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What A UCC Lien Shows
This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment expert, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
You can't be too rich, too thin, or remind people too often, that UCC liens are not judgments. About the only thing they have in common with judgments is they need to be renewed every so often.
UCC liens are used to record claims on commercially-related assets, and sometimes to passively and weakly lien the personal (non-real property based) available assets of regular judgment debtors.
Although the UCC lien form itself remains the same, there is a big difference whether the form is filed pre-judgment (or without any lawsuit or judgment at all), and when the lien references an existing unpaid civil-judgment.
By itself, with no other actions taken; a UCC lien is just a piece of paper. You cannot have a Sheriff levy anything with only a lien. Getting it notarized and/or signed by a judge, still will not make it a judgment.
Without a judgment, or pre-judgment, a UCC lien is only a claim. It might be used with other evidence, to help support a motion to get an actual judgment in a lawsuit; if that lien is backed up with other evidence, that proves an actual debt is owed to you, and a judge agrees.
In most, if not all states; one can search for liens on their state's Secretary Of State's (SOS) website. Sometimes, SOS websites do not have the best instructions, however they are easy to figure out. You can search the SOS (usually over the web, sometimes in person) for the name of a person or a business, to check if there are any UCC liens against them. There are other ways to find liens, they are cheap to search for. Do not forget to also search on Google or Bing for your judgment debtor's name; because that is free, and occasionally may lead to potential assets.
Sometimes, searching UCC liens can lead to finding judgment owners, and occasionally some liens may also show the judgment debtor's assets, for example trucks, airplanes, equipment, etc. If you find a lien against inventory or accounts receivable, that might indicate a business the debtor owns.
Judgment creditors often file UCC liens as a usually weak, however occasionally effective judgment recovery tactic. Eventually, such liens sometimes work, and they are relatively easy to file, and very cheap. UCC liens should always be filed when your debtor has a going DBA business. The more specifically the lien identifies the debtor's interests or property(s), the better. Judgment debtors often have several liens and/or judgments against them.
The two most common (especially post-judgment) ways that a UCC lien helps a creditor, are if the debtor tries to get a loan or financing (sometimes a lien will get noticed and must be satisfied); or sometimes in bankruptcy court, to help make them a secured creditor. One more (very rare) way this lien really helps, is if your debtor wins the lotto.
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