Question:         I made a handshake deal to sell my car to a private buyer.  We gave each other a week to prepare for the transfer.  During this time, I changed my mind and decided not to sell.  When I notified the buyer, he became angry and threatened to put a lien on my home.  Is he just bullying me?

Answer:           Don’t be intimidated by this bully.  He cannot simply walk into the registry of deeds and put a lien on your home.  The process to obtain a lien is far more detailed and requires some validity to one’s claims

In order to obtain a lien, your buyer must file a lawsuit against you in the district or superior court.  The decision on which court depends upon the amount of damages being sought as demands over $25,000.00 are brought in the superior court, while the district court applies to lesser claims.  Either way, the small claims division of the district court hears disputes under $2,000.00 and cannot issue liens against real estate.

After filing a complaint, your buyer must then request the judge issue an attachment of your real estate.  This usually requires notice of the hearing with an opportunity for you to attend and argue against the lien.  In instances where there is a risk that you will immediately convey your real estate to avoid such a lien, a judge may secretly hear the request without your attendance.  Yours does not sound like such a situation.

At the hearing, your buyer must prove a reasonable likelihood of success that he will win his case

I often hear this threat used as a coercion tactic by individuals ignorant of the process

Attorney James Haroutunian is a Billerica native who runs the Haroutunian Law Office at 630 Boston Road, Billerica, specializing in real estate law including landlord/tenant and estate planning.  James invites questions from local real estate agents as well as consumers at 978-671-0711 or by email at

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