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What is Lis Pendes in Missouri?

Posted on April 19, 2024

“Lis pendens” is a Latin phrase that translates to “lawsuit pending.” In Missouri, a lis pendens is a legal notice filed with the county to notify the public – including any potential buyers – that a property has a pending lawsuit against it. If a new buyer purchases the property anyway, the buyer will absorb the responsibility of the lawsuit.

What Does it Mean if a Property Has an Attached Lis Pendens?

When a lis pendens is filed in Missouri, it serves as a public notice that there is litigation involving a specific piece of property. It is also known as a “Notice of Pending Action.” This notice helps to protect the interests of the parties involved in the lawsuit by preventing the transfer of the property during active legal proceedings. It also helps to protect third parties who may wish to purchase the property in question.

When Can a Lis Pendens Be Filed?

A lis pendens notice becomes part of a property’s chain of title to notify third parties of the existence and scope of litigation that may affect the title of the property. A property with a lis pendens lawsuit notice in Missouri is most common in three scenarios:

  • Divorce proceedings: if a divorcing couple cannot agree on how to divide or distribute real estate, especially if the property is listed in one spouse’s name but the other is claiming part of the asset, a lis pendens may be filed while a settlement is reached or a court case is pending.
  • Mortgage default or foreclosure: a bank or lender that needs to foreclose on a borrower who has become delinquent in his or her mortgage payments may file a lis pendens against the property. This notifies the public that the property is in foreclosure.
  • Property contract dispute: a lis pendens may be filed in the midst of a contract dispute involving the property; for example, if a buyer files a lawsuit against the seller based on the belief that he or she has been wrongly excluded from purchasing the home.

If a property has a lis pendens notice, potential buyers are typically advised to keep looking, as litigation can take a long time and may resolve unfavorably for the current owner. For this reason, lis pendens can adversely affect the sale and sale price of a property.

How to File a Lis Pendens in Missouri

The process of filing a lis pendens differs depending on the state. In Missouri, a lis pendens can only be filed if a legal claim or lawsuit specifically relates to the property in question. The general steps to take include:

  1. Draft the lis pendens legal document with details about the pending lawsuit and involved parties.
  2. Bring the document to a lawyer to ensure it complies with Missouri’s legal requirements.
  3. Sign the lis pendens document in the presence of a notary.
  4. File the lis pendens with the courthouse in the county where the property is located.
  5. Serve a notice of the lis pendens on involved parties, such as the property owner, if required.

Filing a lis pendens can allow an individual or entity to protect its claim to the title while a lawsuit is pending. If you wish to file a lis pendens, consult with a St. Louis real estate attorney for legal assistance.