Understanding A Lis Pendens

Q: If a lis pendens is recorded on a property, I know commercial lenders won’t grant a mortgage or otherwise get involved with the property.

But can private individuals still record a lien on the property? Does a lis pendens legally prevent the recording of a lien?

And if a private individual records a lien against the property, does this mean the lien is somehow junior to the lis pendens? How exactly does this work, since a lis pendens has no dollar value.

A: Simply put a lis pendens is a document recorded against real estate that gives the world notice of a pending law suit.

To protect the plaintiff’s possible interest in the defendant’s property (if the plaintiff might be able to collect on the judgment by taking his or her property), under some circumstances, the plaintiff is permitted to file a document on the title to that property giving everybody notice of his or her claim to it. Anybody coming after that date would have to follow the first party’s claim to the property.

If the plaintiff loses the case, the lis pendens is released. If the plaintiff wins the case, the property could be sold to satisfy the judgment against the defendant. If there’s more value in the property than the judgment, other lien holders, including other people who might have sued the defendant and may have filed lis pendens would receive the balance.

While the lis pendens has no monetary value, it does protect the plaintiff from actual or potential claims that may come later. But the actual value of the lis pendens will not become known until there is a judgment in the case.


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