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In law, a charge or encumbrance on property for the satisfaction of a debt or other duty. Common law developed two kinds of possessory lien: the specific (a lien on the specific property involved in a transaction) and the general (a lien for the satisfaction of a balance due, not confined to a specific property involved in a transaction). Courts of equity may, through the device of the equitable lien, recognize a creditor's interest in a debtor's property. Statutory liens are also available; developers and building contractors, for example, may use their interest in an improved site as security for payment (a mechanic's lien).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lien, visit Britannica.com.