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Wisconsin Court Records

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Wisconsin Lien Search

A Wisconsin lien search is a process that allows an individual to discover liens against a specific property (i.e., a vehicle or real estate) in Wisconsin. This process usually involves querying government agencies for public records containing information about liens attached to a property, like a property's title. Lien searches are essential when considering property purchases, as such searches can used to safeguard against undesirable transactions. By conducting a lien search, property purchasers can ensure that a property's title is clear and its ownership rights and value are not affected by a lien. 

What is a Lien in Wisconsin?

A lien is a legal claim against a property that provides the lien claimant with a security interest. In Wisconsin, a lien may be issued under WI Statutes Chapter 779. Essentially, a lien ensures a debt payment or the fulfillment of an obligation or duty. A lien can give a claimant the legal right to take possession of and sell the affected property to recoup an unpaid debt owed by the owner.

Types of Liens in Wisconsin

As outlined in Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 779, different types of liens may be issued in Wisconsin. Listed below are some of the most common:

  • Construction liens
  • Mechanic's liens
  • Mining liens 
  • Hospital liens 
  • UCC liens
  • Federal Tax liens 

The various types of liens issued in Wisconsin are further categorized according to specific attributes. These include and are not limited to how the lien affects a subject (general or specific) and the circumstances surrounding their attachment (consensual or involuntary). 

  • General Liens in Wisconsin

A general lien is a type of lien that affects all property an individual owns. Essentially, a general lien gives its holder a legal claim to any property or assets a debtor owns until the repayment of a debt or fulfillment of an obligation or duty. A good example is a federal tax lien that the government places against any property or asset a taxpayer owns, not just their property title, for defaulting on federal income tax payments.  

  • Specific Liens

Unlike a general lien, a specific lien only affects a particular property or asset an individual owns. A specific lien is usually attached to a property for an unpaid debt or unfulfilled obligation linked to the property in one way or the other. Mortgage liens and construction liens are some examples of a specific lien. In the case of construction liens, a contractor may attach it to the title of a client's property when they fail to pay for renovation or other types of services rendered on the property.  

  • Consensual vs Involuntary Liens

Consensual liens are liens issued against an individual's property or asset at the individual's volution. Usually, individuals consent to consensual liens to secure loans or other credit advances. An example of a consensual lien is a mortgage. 

On the other hand, involuntary liens are usually a result of legal actions taken by creditors or owed parties for nonpayment or unfulfillment of a debt or obligation. Generally, an involuntary lien may be attached to a property or asset without its owner's consent. However, once an involuntary lien has been issued the owner of the affected property or asset is usually notified of its existence.

  • Statutory Liens

Statutory liens are liens issued due to the operation of a state or federal statute. Consequently, a statutory lien may be issued without the consent of the affected property or asset owner. Furthermore, statutory liens do not require formal agreements between parties. Some examples of statutory liens in Wisconsin include construction liens per WI Statutes § 779.01 and mechanic liens per WI Statutes § 779.41.  

What is a Tax Lien in Wisconsin?

A tax lien, also known as a tax warrant, is a legal claim against a taxpayer's properties or assets the government can issue to collect delinquent taxes the taxpayer has neglected, failed, or refused to pay. For instance, per Wisconsin Statutes § 71.91, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) maintains the right to perfect a lien against all property or right to property a taxpayer has, if they default on paying their state income, franchise, or unpaid property taxes.

Generally, a tax lien is issued to protect the government's rights in collecting delinquent taxes. Furthermore, a tax lien has the characteristics of both a general and statutory lien. A tax lien may be attached to any property a taxpayer owns (a general lien characteristic), and it is implemented by law (a statutory lien characteristic). 

Are Tax Liens Public Record?

Yes. Tax liens are subject to public disclosure under the Wisconsin Public Record Law (WL § 19.31). To issue a tax lien to collect delinquent taxes a taxpayer owes, a government agency (for instance, the DOR ) must file a tax warrant with the local Circuit Court Clerk in the county where the taxpayer owns a property or assets. After the filing, the court clerk would generate and maintain public records detailing the lien, including the amount the taxpayer owes in delinquent taxes. 

Note that once a tax lien is issued against a property, it can affect its owner's ability to sell or obtain loans using the affected property. Furthermore, if the property is ever sold the proceeds of the sale would first go towards paying the delinquent tax. 

Wisconsin Tax Lien Search

Interested persons can search for Wisconsin tax liens by querying the local Circuit Court clerk's office in each county. These offices are responsible for recording tax liens against properties within their respective counties upon the request of relevant government bodies. After recording a lien, information about the lien is typically maintained as public records by the local circuit court clerk's office. Hence, individuals can query a county's circuit court clerk's office to find information about liens issued within that specific county.

There are two ways individuals can conduct tax lien searches in Wisconsin: by querying each county circuit court clerk's office individually or through the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) website online. Regardless of how an individual chooses to conduct a tax lien search, they would need to provide certain information about the lien to assist in identifying the desired record. This includes the lien subject's full name or connected case number. 

Depending on what a specific circuit court clerk's office allows, record seekers may make queries for tax liens records in person or by submitting a search request by mail, phone, fax, or email. In-person queries must be made within regular business hours, typically 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 PM, Monday thru Friday. Note that most circuit court clerks only maintain around five (5) years worth of records physically. Hence, inquirers may need to call the clerk's office ahead of time before their in-person visit for older records. 

Meanwhile, to submit a request through other means (i.e. via mail, fax, email, or phone), an individual may compose a written request specifying the record they need. The request must also include the requester's contact details. This information would be utilized by the office to contact the requester once the requested record is located. interested persons can get more comprehensive details on the procedures for conducting searches remotely by contacting a county circuit court clerk or visiting their website. A good example is the Dane County Clerk of Courts Circuit Court records page

On the other hand, the WCCA website is a searchable online database that contains public records, including tax lien records, from Wisconsin counties' circuit courts. The WCCA is a public service tool and can be used for free. To conduct a tax lien search on WCCA, users must navigate to the lien search section of the website. To do this, click on the "search" dropdown menu button, located on the website's top bar, and select the "lien" option. Lien searches are conducted on WCCA using a subject full name or a business name as search criteria. Additional criteria, such as the subject's date of birth may also be provided. 

Federal Tax Lien Search

Per the Wisconsin Uniform Federal Lien Registration Act (WI Code § 779.97), federal tax liens registered against properties are filed with the Register of Deeds Office in the county where the affected property is located. Hence, those who wish to conduct federal tax lien lookups in Wisconsin can do so by querying a county's register of Deed Office. 

For the sake of convenience, most county Register of Deed Offices provide online portals record seekers can use to access records they maintain. These portals are usually accessible through the register or county website. Some examples include the Waukesha County Register of Deeds Public Access portal and the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds Tapestry application. Record seekers can search for federal tax liens attached to properties within a specific county through these portals. Searches may be conducted using the property owner's name or the property's legal description. Alternatively, record seekers may query a County Register of Deed Office directly (i.e. in-person or by mail) for inquiries about federal tax lien attached to properties with their county.

What is a Lien on Property in Wisconsin?

A lien on a property is a legal claim, encumbrance, or charge one party has over another party's property for some debt, obligation, or duty the latter owes. A lien can issued against real property (such as real estate and lands) and personal property (such as vehicles and other assets). Some of the most common types of liens on properties in Wisconsin include mechanic and construction liens.

Who can put a lien on a property?

Any entity or person may petition for a lien to be put against a property, provided the property's owner owes them money or an obligation. 

How to put a lien on property in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, different types of lien can be put on property and each type has its own filing requirements and procedures. Therefore, it's advisable to consult with a licensed attorney to determine which type of lien would be ideal for specific situations and what they require. Nonetheless, the following steps usually apply; 

  • Verify the property's owner: Perform a title search on the property to ascertain its legal owner and to look for any liens that the property may already have. A good rule of thumb is avoiding properties with liens already on them since new liens are usually not prioritized. 
  • Prepare the lien claim: Claimants can purchase a lien claim form at any office supply store or draft one themselves. The following information should be provided on the claim form:
    • The property owner's name
    • The claimant and any assignee's name and signature
    • The property's legal description 
    • A statement of the contract or demand that forms the basis of the claim
    • The amount or obligation owed 

Note that certain types of liens, like construction and mechanic liens, require claimants first to serve the property's owner a written notice of intent to file a lien claim before filing their claim. 30 days after serving the notice, the claimant may proceed with filing the lien claim.

  • File the lien claim and pay necessary fees: a claimant may file their lien claim form with the Circuit Court Clerk's office of the county where the property is situated and pay the required filing fee. Depending on the type of lien, a copy of the notice of intent to lien and proof of service must filed along with the claim form. Meanwhile, most offices charge a $5 filing fee for liens.

How to Find a Lien on Property in Wisconsin

Interested persons can find a lien on a property in Wisconsin through the Register of Deeds office in the county where the property is situated. Generally, these offices are responsible for maintaining real estate and land records for properties in their respective jurisdiction. These records may be reviewed to find liens on a property. Record seekers can also check liens on a property through the Circuit Court Clerk's office in the county where the property is located.   

Alternatively, liens searches can be conducted through the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) website using a property's owner name. There is also the option of hiring a title company to check for liens on a property through a title search. Interested individuals can also obtain title insurance to protect themselves from unknown liens

  • Property Lien Search By Address

Governmental agencies, such as Counties Circuit Court Clerks and Recorders of Deeds Offices, typically do not offer the ability to search their records for information about liens by address. Instead, searches are usually conducted using the owner's information (i.e. their name and date of birth) or the property description (such as parcel number and sub-division description amongst other information). 

Nonetheless, individuals may be able to conduct a property lien search in Wisconsin by address through certain third-party websites for a fee. 

  • Free Lien Search on Property

Interested persons can conduct free lien searches on a property through online tools and resources provided by relevant government agencies. Alternatively, searches may be conducted in persons at the agency during regular office hours. 

What is a Mechanics Lien in Wisconsin?

A mechanics lien is a legal remedy that contractors, subcontractors, tradesmen, laborers, or material suppliers can use to ensure payments for improvements or repairs they make on a client's property. Mechanics liens are enforceable under WI Statutes § 779.41. Like any other type of lien, a mechanics lien can affect the owner's ability to sell and refinance the affected property. 

Wisconsin Mechanics Lien Search

The process for searching for mechanic liens in Wisconsin is similar to that of any other type of lien. Inquirers can query the Circuit Court Clerk or Recorders of Deeds office of the county where the property is located. As previously explained, queries may be made in person, by mail, or by phone, depending on what an agency permits. Additionally, most agencies provide online tools and resources accessible through their website inquirers can use to conduct lien searches online. 

What is a Mortgage Lien in Wisconsin?

A mortgage lien is a claim to a property that an individual or entity has when said property is used by its owner as collateral for a debt. As a result, if the property owner defaults on the debt, the mortgage lien allows its holder to seize or sell the affected property to recoup the outstanding debt. In Wisconsin, mortgage liens are enforceable under WI Statutes § 708

What is a UCC Lien in Wisconsin? 

A UCC lien, also known as a UCC financing statement, is a legal filing against a property used as collateral to secure a transaction, such as a loan or an owed obligation. Essentially, a UCC lien provides a creditor the legal right to foreclose an affected property when its owner defaults on the loan. In Wisconsin, UCC liens are governed by the provisions of the Wisconsin Uniform Commercial Code (WI Statutes chapter 401)

UCC Lien Search in Wisconsin

Fortunately, the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions UCC and Trademark filing system contains statewide information on UCC liens filings. Individuals can search for UCC lien in Wisconsin through this database. 

To access the database, new users must create a user account. Once logged in, a UCC lien search can be conducted on the database using specific information about the lien as a search criteria. These include and are not limited to the lien's file number, filing date, and debtor's name. Note that, searches are subject to fees. For more information, interested persons can visit the Department's Uniform Commercial Code Filing Search page. The Departments may also be contacted at:

Physical Address

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions 

Division of Corporate and Consumer Services 

4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower 

Madison, WI 53705

Phone: (608) 266-8915

Email: DFI-UCC@dfi.wisconsin.gov

What is a Lien Title in Wisconsin?

A lien title in Wisconsin is a legal claim on a vehicle's title that results from a loan agreement between its owner and an entity or individual. A lien title serves as an insurance policy for lenders when they provide a loan for a vehicle purchase. Essentially, it allows lenders to repossess a vehicle when an individual defaults on their loan to recoup the amount owed.  

Wisconsin Title Lien Search

The easiest and most convenient way to conduct a Wisconsin title lien search is through the Lien Holder Search Portal provided by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT). Searches are conducted on the portal using a Vehicle's Identification Number (VIN). Any lienholder recorded on a vehicle's title would be listed in the search results along with their complete name, address, and the date the lien was listed. 

  • Free Title Lien Search in Wisconsin

Users do not incur any charges for using the WI DOT's Lien Holder Search Portal. Hence interested persons can conduct free title lien searches in Wisconsin through the portal. 

What is a Jugdement Lien in Wisconsin 

A judgement lien or lien of judgement is a legal claim on property arising from a court-ordered verdict or a court-approved settlement in a court action. 

The final disposition of a civil court case may include a court order for one party (the losing party or debtor) to pay another party (the winning party or creditor) money. In such cases, a judgement lien would automatically be issued on any real property the debtor owns within the county the judgement was entered to ensure the court-ordered payment is made per WI Statutes § 806.15

Furthermore, under WI Statutes § 806.13, creditors may also register their lien judgment with the Circuit Court Clerk Office in other counties where their debtor owns real estate. According to WI statutes, a judgment lien is valid for ten (10) years following its date of entry. In essence, judgment liens give creditors the right to receive proceeds from the sale of affected properties if their debtors fail to satisfy the judgement.

Wisconsin Judgement Lien Search

Interested parties can search for judgment liens issued against an individual's property in Wisconsin by querying the local Circuit Court Clerk's office in the county where the property is located. Queries may be made in person, by phone, mail, or email, depending on what an office permits. Furthermore, like any other type of lien, jugdement liens are also searchable online through the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) website. 

How to Get a Lien Release in Wisconsin 

The subject of a lien in Wisconsin can get a lien release by satisfying the basis of the lien, as such, paying a debt or performing an obligation. Thereafter, they can contact the lien's creditor to prepare, sign, and notarize a satisfaction of judgements or lien form. This form is obtainable through any local Circuit Court Clerk's office and differs depending on how the lien was satisfied (i.e., party, fully or by bankruptcy).

Some county circuit court clerk offices, including Waukesha County, provides their satisfaction of judgements or lien forms online through their website. After completing the satisfaction of judgements or lien form, it must be filed with the county circuit court clerk's office where the lien was recorded. A Lien release may also be obtained pursuant to a court order. In such cases, the lien's subject would have to file a lawsuit with a court that has the appropriate authority in a bid to appeal the lien. 

How to Get a Copy of a Lien Release in Wisconsin

A copy of a lien release letter in Wisconsin can be requested from the local County Circuit Court Clerk's office where the lien's satisfaction of judgements or lien was filed. Note that requests are usually subject to a fee.

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