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How do I File a Lis Pendens?

By Christopher John
Updated May 16, 2024
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A lis pendens is a document that provides notice to the public of a pending lawsuit that involves a specific piece of property, i.e. that the title to the property is in question. The notice also operates to bind other persons with an interest in the property to the outcome of the lawsuit. Many jurisdictions now call it a Notice of Pendency of Action instead of the Latin phrase lis pendens. To file this notice, your first step is performing legal research because laws vary in each jurisdiction. Thereafter, you need to prepare the document, file it with the appropriate court or land records office, and file copies with other appropriate agencies and individuals if necessary. 

Conducting proper legal research is vital because the requirements of each jurisdiction vary. Your research should include statutes, case law, and procedural rules. The statutes describe when a person may use this notification and what steps you must follow to file such document. Case law explains how courts have interpreted the statutes for your jurisdiction which may contain important information for your situation. Rules of procedure provide information on the court’s requirements for the format of the document and the timeline to file it; you might find sample forms that you may use as a model when creating your document.

After you complete your legal research, you should know whether it is appropriate to file a lis pendens for your case. You should also know how to prepare a lis pendens. Typically, this document requires the name of the court where your suit is pending, the names of the plaintiff and defendant, the case or docket number, a description of the property, the remedy you are requesting, and any other information required by the law of the jurisdiction.

After you prepare the lis pendens, you need to take it to the appropriate court or government land records office, recorder of deeds, or the equivalent agency that has jurisdiction over the property. You need the original and sufficient copies for the clerk. The clerk places a date stamp on all documents, keeps the original to record in the land records or the court file, and returns the copies to you. It is then your responsibility to deliver copies of the notice to others claiming an interest in the property; you may also need to file the notice with other government offices. Anyone doing a title search on the property will in this way be officially informed that there is a pending legal dispute that involves the property.

It is critical to follow the law specific to your jurisdiction in filing a lis pendens. If you wrongfully file and record a lis pendens, you may expose yourself to liability. If this occurs, others may take legal action against you, which means you may have to pay money damages. Laws are complex and unexpected issues may arise for a layperson. Thus, it may be wise for you to discuss your particular situation with a lawyer first. In most instances, a lawyer will file a lis pendens, if necessary, as part of the ongoing representation of a client.

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