Many people have heard the term “lis pendens.” Often, a potential buyer will use this phrase as an explanation for not pursuing a property. But there is more you need to know before making a decision.
Why You Should Hesitate at Lis Pendens
Lis pendens is Latin for “a suit pending.” It is a notice given in writing to the clerk of the court. This document indicates that someone has filed a lawsuit pertaining to a specific property. Upon receipt of the notice, the court has it certified and the county recorder commits it to record.
There are many occasions when a defendant completes this process. However, the plaintiff generally completes the filing. Once submitted, the defendant who owns the property in question receives notification. The information then becomes part of the public record. When you consider buying a property, you should always check on this.
Most perspective buyers walk away from properties with lis pendens notices. Such a notice can dissuade buyers and devalue property, complicate title transfers, and make attaining a mortgage quite difficult if not impossible. Buyers can purchase homes with an active lis pendens proceeding; however, the property is ultimately going to be at the mercy of the courts. A sale does not impact the suit in any way. That is why most buyers walk away—at least until the matter has been settled. According to Texas law, once instituted, a lis pendens notice stays on the record until the case closes.
Any lis pendens motion filed must specify the property, the individual(s) involved, and the relief sought. If it turns out that someone filed the lis pendens inappropriately, the individual who submitted it will be compelled to pay the legal fees in the case. The detailed description prevents another accidental misfiling. As a result, a notice placed inappropriately on a property is generally viewed as intentional.
Find Out Why the Notice Has Been Posted
There are a few common reasons for filing a lis pendens. One circumstance is in the event of a foreclosure. Should the lender involved determine that a foreclosure is on the horizon, it will use this method to forestall sale. The legal notice will appear on all title searches. It is therefore a solid safeguard against attempts to evade coming action through disposal of the property.
Another frequent motivation is the belief that a title rightfully belongs to the plaintiff. In these cases, the desire is to prove ownership before a new party moves in. Though the sale is still possible, it helps bind the defendant until the matter is settled.
These notices may also involve suits that seek to attain relief from physical conditions. In these instances, a neighbor who thinks there are unsafe conditions impacting his or her property may file a claim. An example of this would be high runoff levels.
A lis pendens filing is only appropriate for cases seeking relief or regaining ownership. That is to say, suits that seek strictly financial compensation do not apply. These instances would be a misuse of the notice.
Beware Abuse of This Legal Action
Unfortunately, there is sometimes abuse of the lis pendens. This happens when someone intentionally targets another. If the notice is invalid, it can sometimes lead to an accusation of slander in addition to penalty fees. It is highly inadvisable to file without proper justification.
As with many things, the lis pendens filing can help or hurt people. However, it has been a useful tool in alerting potential buyers of possible trouble. Always complete a title check before seriously entertaining a property. It can save a great deal of time, energy, and heartache.