CA State Tax Liens & Trustee Sale

I have a question regarding lien priority for properties sold at Trustee Sale in California.

I am looking at a property that has a first loan going to sale. After that deed of trust, the property owner had 20+ different state tax liens recorded in the same county against his business. I only found them by searching his last name, as the business name contains his last name. The state tax liens are all filed by the California Employment Development Department. I can find no way of seeing their amounts online.

#1. I am unsure if these can even attach to the property, considering they appear to be in the business name. However, owner of the business is clear, as his business name contains his name.

#2. Assuming they can attach to the property, are state tax liens like this given any special priority in California? Basic searches on trustee sales show that some liens do not get wiped away, and some list state tax liens as those that do not get wiped. However, I assume this varies from state to state, and have not been able to find any specific answer to this in California. Are state tax liens recorded after the foreclosing deed of trust wiped away in a trustee sale?

#3. I am wondering if any special notice requirements exist to the EDD in regards to their liens from the Trustee. I think it is highly likely that the trustee would not have been aware of these liens to notice if they had not searched specifically for the individual’s last name in county records. If you include the first name in the record search, these do not show up. (Example: Searching John Smith doesn’t show these liens, but searching Smith does, as they are recorded under Smith Electrical). I suppose this comes back to the question of whether a lien recorded under Smith Electrical can tie to the property of John Smith.

Any help or insight would be very helpful!

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I can’t provide a legal opinion, or guarantee, however, from my experience, I would say:

  1. With regards to attaching - better safe then sorry, I’d personally assume they did.

  2. I don’t believe they receive any special priority. If the liens are senior to the loan in foreclosure, I would be concerned I might have to pay them. If they are junior (meaning they were recorded after the loan), then I’d be less concerned. The only items that generally superior in CA are a) property taxes and b) mechanics liens that were a result of protecting the property (theory being the lender benefited). The IRS also has a right of redemption even if their liens are junior. I have also had problems with unrecorded county liens where the county argues they would roll to the assessor and therefore would become senior like property taxes. Those have been small enough for me that I’ve paid vs. fought, so don’t really know if their logic would hold up.

  3. Trustees generally do need to notice various parties - but I’ve never had their failure to do so impact me. Seems that would only give the non-noticed party a claim against the trustee, and I believe I’d be protected from any such claim as a bonafide purchaser for value.

Again, please don’t rely on this alone. I always recommend checking with an attorney, or at least running it by your title (not escrow) officer.

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