What Is A Lis Pendens? Definitions And Examples

Article Summary:

A lis pendens is an official notice indicating that a property is involved in a pending lawsuit. This article explores the concept of lis pendens, its implications for property buyers and sellers, its usage in different scenarios, and the process of filing one. Discover how this legal notice can impact real estate transactions.

What is a lis pendens?

A lis pendens, at its core, is a written notice indicating that a particular property is currently embroiled in ongoing litigation. This formal announcement serves as a beacon, alerting the public of a potential claim on the property. Deeply rooted in legal tradition, the doctrine of lis pendens operates on the idea that anyone who steps into the shoes of a buyer should be fully aware, and hence inherit, the current legal challenges connected to the property they are looking to acquire.

Expanding on its definition, a lis pendens isn’t merely a declaration; it’s a protective measure. It ensures that the ongoing legal tussles that surround a property are not brushed under the carpet when ownership transitions. This linkage between the asset and the accompanying legal challenge ensures that potential buyers tread with caution, armed with the knowledge that acquiring such property ties them to its legal proceedings.

How lis pendens works

The phrase “lis pendens” is a Latin term translating to “suit pending.” Though brief, its implications for property owners can be significant and far-reaching. With a lis pendens attached, a property’s marketability can take a hit, and its value may plummet. The primary reason is that it operates as a clear signal to would-be buyers, informing them that the ownership of the property they’re eyeing is under dispute and is tethered to active legal proceedings.

Lis pendens in different Scenarios

Lis pendens can manifest in multiple situations, and its presence often makes the complexities of property transactions all the more intricate.

1. Divorce

In the messy aftermath of a marital split, assets, especially real estate, often become a contentious issue. A lis pendens emerges in situations where the division of property remains unresolved. For instance, if a marital home is only in the husband’s name, but the wife asserts her rightful claim to a portion of its value, a lis pendens serves as a warning to potential buyers about this ongoing dispute.

2. Mortgage default/Foreclosure

For lenders, a borrower failing to meet their obligations can trigger a series of protective actions. A common tool in their arsenal is the lis pendens, signaling to the public and potential investors the impending foreclosure status of the property. Similarly, any other secured creditors can leverage this tool, making known their intent to reclaim their dues by selling off the property.

3. Contract disputes

The realm of real estate isn’t immune to contractual disagreements. There may be instances where a potential buyer feels they’ve been unjustly edged out of a property acquisition. To safeguard their interests, they might take legal recourse, and the ensuing battle is often flagged by a lis pendens. This can deter other buyers, knowing that the property is encumbered by legal disputes.

Filing a lis pendens

Filing a lis pendens isn’t a decision made on a whim; it emerges from genuine legal contention surrounding real property. Typically, initiating this process requires the claimant to first file a lawsuit. This is usually done at the county clerk’s office. Once that’s in motion, the next crucial step involves recording the lis pendens with the county’s land records. This action effectively binds the notice to the property’s title, ensuring that any subsequent transactions cannot be completed without knowledge of the pending litigation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of lis pendens?

Lis pendens serves as a legal notice to anyone concerned with a property that a claim and legal action are pending against it. It’s crucial for notifying potential buyers of existing claims.

What does discharge of lis pendens mean?

Receiving a discharge of lis pendens indicates that the property is no longer subject to any claim or lawsuit.

Who can file lis pendens?

Anyone believing they have a claim on a property can file a lis pendens with the Clerk of Court. A pending lawsuit is necessary for the lis pendens to be valid.

What does “lis” mean in law?

“Lis” translates from Latin as “suit” or “lawsuit,” while “pendens” means “pending.” Therefore, “lis pendens” signifies a pending lawsuit.

Key takeaways

  • A lis pendens is a public notice indicating a property’s involvement in a pending lawsuit.
  • It serves as a warning to potential buyers that the property’s ownership is contested.
  • Lis pendens can arise in divorce cases, mortgage defaults, and contract disputes.
  • Filing a lis pendens involves a lawsuit and recording it in county land records.
  • Consulting a real estate attorney is recommended due to the document’s complexity.
View Article Sources
  1. Chapter 6. Notice of Lis Pendens or Attachment – Virginia State Law Portal
  2. Code of the District of Columbia
    § 42–1207. Notice of pendency of action (lis pendens).
    – D.C. Law Library
  3. Second Home vs. Investment Property – SuperMoney