Mortgage Loans

What Is Lis Pendens?

Lis pendens is a Latin phrase meaning “suit pending.” This is typically filed against a piece of real estate property, whether it’s a home, land, or a commercial building. Filing a lis pendens allows a plaintiff to notify their interest in a property. It is typically filed with the county court, where the information can be given to anyone with interest in the property.

When is it filed?

There are several reasons a lis pendens may be filed. This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few of the most common reasons.

A lis pendens is often filed in divorce cases. For example, if the property ownership is in one spouse’s name, but the other spouse believes they have a right to a portion of the property, their attorney may file a lis pendens to ensure that the owner of the property can’t sell it or take a mortgage against the property. In this way, the asset is protected against encumbrance until the divorce proceedings are complete.

A lis pendens could also be filed in a foreclosure proceeding. The lender may file a lis pendens against the property to notify all parties about the pending foreclosure.

Finally, a lis pendens could also be filed because of unpaid liabilities associated with the property. A homeowner’s association could file if the homeowner hasn’t paid the association’s fees. Similarly, it could also be filed because of unpaid property taxes or by contractors who worked on the property but have not been paid.

What does it mean for the property owner?

When a lis pendens is filed on a property, whomever owns the property is liable for the suit. This means that if someone else buys the property, they could still be liable for whatever damages are being claimed in the suit. If you own a property with a lis pendens on it, it will probably become very difficult to find a buyer until it is removed from the property.

What does it mean for a buyer?

If you want to buy a property with a lis pendens, you will have a hard time finding a bank to give you a mortgage on it. It’s best to seek the advice of a real estate attorney to advise you on the nature of the suit and what it could mean to your financial status if you go through with purchasing the property.

How do I know if a lis pendens has been filed?

If you’re the property owner, you should receive notice if a lis pendens is filed. You can also do a title search, and the lis pendens will show up as an action against the title of the property. This may take quite some time, and require a lot of digging!

Part of the home buying process often includes the use of a title company. The company researches the title and ensures that there are no existing liens or lis pendens on the property. They also provide title insurance, ensuring that that the new homeowner won’t be met with any surprise claims to ownership. There is a fee associated with this service; however, this is one part of the home-buying process that you should definitely not skip.

What should I do if a lis pendens is filed against my property?

A lis pendens is a huge problem if it is associated with your property. But all is not lost!

If you’ve fallen behind on mortgage payments and a lis pendens is filed on your property, all is not lost! Contact your mortgage company as quickly as possible, and see if there’s anything you can do to get back into their good graces. If you are able to reach an agreement, they have the power to remove the lis pendens without you having to go to court. They may let you set up some sort of payment plan to catch up on missed payments, but there may be a fee involved for you as well.

If the lis pendens is file for a different reason, you will most likely need to work with an attorney to determine what to do next. It could have been filed in error, or there may be something you can do to get the lis pendens withdrawn. 

If you’re hoping to buy or sell a property with a lis pendens, proceed with the utmost caution. And if you have a lis pendens filed against your property, take a deep breath and then call an attorney to help you figure out what to do. It’s not the end of the world, but it is definitely something worth getting an expert’s advice about.