done or materials supplied for a construction-related debt. Mechanics lien filed by an unpaid contractor, laborer, subcontractor, or material supplier allows for foreclosure action, forcing the sale of the property in place of the compensation. A mechanics lien encumbers the property, making it difficult to sell, refinance, or transfer it without debt repayment. 

South Carolina Mechanics Lien Search 

Persons interested in conducting a mechanic lien search in South Carolina may visit the Recorder of Deeds or the County Clerks offices across the state using the computer terminals provided in their lobbies. Record seekers may also request the records by mail from these offices to make copies of the records. While mechanics lien searches are free, reproducing the records attracts a fee.

What is a Mortgage Lien in South Carolina?

Mortgage lien in South Carolina refers to the legal claim on a property, which serves as security or collateral for the mortgage obtained to acquire the property. By implication, a lender can take possession, seize, or sell the property to recoup the outstanding debt where there is a default in mortgage repayments. Mortgage liens are part of the agreement intending homeowners make when they obtain a mortgage, and the lender has a legal claim to the property until the borrower pays off the mortgage.

What is a UCC Lien in South Carolina? 

A Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filing is used by lenders to secure a business loan. A UCC lien establishes priority status and first-position rights on assets used as collateral in case a borrower defaults or goes bankrupt. Also known as UCC financial statements, UCC liens allow creditors to notify other lenders about a borrower's assets used as security for a secured transaction. Title 36 Chapter 9 of the South Carolina Code governs UCC liens in the state.

UCC Lien Search South Carolina

The South Carolina Secretary of State Office files UCC liens and makes the same available for record seekers. UCC lien search in South Carolina is available through the UCC Electronic Filing, Search, and Retrieval System. Interested persons may conduct a UCC lien online search using the name or filing search. Name search requires record seekers to have the party's full name, filing status, filing type, and date range. For filing number searches, requesters must have up to 6 filing numbers. Online search results are instant. Alternatively, record seekers may request UCC lien records by mail or visit the Secretary of State's office to conduct a UCC lien search in person. The physical and mailing address is at:

South Carolina Secretary of State’s Office

Edgar Brown Building

1205 Pendleton Street

Suite 525

Columbia, SC 29201

(803) 734-2175

What is a Lien Title in South Carolina

A lien title is a contract that gives the lender legal right to a vehicle until the borrower pays off the loan. A lien title is created at the beginning of a car financing. The lender holds the car's title and is considered by law as the legal owner until the loan is paid. Title loan protects the lender, acting as an insurance policy. It allows creditors to repossess the vehicle should the borrower default on paying the loan.

South Carolina Title Lien Search

It is good to know a car’s lien status before purchasing it, as it is difficult to register or obtain a title if there is a lien on it. Worse still, the original lender can repossess the vehicle if the previous owner defaulted on the loan. The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicle (SCDMV) provides online access to vehicle lien information. Persons interested in a South Carolina title search must register and create an account to conduct an online search. Record seekers must have the Vehicles Unique Identification Number (VIN) to query the database. Interested persons may also send a mail or fax request for a South Carolina title lien search at:

Tyler South Carolina 

South Carolina Interactive, LLC

ATTN: DMV Support

1301 Gervais Street

Suite 710

Columbia, SC 29201

(803) 720-5894

In addition to the annual subscription, authorized record seekers will pay $7.25 per title lien search performed. 

Free Title Lien Search in South Carolina

Currently, the SCDMV does not offer free lien searches in the state. While there are third-party platforms offering lien title searches in South Carolina, their services are not free. Record seekers must pay a fee to use their services.

What is a Judgment Lien in South Carolina 

A judgment lien is a court ruling, giving lenders the right to possess a debtor's property should the debtor default on their contractual obligation. Judgment liens are born when a creditor wins a lawsuit against a debtor, and the court awards damages as monetary judgment, making the defendant a judgment debtor and the plaintiff the judgment creditor. The judgment becomes the basis for the lien, and when the debtor refuses to pay, the creditor can place a lien on the debtor's property. Judgment liens significantly impact property ownership, making it less attractive to potential buyers and limiting the debtor's ability to sell the property. Furthermore, a judgment lien makes getting financing for the property difficult.

Judgment liens are non-consensual and can be attached to any property without the owner's consent. In some cases, judgment liens are added to any future acquisitions of the debtor. Title 15, Chapter 35 of the South Carolina Code, governs judgment liens in the state. Per the law, a judgment lien holder can only be added to real property, such as houses or land. Judgment liens on real property in South Carolina continue for ten years and are not renewable. 

South Carolina Judgment Lien Search

The Clerk of Court and the Register of Deeds are the custodians of judgment lien records in South Carolina. Therefore, persons interested in a judgment lien search can visit their offices in the counties where the judge issued the judgment to search. Most Clerk of Court and Register of Deeds offices across South Carolina offer free searches for judgment liens at the computer terminals in their lobbies. However, persons who desire to obtain copies of the records may pay a fee to get the records.

How to Get a Lien Release in South Carolina 

A lien release is a document that serves as the official notice that the lienholder has removed the lien on a property. A lien release states that a debtor has fully paid what was owed. Lienholders who need to remove a lien must prepare the right documents, as the lien release forms differ depending on the type of lien. For instance, to remove a title lien on a vehicle, lienholders must complete the lien release section on the title certificate. In addition, lienholders must write a letter that includes information relevant to the lien, such as their names, addresses, title number, lien creation date, lien release date, vehicle identification number (for title liens), description of the asset, and signature of the lienholder and debtor. In South Carolina, where an electronic title on the asset exists, the lienholder can file an electronic lien release application.

How to Get a Copy of a Lien Release in South Carolina

Persons interested in obtaining copies of a lien release letter in South Carolina must do so by the county recorders or the clerk of court offices. Record seekers may request the lien release letter in person, by mail, or fax. Persons selling lien release letters in South Carolina may only do so at the recorder's or clerk of court office in the county where the lien was recorded and released. There are fees associated with obtaining copies of the lien release letters.

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