A tiny scale

What Is Lis Pendens and How Does It Work?

Explore your mortgage options

NMLS #3030

*Connect with a mortgage specialist

We teamed up with Rocket Mortgage to help you get house-hunting sooner. Answer a few questions and an agent will reach out to discuss your options.

Get Started by selecting an option below

What kind of loan are you interested in?

What to expect

Tell us what you need and a representative from Rocket Mortgage will give you a call. You’ll have support at every step.

What kind of property do you want to purchase? What kind of property do you own?

Why we’re asking

Rocket Mortgage® can provide a more accurate rate estimate if they know what kind of property you’re interested in.

NMLS #3030
How do you use your property? How would you use this property?

Why we’re asking

Having a little more information upfront helps Rocket Mortgage® provide a personalized rate faster.

NMLS #3030
When are you planning to buy?

Still House Hunting?

Hope you find your dream home soon! In the meantime, it’s never too early to know your rate.

NMLS #3030
Are you a first-time home buyer?

It’s all good:

Whether it’s your first – or second property – Rocket Mortgage® can provide you with a rate estimate.

NMLS #3030
Do you have a second mortgage?

It’s all good

If you have a second mortgage, it’s no problem. Letting us know helps to customize your rate.

NMLS #3030
What is your credit score?

Don’t know your score?

Don’t sweat it! Make your best guess. Credit scores range from 300 (low) to 850 (excellent).

NMLS #3030

Tell us a bit more about you

What happens next?

A representative from Rocket Mortgage® will be in touch to discuss your commitment-free, personalized rate. Then you can decide whether you’d like to lock it in!

NMLS #3030

Enter your contact info so Rocket Mortgage® can get in touch!

By providing your contact information and clicking the "Agree & Send Information" button below, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You also expressly consent by electronic signature to receive telephonic sales, promotional, marketing and other calls and text messages, including any calls and messages sent by any automated system or other means for the selection or dialing of telephone numbers, or using an artificial or prerecorded voice message when a connection is completed, from Rocket Mortgage, its Family of Companies, our partner companies and our marketing partners at the telephone number you have provided, even if that telephone number is on a corporate, state, or national do-not-call list or registry. Your consent and agreement to receive such calls or text messages is not a condition of purchasing any property, goods or services from us, our Family of Companies or any of our partners.

NMLS #3030

Ready To Buy a Home?

Get Approved to Buy a Home

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

When you’re buying a home, you’ll want to make sure there are no legal issues with the property. Lis pendens means there is a legal dispute over a property, which can make a property difficult to buy or sell. 

Whether you’re a homeowner, a potential buyer or someone disputing property ownership, understanding how lis pendens works will help protect your interests. 

What Is a Lis Pendens?

Lis pendens is a Latin term that means “suit pending.” It’s a legal notice (sometimes called a reasonable notice) that a property is involved in a pending lawsuit. 

Because potential buyers need to know about the suit, the notice is made public and typically recorded in the property’s chain of title. 

Examples of litigation that can affect a property include foreclosures, divorces and ongoing code violations. 

Can you sell a house under lis pendens?

You can sell your house even if there’s a lis pendens, but it may be difficult. Lis pendens can affect the property value and complicate the sale. When a property has a lis pendens, additional steps are required before the deed can be transferred. 

Can you buy a property under lis pendens?

Since a seller can sell a home that has a lis pendens on it, you can potentially buy a house under lis pendens. The purchase can be risky because the purchase doesn’t eliminate the lawsuit. As the buyer, you agree to take on the litigation and become subject to the lawsuit’s outcome.

So, proceed with caution if a property has a notice of lis pendens on it. The lawsuit could affect your financial obligations and property rights. It can also impact your ability to secure a mortgage.

How Does Lis Pendens Work?

A person or entity pursuing a lawsuit involving property can record a lis pendens in the property’s chain of title. In some jurisdictions, this is done by filing a notice of lis pendens with the local county clerk or county recorder. This process protects the plaintiff’s interest in the property.

What happens after a lis pendens is filed?

Lis pendens protects potential buyers by notifying them of pending litigation. The notice is a valuable warning because the lawsuit could impact the new owner’s property rights.

Lis pendens is similar to a lien. Both warn potential buyers of a third party’s legal interest in a property. However, a lien applies when a third party has already acquired an interest in the property.

For example, a lien may indicate that a lender can take possession of a property if a debt isn’t satisfied. Lis pendens warns that a lawsuit or other legal action is pending, and no judgment or settlement has resolved the case. 

How long does a lis pendens last?

A lis pendens lasts until the lawsuit is settled. That can be months or years, depending on the case. And a seller can’t avoid a lawsuit by selling their property. 

When Is a Lis Pendens Used?

Any lawsuit with a claim that involves a home or property can lead to lis pendens. Here are a few cases when this commonly happens: 

  • Foreclosure: Lis pendens is frequently used by lenders when homeowners are delinquent on their mortgage or home equity line of credit (HELOC) payments. Banks use lis pendens to notify buyers that a home is in foreclosure.
  • Property tax issues: If you’re behind on your property taxes, your county or local government may use lis pendens to notify you of a potential lien on your property.
  • Divorce: Lis pendens can be used in divorce cases where there’s a disagreement about dividing the property. For example, if one spouse is on the title to the home, the other spouse might file a lis pendens until the divorce is final. 
  • Homeowner Association (HOA) problems: If a homeowner has missed HOA fees or fines, the HOA may file a lawsuit using lis pendens.  
  • Contract disputes: Lis pendens can also result from a conflict between a buyer and a seller during the sale of a property. Let’s say a buyer thinks they’re entitled to purchase a home, perhaps because the contract’s been signed, but the seller wants to back out of the deal or sell the home to another buyer. The buyer may file a lawsuit along with a lis pendens to enforce the sale.
  • Safety issues: A city or local government may file a lis pendens to force a property owner to address safety issues. For example, if a business doesn’t pay its electric bills and loses power, it will no longer be a safe environment for its staff or customers. The city might file a lis pendens to force the company to remedy this unsafe condition.
  • Dispute of ownership: If you’re involved in a contract dispute over a property, you may need to file a lis pendens if there is a dispute over the sale or ownership.
  • Probate cases: If you’re involved in a dispute over inherited property, you may need to file a lis pendens if someone is contesting the will or the distribution of the property.

Talk to an attorney before filing a lawsuit. Filing a suit on a property without verifiable, legitimate reasons can result in serious legal consequences – including becoming the defendant.

Can You Remove a Lis Pendens?

In general, the only way to remove a lis pendens is to settle the lawsuit. For example, if the lis pendens were due to a pending divorce, it would be removed when the divorce is final and a judge rules on the division of property.

Selling a property doesn’t remove a lis pendens; it makes a buyer subject to the lawsuit’s outcome. The buyer could end up being responsible for the seller’s debts or losing the property.  

Lis pendens can be settled during or after a purchase. For example, debts on the property might get paid during the sale. However, buyers should proceed cautiously and consider working with a lawyer or real estate agent to ensure that all necessary steps have been taken to remove the lis pendens. 

State by state requirements

Because state laws govern lis pendens, requirements and procedures can vary. Whether you intend on filing a lis pendens or are interested in buying a property under lis pendens, your money and property rights are always at stake. 

Lis Pendens: Opportunity and Consequences

The consequences of a lis pendens are substantial, so consult an attorney. An attorney can help you understand when you can file a lis pendens in your state, whether it’s a good idea to buy a home under lis pendens and warn you of any potential consequences. 

Take the first step toward buying a home.

Get approved. See what you qualify for. Start house hunting.

The Short Version

  • Lis pendens means "suit pending." It's a public notice that a lawsuit is pending on a property
  • A lis pendens is usually recorded in a property's chain of title and warns potential buyers of a pending legal dispute over ownership
  • You can buy a house under lis pendens; however, the new owner becomes subject to the pending lawsuit, and additional steps are required before the deed can be transferred
Back to top of page

You Should Also Check Out…

Our team of financial experts write, review and verify content for accuracy and clarity.