Releasing a Lien on Real Property When a Lender is No Longer in Existence

Releasing a Lien on Real Property

A lien is a legal claim against an asset, often used as collateral for a loan. In the realm of financial transactions, situations can arise where a lender, for various reasons, ceases to exist. Whether due to bankruptcy, acquisition, death of an individual lender, or simply closing shop, the absence of a lender can complicate matters for borrowers, especially when it comes to the release of liens. A  lien release is crucial for individuals looking to sell or transfer ownership of the property in question. 

Understanding the Lien Release Process

Before delving into the specifics of handling a lien release on real property in the absence of the original lender, it's essential to grasp the typical lien release process. When a borrower repays a loan in full, the lender is responsible for releasing the lien. This involves filing a release document in the real property records of the county where the property is located. Once filed, the release document clears the real property of any encumbrances, allowing the borrower full ownership rights. Ideally, as soon as the loan is paid off a lender will file a lien release. However, sometimes lenders don’t follow the proper process.

Why a Lien Release Matters

Without a lien release, it will be difficult to sell a property and likely impossible to get title insurance. Most buyers will balk at the idea of buying a property that still has a lien attached because they are relying on the seller’s word that it truly has been paid off and no entity will be coming after the property as collateral on a loan. Additionally, title insurance companies are going to be extremely reluctant to insure a property with such an encumbrance for the same reasons.

How to Get a Lien Release When the Lender is Defunct

The process becomes complex when the original lender is no longer in business. Without an active entity to handle the paperwork, borrowers may find themselves at a loss as to how to proceed. There are a few ways to resolve the issue.

If the lender is a commercial entity, there may be a successor in interest. For example, if one business buys another, they may be assuming their assets and liabilities as part of the transaction. If this is the case, the successor entity may have the ability to release the lien. If the lender was an individual who has passed away, then there may be an executor of the estate who is able to release the lien on the decedent’s behalf.

If there truly is no one with the legal authority to release the lien, then the remedy lies with the court. The property owner will need to file a lawsuit to quiet title. There are unique challenges involved with suing a defunct entity, but an experienced real estate attorney will be able to navigate those challenges.


Releasing a lien when the original lender is no longer in existence presents challenges, but with diligence and persistence, it can be accomplished. By researching the lender's status, gathering relevant documents, reaching out to successor entities, seeking legal counsel if needed, and potentially petitioning the court, borrowers can take proactive steps to clear their property of any encumbrances and secure their ownership rights.

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