Releasing a mortgage lien

A lien is a legal claim against property that must be satisfied when the property is sold. The lien provides notice that the bank has a secured interest in the property and guarantees the bank that the property cannot be sold or transferred without either the loan being repaid or assumed.

Here are some commonly asked questions about mortgage lien releases.

How does a lien get released?

When a bank loan is paid off, a Release of Lien or Certificate of Satisfaction is provided by the bank and is recorded in the Land Records office to provide notice that the prior lien has now been paid in full and released from the property.

When I refinance, what is the lien release process?

In a refinance, the title company handles paying off the bank and is responsible for following up to make sure that the lien has been released.  Most title companies charge either a lien release fee, or include the fee as part of the settlement fee.

What about when I sell my house?

The same thing is true when a property is being sold.  The title company is responsible for handling the release since it has provided a commitment to the bank that the prior loan will be paid and released.

I just paid off my loan by writing a check; do I need to do anything else?

Yes, you need to make sure that the lien has been released.  Either the lender will send the release to the county or city Land Records office on your behalf and forward you the recorded release, or they will send you the recorded release, which you will then have to record.

I have an equity line with a zero balance.  Does that need to be released?

Just because your equity line has a zero balance does not mean that it has been released from the property.  You need to request for the account to be closed and for a release to be sent to you.

agents, Buying 'n' Selling, Claims, Home Loan, lenders, lien, loan, Mortgage, Q and A, real estate, sellers

Comments (32)

  • Hi Melissa: To answer your question properly, we would need to review the title to the property and speak to the lender. I would suggest that you speak to an attorney about the matter.

  • Local DA’s won’t prosecute banks for filing of false documents. So…we are filing our own lien releases into the county records just like the banks file false assignments of mortgages. If the banks complain of our filings then we can point out their filings also.

  • Original leinholder sold its rights to debt on my property to a third party.
    They then resold the note to another party. When the original lender sold the note, they failed to file a release of lien. They no longer have a financial interest in the property. Is there a standard way to force them to release the lien, and can I handle this through small claims court if they do not respond? Note value is about 3k. This is a Texas property.

  • The title company wants in addition to lien release that work performed was paid and no liens , they also want all the invoices that were paid

  • IF I refinance my 30 yr loan into a 15 yr loan with the same finance company –

    would they file a release of lien to the County Clerk’s Office?

    Or does this mean the home was paid off and a new second mortgage established?

  • Hi Janet, Yes and yes. It means that the current loan would be paid off, the payoff lender would need to file a release and a new second mortgage would be established. Thanks for your question!

  • Shannon rogers

    When we refinanced our home for the second time, the new mortgage company that we have been paying did not have the lien on our home. Now we are stuck with a home we cannot refinance or sell. We have not made a payment since 2012. Is there anything that can be done?

  • Shannon, thanks for your question. The title company handling the sale or refinance of your property should be able to help in obtaining a release or offering a solution to the problem. I would suggest you contact a local title company to see if they are able to assist.

  • Received a notice from bank that a Satisfaction of Mortgage has been submitted for a HELOC that was paid in full 7 years ago. Do we have any recourse under Georgia Code Section 44-14-3 for liquidated damages because it wasn’t filed 7 years ago?

  • My mortgage was paid off in 2000 but the mortgage company never sent the release of my lein. The company is now out of business. How can I get the lein released?

  • Hi Mary, believe it or not this kind of thing happens from time to time. Joe, who authored this article, answered your question in an piece written for Washington Post last year:

    Obtain proof that the loan was paid off, then call the last known servicer of the loan in order to request a release. This can become tricky if the loan was paid off a long time ago, since the loan servicer at the time of payoff might have been merged into several other banks, but eventually, you should be able to determine who took over the records and can provide a release.

    Click over to the Post’s website for more information about unreleased liens, and contact us if we can be of more help.

  • We are the 4th lien holder in a property and trying to foreclose on the property. The first lien and the second lien is exactly the same amount so we believe the first lien should have been released. The mortgage company went out of business so it looks like the loan was sold to another mortgage company which also went out of business. When I called the number of the last mortgage company I got connected to a different mortgage company or more of a collector. I am not sure where to go to find out about the first lien especially because we are not the owner of the property. Fyi, the property is in CA. Thanks.

  • About a year ago I contacted my mortgage company about my foreclosure. The foreclosure started in 2008. I was told that they were writing it off as an unsecured debt and releasing the lien. What does this really mean? I am still the owner of record and responsible for all the back taxes. I abandoned the property when they told me it was going to sheriff sale. Am I still responsible for the mortgage if they released the lien?

  • Hello, I wish you can help me. I made two refinance loans with Lend America, who is now defunct, not in business, and I need Certificate of Satisfaction for both loans. Where do I go to get that information?
    Thank you,

  • Cynthia, thanks for your question. Obtaining your Certificate of Satisfaction may require a bit of legwork. It sounds like your defunct loan-servicer was probably absorbed by another loan-servicer. If you know who that servicer is, contact them. You may have to make a few calls because if the loan was paid off a long time ago, the loan-servicer at the time of payoff might have been merged into several other banks by now. But eventually, you should be able to determine who took over the records and can provide a release. You may also want to reach out to the title company that assisted with your closing to see if they can provide more clues.

  • Patrick Mulligan

    I am currently in the process of refinancing my home. My current mortgage company added a refinance fee and a mortgage release fee into the payoff quote. This just doesn’t sound right to me. Isn’t charging a fee to payoff a loan early illegal?

  • I had a section 8 tenant in my property that left behind an 19k water bill in her name..while applying for a rehab loan i found out the city of Atlanta has place a lein on my property for the 19k can they do that legally.

  • I am in the process of buying a home that shows a lien at the Courthouse. The original bank (Bank One)that the equity loan was through sold out to another bank (Chase Bank). Everyone believes the loan was paid off but Chase Bank says that they can not find all of the details from the original loan and therefore can not send a lien release letter to the Courthouse. The lien is 20 years old and the past owner who payed the loan off is deceased now. How can Chase Bank tell me the loan has a zero balance but they can’t send a release form to the Courthouse? Is there a way to get it removed?

  • Hi Chad, thanks for your inquiry. The title company that is handling the closing should be able to come up with some solutions but, if not, the seller might need to consider hiring counsel to force Chase to prepare and file a release. If Chase is willing to provide a zero balance letter, they should be willing to provide a release.

  • Hi I need help with being sued by a debt collector over equity line. Sun trust sold off the mortgage but lien is still open. Debt collector is still suing under sun trust. Sun trust told me they sold it
    What happens to the open lien?

  • Hello,
    I inherited a home that has been mortgage free for almost 17 years. We are selling the home and during escrow we found out that the home had a zero heloc lien from 1990 on title. The original bank was Great Western Bank in which then lien showed up under. Great Western Bank was taken over by Washington Mutual—which was taken over by Chase. Because the home was an inheritance I have no records of the heloc being paid off, but we have never received a bill owing a monthly payment, so it must be zero, therefore, the heloc lien was definitely to my surprise. We contacted Chase already and are waiting for them to research. Is this something hard to get done before close of escrow? Can you suggest anything I can do to ensure this lien gets handled? I notified Chase 4 weeks before the close of escrow and I’m down to 3 weeks with them still researching. Thank you for your help!

  • I forgot to add that the escrow company is the one who noticed me during their title search and let me know this is something I have to figure out.

  • It is a real shame when good people do as they should, make payments & pay off a home, only to find many years later that because someone did not do their job when a mortgage was sold, that they are now expected to play detective and find out who became whom, where this or that went…ridiculous!

  • Please help quickly . My bank sold off my second mortgage but they still are holding a lien at Charleston county tax
    Office. I am trying to close on my house I sold and this is holding it up the sale.
    A debt collector bought the note and is trying to get all the 100k I have offered to negotiate a offer but they are asking
    For almost all of it. Can I do anything

  • Hi there Christina,
    You want to contact a local real state attorney in your area.
    Thank you!
    Nikki Lyon

  • Paul Theberge

    A home is purchased in 1990 and financed at which time the original title company cleared the title. Subsequent to that, the home is refinanced a couple of times and eventually the loan was satisfied in 2010. The property is now being sold and the seller is being advised, as a result of a title search by the prospective buyers, that that the original owner in 1990 failed to pay off their loan when it was purchased. Its apparent the title company handling the sale in 1990 failed to catch this. Now what happens?

  • Hi Paul,
    What you describe here is, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence in the world of clouded title. It is also a perfect example of why homebuyers SHOULD NEVER waive owner’s title insurance coverage. What to do next? Pull a copy of your owner’s title insurance policy (assuming you have one) and follow the instructions for filing a claim. The title insurance company will take the appropriate steps to pay off and release the lien so that the seller can convey free and clear title to the buyer. Hope this helps.
    Nikki Lyon

  • What was the outcome? I’m having almost the same problem in texas. Original lien still on and it was sold many times and now paid off for several years. Everyone is out of business and all I kept was the pay off letter and no one wants to help? Have a sale pending but can’t get a release.

  • Hi there,
    You need to contact a bonding company. I hope this helps.
    Nikki Lyon

  • Hi there,
    You need to contact a bonding company. I hope this helps.
    Nikki Lyon

  • Christina Hanna

    I have s second mortgages that went banckrupt and sold my account to another company , while I was making payments for several years then all of a sudden my payments comes back to me because the company went bankrupt without telling us after a couple of years I received a letter that the bank went bankrupt and the new company had bought my account and now they want me to pay the full balance of the actual second loan amount which is that’s not true so what do you suggest me doing can I call them and make a settlement because I have a lien on my home right now. I’m so confused !!!

  • Hi there,

    You should seek the advice of an attorney familiar with the laws of your jurisdiction. If you are in the DC/MD/VA area, we can provide a referral. Please let me know if that is needed.


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