What Does a Lis Pendens Mean in the Foreclosure Legal Process?
July 23, 2017
One of the legal terms that homeowners in foreclosure often come across is lis pendens. They may initially find out about the term when attempting to refinance their house and the mortgage broker turns them down because of this type of document filed against the property. If a lis pendens has been filed, it will show up with the county recorder as a document affecting the title.
A lis pendens does not stop or prevent foreclosure at all, as it is merely a document serving notice upon any other party that is researching the particular property affected by the document. In most cases of a homeowner behind on the mortgage payments, the lender’s attorneys will file the initial foreclosure lawsuit with the court and a lis pendens will be sent to the county clerk or recorder’s office to indicate that a particular property is in the process of a pending litigation.
The term lis pendens is Latin for “lawsuit pending,” and the lawsuit that it is referring to is the legal process of foreclosure. If the lender was not suing for the property to be sold for payment of the defaulted mortgage loan, this document would never be filed in the first place, as no lawsuit would be pending.
In fact, a lis pendens specifically indicates that the property is facing foreclosure, and the document will show anyone, such as a title company or prospective foreclosure refinance lender, researching the real estate that it is involved in a lawsuit. So the lis pendens is meant to signify the foreclosure; it does nothing to prevent the foreclosure, but it does not itself affect the homeowners’ ability to save their home.
The most commonly used legal mechanism that would stop foreclosure is filing bankruptcy with the court, and even this only puts the process on hold while the creditor and debtor are coming to an agreement to negotiate a settlement of the debt.
Homeowners may also wish to consider getting rid of the lis pendens affecting their home by mounting a defense against the lawsuit that has led to the foreclosure process. This is a direct defense of the litigation, though, not an extra legal process like bankruptcy that may be used to put the suit on hold.
If a lis pendens is filed with the county recorder against a piece of property, this indicates that the house is already in some stage of the foreclosure process. The homeowners are no longer in the preforeclosure stage, or merely behind in payments. At this point, foreclosure can not prevented, as it is already being pursued by the lender and its attorneys — it must be stopped, and homeowners need to begin putting together a realistic plan and researching various ways to stop foreclosure, such as a mortgage modification, repayment plan, selling the house, or a foreclosure bailout loan.