Boat Lien Search
How to search for boat liens and encumbrances with step by step instructions.
BoatWiki - Guidelines
The boat lien search guidelines provide step by step instructions on how to go about identifying any liens or encumbrance against a particular boat. This includes information on how to recognize a boat's title and registration status and such relationship to liens and encumbrances.
Step - 1 - Determine the boat's title and registration status.
The manner in which boat liens and encumbrances become recorded is directly related to the respective boat's title and registration status. You will accordingly need to identify its hull identification number along with a state registration number and/or Coast Guard vessel documentation number as applicable. Depending on your comfort level, this information can be obtained from the owner or through a physical inspection of the boat itself. The WikiTags will offer information on what to look for in this regard. In any event, accuracy regarding the actual markings as affixed to the boat itself is crucial.
Step - 2 - Search for state recorded liens.
If there is an indication that the subject boat is currently or was recently state registered you will need to conduct some direct research in those respective jurisdictions. In states that issue boat titles, any liens or encumbrances should be listed on the title certificate itself. In non-title states where the boat is undocumented, it will be necessary to conduct a Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) search. The State Boat Regulations summary in WikiTags will provide detailed information on how to conduct searches in every state and U.S. Territory/
Step - 3 - Search for vessel documentation liens and mortgages.
If the boat is currently or was ever Coast Guard documented, you will need to obtain an abstract of title from the National Vessel Documentation Center. This will show the last owner of record, any outstanding mortgages or lien claim notifications. Information on how to go about this can be found in WikiTags.
Step - 4 - Search for tax liens.
Delinquent tax obligations, whether created by the boat itself or against the owner, can be a factor in searching for liens. Unfortunately, these are not easily identifiable in many cases. Thy can become manifested as UCC filings, state registration flags, or claims recorded on a documentation abstract of title. The state boat regulations summary in WikiTags will offer some clues on how to go about identifying tax liens.
Step - 5 - Search for non-recorded liens.
Under maritime or admiralty law, a boat may acquire liens even though not recorded. These will attach to the vessel itself even through subsequent owners. These usually consist of debts, damages, or liabilities created as a result of the boat's operations. In this case you will need to rely on the owner's disclosure representations and whatever efforts that may be available for an independent confirmation of these various aspects.
Tracking down boat liens and encumbrances is as much of an art as practical science. Given such complexities, the assistance of a professional title agent may be the best solution. In any event, reliance on title, registration and documentation certificates at face value is not recommended without further confirmation. In the end, you may have to rely on the owner's representations and wherewithal to make good on any deficiencies. Unless you have supreme confidence in such factors, a personal background check should become an important aspect of your lien research efforts.
Credits and References
5/25/2022 - Page initiated by Team BoatWiki.