A lis pendens, sometimes called a notice of pendency, lets the public know that a party has filed a lawsuit against certain real estate. Individuals file a lis pendens in a New York county clerk's office in the location of the affected property. State law requires a lis pendens to be served on the property owner within 30 days after its recording. This notice is common in divorce cases dealing with the division of assets and in foreclosure cases.
What Is a Lis Pendens?
"Lis pendens" is a Latin term that means "suit pending."It is an official notice that lets the public know that someone has filed a lawsuit involving a claim against a specific piece of property. With a recorded lis pendens, a property buyer assumes any litigation pertaining to that property. An individual may file a lis pendens for a variety of reasons – for example, a contractor who has worked on the property and never received payment would file a mechanic's lien and a lis pendens to protect themselves and prevent the homeowner from selling the property without paying them.
Even when the landowner sells or transfers ownership of the property, a lis pendens can be used to notify the new owner there is pending litigation. A lis pendens refers only to a specific property named in a lawsuit. It cannot mention properties that have nothing to do with the suit, so if someone owns more than one property, a lis pendens cannot be filed against all of them. In cases not involving real property, a court may issue a lis pendens to prevent a defendant from restructuring their assets in hopes of shielding them from legal judgments.
Filing a Lis Pendens Under New York Law
According to New York State Civil Practice Law and Rules, individuals file a lis pendens at the county clerk's office of the property's location before or after serving a summons and at any time before judgment in a lawsuit. The notice should include the party's names involved in the action, the object of the action, a description of the property affected, and the name and contact information of the mortgage service in the event of a foreclosure.
The county clerk's office that maintains a block index gives the designation number of a block on the county land map of the property affected by the notice. This will not occur when the notice is filed with a county clerk's office that does not maintain a block index; instead, it will contain a designation of the defendant's names. The county clerk's office will immediately record the notice and index it against the designated blocks or names.
After recording, the clerk's office will send a notification to all interested parties. The lis pendens then becomes public record and is easily found via a title search. While the property is still salable, it will be harder to find someone willing to purchase it with a lis pendens on file.
How a Notice of Lis Pendens Impacts a Sale
If a buyer records a purchase or property-related transaction after a lis pendens is filed in a New York court, the notice binds them to the outcome of the lawsuit. While it is not the same as a lien, it allows the lawsuit to continue. Furthermore, it alerts anyone interested in the property that the lawsuit's outcome could impact its title.
A property's closing agent can face malpractice charges if they fail to find a lis pendens that has been recorded on a property and they allow a sales transaction to occur without notifying the parties involved. Conducting a tax search or title search avoids such problems. In New York, a notice of pendency lasts for three years, with the possibility of a court renewal.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.