lien, claim or charge held by one party, on property owned by a second party, as security for payment of some debt, obligation, or duty owed by that second party. A lien may arise by agreement between the parties or by operation of law from the relation of the parties or the circumstances of their dealings. A special lien applies only to a specific property and any obligations related to it. A general lien can be enforced on a property for any unfulfilled debt in similar lines of business. Laborer's liens establish priority for the payment of employees in favor of general creditors in cases of bankruptcy; mechanic's liens similarly provide priority for the payment of contractors who provided goods and services for building projects. The holder of a first lien takes precedence over all other encumbrances on a piece of property. A tax lien is held by the state or federal government on property which may be foreclosed for nonpayment of taxes.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.