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Lis pendens, explained

“Lis pendens” is a legal term derived from Latin, meaning “pending lawsuit”. It’s used in the context of real estate and property law to indicate that there is an ongoing legal action involving the title, ownership, or interest in a specific piece of property. When a lis pendens is filed, it is a formal notice recorded in the public record, typically at a county recorder’s office or land registry office.

The key aspects of lis pendens include:

  1. Public Notice: It serves as a public declaration to potential buyers or financiers that there is an ongoing legal dispute over the property. This notice can significantly affect the sale or financing of the property because it warns potential parties that the property’s title could change, depending on the lawsuit’s outcome.
  2. Effect on Property Sales: A lis pendens can deter potential buyers, as purchasing a property under legal dispute can be risky. If a buyer acquires a property that is subject to a lis pendens, they may inherit the legal problems and could potentially lose the property or part of their investment depending on the lawsuit’s result.
  3. Types of Disputes: Common disputes leading to a lis pendens filing include disagreements over property ownership, boundary disputes, challenges to a will involving property, divorce proceedings affecting property ownership, or other matters that could affect the title or rights to the property.
  4. Duration: A lis pendens remains effective as long as the legal action is pending. It can only be removed once the lawsuit is resolved or if a court orders its removal.
  5. Jurisdictional Variations: The rules and implications of a lis pendens can vary by jurisdiction, so the exact process and legal impact can differ based on local laws.
  6. Legal Consequences: Filing a lis pendens without a valid basis can lead to legal consequences, including possible claims for slander of title or wrongful litigation.

In summary, a lis pendens is a crucial tool in property law, offering a means to protect one’s interest in a property during an ongoing legal dispute, while also informing others about the dispute and its potential impact on the property’s title.

Who uses Lis Pendens?

Lis pendens is typically used by parties who are involved in a legal dispute concerning real estate or property. The primary users of lis pendens include:

  1. Property Owners: An individual or entity that currently holds ownership of the property and is engaged in a legal dispute over that property may file a lis pendens to notify others that there is a pending lawsuit which could affect the property’s title or ownership rights.
  2. Claimants or Plaintiffs: Individuals or entities who lay claim to a property or have an interest in a property dispute may file a lis pendens. For example, a person who is contesting a will that involves property, or a party asserting rights over a property due to a contractual dispute, might file a lis pendens as part of their legal action.
  3. Financial Institutions: In cases involving disputes over mortgages or other financial encumbrances, a lender or financial institution might file a lis pendens to indicate that there is a legal claim against the property that could affect its title or value.
  4. Developers or Investors: In cases where there is a dispute over land use, property boundaries, or other issues affecting development projects, developers or investors might file a lis pendens as part of the legal process to assert their rights or claims regarding the property.
  5. Divorcing Spouses: In divorce proceedings where there is a dispute over the division of property, including real estate, one or both spouses may file a lis pendens to assert their claim to a share of the property and to prevent the other spouse from selling or altering the property until the dispute is resolved.
  6. Heirs or Beneficiaries: In cases involving disputed inheritances, especially when real estate is involved, heirs or beneficiaries might use a lis pendens to establish their claim to the property and ensure that it is not sold or transferred while legal proceedings are ongoing.

The use of lis pendens is a strategic legal move in property-related disputes, serving both as a tool for asserting a claim or interest in a property and as a warning to others that the property’s title is currently under legal challenge. It’s important for users of lis pendens to understand the legal implications and ensure that they have a legitimate basis for filing, as misuse can lead to legal repercussions.


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