A lis pendens is a recorded instrument (like a deed) to put the world on notice that there is a pending law suit concerning property. The purpose of filing a notice of pending action is to protect your interest in a property. Here are scenarios in which I’d consider using one:
Preventing a Foreclosure Sale – Lis Pendens Use Case #1
I recently filed a notice of pending legal action for a property that was facing foreclosure. The homeowner filed a law suit against the lender to attempt to get an injunction to stop the sale. I recorded the document to put any potential foreclosure purchasers on notice of the injunction law suit. When they run a title search, they will see the lis pendens and learn about the injunction law suit. This could discourage purchasers from buying the property until the injunction law suit is resolved.
Legal Action After A Seller Backs Out – Lis Pendens Use Case #2
Another example of when a lis pendens might come in handy is if you’re attempting to buy a property and then the seller defaults. You may decide to sue the seller for specific performance to attempt to force the sale. To discourage people from buying the home.
For example, lets say you’re a real estate investor and you entered into a contract to buy the house and then the seller backs out last minute. You can sue the seller for specific performance to attempt to force the sale of the home. Then you can file a lis pendens to make it harder for the buyer to sell the property to someone else.
How a Lis Pendens Differs in Maryland & DC
Maryland is unique (at least in comparison to DC) because the lis pendens rule explicitly states that in the county where the property is located, purchasers are said to be put on “constructive notice” of the pending legal action.
Constructive notice means that people will be treated as if they had notice of the pending legal action, even if they did not. Even so, more often than not I still think it’s advantageous to file a notice of lis pendens to protect your interest just so it shows up in title searches.
In Counties where the property is not located, a lis pendens must be filed to put people on notice. That said, I can’t think of many situations in which I need to file a notice of pending legal action in another county.
When To Not File a Lis Pendens in Maryland or DC
You should only file a lis pendens after a law suit if a law suit is pending. Lis Pendens literally means, “suit pending.” If a law suit is not pending and you file a lis pendens, you could be subjecting yourself to damages for causing a cloud one someones property.
Need help filing a lis pendens in Maryland or DC?
Do not hesitate to contact real estate attorney Brian Pendergraft for properties located in Maryland or the District of Columbia. We are happy to help!
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