“Lis Pendens”—Suits Pending in Property Law

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“Lis Pendens”—Suits Pending in Property Law
Real Estate

As any property lawyer can tell you, property law is a complex area of law, whose rights and duties are often defined by interweaving and conflicting interests. A potential interest in a piece of property can be affected in the present by defects in the property’s title that are the result of a misstep made sometime in the distant past;and interest can be equally affected in the present by a conflict occurring in the present whose outcome still remains to be determined at some future date. An example of the latter is the legal concept of “lis pendens.”

“Lis pendens” (sometimes shortened in writing to “lis pend.”) is a Latin phrase meaning, literally, “suit pending.” A lis pendens is, essentially, a form of notice generally filed with a county land records office that puts potential purchasers of a property on notice that the property’s title is under contest. It is almost always a plaintiff in a suit or contest who files the lis pendens—so that the defendant becomes less likely to sell the property until the conflict is resolved. The uncertain nature of a title subject to lis pendens has the common effect of decreasing the property’s attractiveness to purchasers, as the title they may gain from the purported seller may end up subject to the claim made on it by the plaintiff.

Common reasons a lis pendens is filed include:

  • Cases of divorce where which spouse has title to the real estate remains unsettled—particularly when the property is listed for sale by one spouse while the other believes they are entitled to some portion of the sale proceeds.
  • Where a lender has filed a notice of default on a borrower in delinquency. The filing of lis pendens of the lender notifies potential purchasers that the property is entering foreclosure.
  • Where a party feels they have been excluded from the actual purchase of a property in breach of an extant contract for purchase. This purportedly wronged party can file lis pendens to prevent the sale from proceeding until the contract dispute is settled (because, should the new purchaser proceed with the sale and the seller later loses the dispute, the new purchaser loses their right to the property to the filer of the lis pendens, and must go to the seller for the money they paid for the property).

If you find yourself in a disagreement over the title to a property in Tucson or anywhere else in the state of Arizona, an experienced attorney with strong scruples like the real estate attorneys at Provident Law can be a huge help—either in filing lis pendens or in challenging them. Our attorneys represent buyers, sellers, landlords, tenants, lenders, borrowers, trustees, guarantors, shareholders, partners, and others. We structure, negotiate and document a variety of real estate and financing transactions, such as leases, purchase and sale agreements, loans and development agreements for a variety of commercial and residential projects. Contact us for more details.

Christopher J. Charles is the founder and Managing Partner of Provident Law ®. He is a State Bar Certified Real Estate Specialist and a former “Broker Hotline Attorney” for the Arizona Association of REALTORS ® (the “AAR”). Mr. Charles holds the AV ® Preeminent Rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings system which connotes the highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards. He serves as an Arbitrator and Mediator for the AAR regarding real estate disputes; and he served on the State Bar of Arizona’s Civil Jury Instructions Committee where he helped draft the Agency Instructions and the Residential Landlord/Tenant Eviction Jury Instructions.

Christopher is a licensed Real Estate Instructor and he teaches continuing education classes at the Arizona School of Real Estate and Business. He can be reached at Chris@ProvidentLawyers.com or at 480-388-3343.

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