A lis pendens is a pending lawsuit or legal action, or a formal notice of a pending lawsuit or legal action. For example, a lis pendens is an official public notice that a piece of real property has a pending lawsuit or claim attached to it—which may be especially relevant to potential buyers of the property, as a sale of the property will probably not extinguish or resolve the pending claim.
Lis pendens might also refer to the jurisdiction (power, authority, control) a court acquires over property while a legal action is pending. Or lis pendens may refer to a notice recorded in the public records (often county records) in the chain of title to a piece of real property—which is required or permitted in some jurisdictions to put all persons on notice that the property is the subject of litigation or of a claim. This notice informs potential buyers of the property that their future ownership of the property may be subject to other claims.
Lis pendens is often used when spouses are going through the divorce process and their real property assets, for example, have not been finally divided by their agreement or by the court. Banks commonly use the lis pendens process to put the public on notice that a property is in foreclosure. And a homeowners’ association may file a lis pendens when it seeks to foreclose on a homeowner’s home to satisfy delinquent fees or assessments.
The procedure for a lis pendens is usually located in a state’s statutes—often in the property code or in the code of civil procedure, for example.