What is a Lis Pendens?
What is it?When there are certain lawsuits concerning real property, the claimant can file a "notice of pendency of action" also known as a "lis pendens", with the county recorder in the county in which the property at issue is located. This places any purchaser of that property on notice of the pending dispute concerning the property's title. The most common usage of lis pendens is when parties bring an action to quiet title to a property, remove a cloud on title, or to partition the property. Other uses include a state agency seeking to declare a property uninhabitable, or seeking to establish title to a property before public records are destroyed.
How can it be removed?A lis pendens can be removed by termination, withdrawal or expungement. Once a lis pendens is recorded, it is effective throughout the litigation of the case, its appeal, and up to the point the judgment is satisfied. Termination can occur when the judgment on the underlying action has become final, or when the underlying action has been settled or dismissed. Withdrawal occurs when the party who recorded the lis pendens voluntarily files a "notice of withdrawal of lis pendens" with the county recorder. Expungement occurs when an aggrieved party brings a motion before the court and the court enters an order expunging (i.e. destroying) the lis pendens.
What if it is improperly filed?The party filing a lis pendens must have proper grounds for filing it, and must go through proper procedures before the notice is filed. If lis pendens is improperly filed, it can be attacked by the aggrieved party. An example is a litigant who does not assert a real property claim yet has filed a lis pendens. An aggrieved party can bring a motion to expunge the lis pendens, and recover attorney's fees and costs for having to expunge an improperly recorded lis pendens.
What if it is never filed?California law requires sellers of certain residential properties to make a number of disclosures to the purchaser. The disclosure requirements are codified under Sections 1102, et seq., of the California Civil Code. Amongst these is the requirement to disclose "Any lawsuits by or against the Seller threatening to or affecting this real property...." Therefore, in certain instances the seller is obligated to disclose the dispute to the purchaser, even if no "lis pendens" has been recorded.
The subject of lis pendens is very expansive. For more detail, you can refer to California Real Property Remedies and Damages (published by Continuing Education of the Bar - California), or consult your own attorney.
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