By Christopher C. Carr, Esq. Chester County bankruptcy attorney.
Tel: 610-380-7969 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In my previous post on this topic, I discuss how a judgment lien can come to attach to your home and some ways to avoid such lien attachment. However, due to unfortunate ambiguities in the wording of the relevant Pennsylvania statutes, there is another common misperception regarding what I will call the “extinguishment” of liens against land titles within the Commonwealth, which I would now like to dispel.
Under our statutes, recently recodified, (Pa. R.C.P. 3023, et seq.), a lien attaches to all real property in the county of residence of a defendant automatically upon the entry of a judgment against that defendant’s name in the judgment register of the county but that judgment is only a lien against the real property which the judgment debtor owns at the time that the judgment is entered. The lien lasts for a period of five years (Pa. R.C.P. 3023). It is technically correct that a judgment is not a lien against real property which the judgment debtor acquires after the judgment has been entered of record. Philadelphia Nat’l Bank v. Taylor, 421 Pa. 35, 218 A.2d 246, 247-48 (1946). It is also technically correct that the lien of a money judgment is lost if a proceeding to revive that judgment is not commenced before the expiration of a five-year period from the date the judgment was entered, Shearer v. Naftzinger, 747 A.2d 859, 861 (Pa. 2000).
Many defendants, noting that five years or more has passed and the judgment against them has not been revived will blithely assume that a.) any real property they own is now free and clear of liens and will be so FOREVER and/or b.) that they can now safely purchase real estate in their own name without threat of a lien EVER attaching to it. A lender (let’s call it “BB Bank” for Big Bad Bank) will be willing to lend against such property during this hiatus because they are assured of obtaining a first priority mortgage lien since this is a “fresh” transaction, e.g. the property was not owned by the defendant at the time the now lapsed judgment lien was first entered. These poor unfortunates are wrong on both counts. The judgment lien has not been extinguished, it has at best lapsed, subject to a potential statutory revival which is always available to the judgment creditor by institution of what is called a “praecipe for a writ of revival.”
For as the Explanatory notes published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin explain, a praecipe for a writ of revival substantially the form provided by Rule 3032 once granted by the court, has a dual function: it i) continues any lien which has not been lost at the time it is filed and/or creates a lien in all property then owned by the defendant (called “after acquired property”) .
It is important to recognize that the rules regarding real estate liens were enacted not to create a “safe harbor” for debtors but to permit of an orderly prioritization of liens on real property as between large corporate creditors and other entities. That is, if you, the judgment creditor, allow your lien to lapse (by allowing the initial 5 year period to go by without filing a praecipe for a writ of revival), later lenders can step ahead of your lapsed priority and if and when you revive, your lien stands in an inferior position as to those filing in the interim, such as BBBank. But sadly, if you are in the position of a homeowner who has acquired property during the hiatus we have been discussing, once the lien is revived, it WILL capture all property you own at that time, subject to the priority of the BBBank lien ahead of it. That is, a judgment can by revival be made a lien against after-acquired real property by renewal of the lien after the real property has been acquired.
How long does this right of revival go on? Does it have any “statute of limitations”? Well, in the words of Chief Justice Zappala in the concurring opinion in Shearer v. Naftzinger, ibid at 861 , “There is no outer time limit to executing against real property to satisfy a judgment…”
In the related previous post, I discussed potential methods for avoiding the initial attachment of a lien, and in later (as yet unwritten) posts I intend to delve into how to prevent revived liens from attaching, despite the statutory scheme I have just been describing. I will also describe the remedies the judgment creditor can use to enforce the collection of their money judgment, if not so defeated.
Note that this right of revival does not apply to personal property which is govened by a separate PA statute.
©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2009, 2012. All Rights Reserved
Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA, P.C., is a quality bankruptcy and debt relief practice, located in Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney, who has over 30 years if diversified ;egal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester, Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at email@example.com today!
I also provide Mortgage Modification Services.