What is a spurious lien, and how can you remove one from your property?

Sometimes, in the course of a dispute, a party will file a purported lien or other document affecting another party’s property, even if they have no right to do so.  Once this “lien” or document is recorded with the Office of the County Clerk and Recorder, it will appear in title searches on the property.

Even if the purported “lien” or document is groundless, it can have serious consequences for a party’s credit and ability to use the property, so long as it is part of the real estate record.  Fortunately, Colorado law provides an expedited process to remove such groundless, or spurious, liens or documents.

What Is a Spurious Lien or Document?

Under Colorado law, a spurious lien is a purported lien that is not provided for by statute, is not agreed to by the property owner, or is not imposed by a court order or judgment.  C.R.S. 38-35-201(4).  One example of a spurious lien is a recorded “judgment” that was not issued or authorized by a court.

A spurious document is “any document that is forged or groundless, contains a material misstatement or false claim, or is otherwise patently invalid.”  C.R.S. 38-35-201(3).  One example of a spurious document is a deed purporting to convey the property to a party who has no interest in that property.

How Can You Remove a Spurious Lien or Document?

In Colorado, a party can attack a spurious lien or document by filing a petition in the district court in which the lien or document is recorded.  C.R.C.P. 105.1.  This petition is then served on the party responsible for recording the “lien” or document, giving that party notice of a court hearing to be held within 14 to 21 days.  In this action, the property owner opposing the “lien” or document is known as the “petitioner.”  The party who filed the “lien” or document is the “respondent.”  The respondent has an opportunity to respond to the petition prior to the hearing.

At the court hearing, if the judge finds that the lien or document is spurious, he or she will enter an order and decree declaring the spurious lien or document and any related notices invalid, and release the recorded or filed spurious lien or spurious document.  The judge is also authorized to enter a monetary judgment against the respondent in the amount of the petitioner’s costs, including reasonable attorney fees.  C.R.C.P. 105.1.

This statutory procedure allows a property owner to address and remove a spurious lien or document quickly, and to avoid the time and additional expense of a full-blown lawsuit.

The Supreme Court of Colorado has held that the spurious lien statute described above does not apply to mechanics’ liens.  Tuscany, LLC v. W. States Excavating Pipe & Boring, LLC, 128 P.3d 274, 278 (Colo. App. 2005).  Instead, a groundless mechanics’ “lien” can be attacked through Colorado’s mechanics’ lien statute, which also provides for an award of costs and attorneys’ fees in some cases, such as when an excessive lien amount is claimed.  C.R.S. 38-22-128.

The attorneys at Karsh Fulton Gabler Joseph PC are experienced in handling spurious liens and documents, mechanics’ liens, and a wide range of other legal issues.  Please feel free to contact us at (303) 759-9669.