Don't lien on me: Merced homeowners finding hidden debts

The city of Merced calls it an easily fixable fluke. Michael Beltran calls it a headache that might be happening to more homeowners than it should.

A handful of local residents, including Beltran, have recently discovered liens placed on their homes by the city of Merced for utility bills left unpaid by the previous owners.

When Beltran bought a bank-owned home in North Merced last spring, he was told its title was clear. But last week, as he prepared to refinance the house, his new title company informed him he couldn't -- at least not until he took care of the $386 lien the city of Merced had recorded against the house about the same time he bought it.

"I said, 'What lien?'" Beltran recalled. "I don't owe anybody any money."

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