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What Is a Vendor's Lien?

By Charity Delich
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A vendor's lien secures a seller's interest in a property until the buyer completes payment, acting as a pivotal safeguard in property transactions. According to Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, a vendor's lien is particularly significant in real estate deals, ensuring sellers can reclaim their property if a buyer defaults on payments.

Repossession rates for automobiles, often subject to vendor's liens, can reach as high as 1 in 5 for subprime loans, underscoring the lien's role in personal property sales. Understanding what a vendor's lien entails empowers buyers and sellers to navigate the complexities of property transactions confidently.

The laws in a particular jurisdiction generally dictate what kinds of property can be secured by a vendor’s lien. Some common categories of liens include those required by jewelers, banks or other financial lending institutions, dry cleaning and laundry service companies, and storage facilities. An automobile mechanic may also take out a vendor’s lien on a vehicle if a customer fails to pay repair bills.

A vendor’s lien usually prevents a borrower from selling or transferring title to a property until the title has been cleared. Essentially, the property remains the seller’s until the borrower has completely paid it off. The existence of a vendor’s lien is ordinarily reported on a borrower’s credit report. If a borrower defaults on a payment, his or her credit score is usually lowered.

A vendor’s lien can be discharged once the borrower remits all outstanding payments to the seller. Once a borrower satisfies a lien, he or she no longer owes the seller anything. The borrower should, however, require the seller to sign a written document evidencing that the lien has in fact been satisfied. Depending on the type of lien, the borrower may need to record a satisfaction of lien document with a government office. This is particularly common for liens involving real estate.

A purchase money mortgage, or seller financing, is a type of vendor’s lien in which a seller has the right to repossess a piece of real estate from a delinquent buyer. It is commonly used when a buyer has poor credit and cannot secure a loan from a bank or other lending institution. With a purchase money mortgage in lieu of, or in combination with, borrowing money from a lending institution, the buyer takes out a loan from the seller. Most of these mortgages are secured by a deed of trust from the buyer to the seller. If the buyer fails to make his or her scheduled payments, the seller generally has the right to bring foreclosure proceedings against the buyer.

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Discussion Comments
By anon171676 — On May 01, 2011

Scammer! that's not a friend.

By anon82651 — On May 06, 2010

To whom it may concern. I have a question for you. My son has encountered a friend who is trying to get him to trade a vehicle with him.

My son has a free title with his car and his friend has what you call a salvage title. He is telling us that he can't find the owner of the other vehicle.

His friend has also told us that all he would have to do is go get paper tags every month which is 25 X 12= 300. That is way too much. He is 18 and I think he is getting taken for a ride. What do you think. Thanks

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