Beware the Cloud: Lis Pendens and Real Estate Transactions

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Imagine finding your dream home, only to discover a legal cloud hanging over it. This cloud could be a lis pendens, a Latin term meaning “suit pending.” It’s a formal notice filed in public land records that alerts potential buyers and lenders of a lawsuit involving the property’s ownership or rights.

A lis pendens provides notice that if you purchase a property while a lawsuit is ongoing, the outcome of the case could impact your ownership rights. Obtaining financing for a property with a lis pendens can be difficult, if not impossible.

Lis Pendens are only appropriate in North Carolina in the following circumstances:

  1. Actions affecting title to real property.
  2. Actions to foreclose any mortgage or deed of trust or to enforce any lien on real property.
  3. Actions in which an order of attatchment is issued and real property is attatched.
  4. Certain actions involving sedimentation and erosion control.
  5. Certain actions for asset freezing or seizure.

But unfortunately the procedure is often used in other matters, clouding title and creating headaches for property owners, lenders, and potential buyers.

So how do you protect yourself? Have a professional check the public land records for any lis pendens notices before finalizing a real estate deal. If you discover one, consult with a real estate attorney to understand the lawsuit’s details and potential impact on your purchase. In some cases, you may be able to proceed with the purchase with certain safeguards, but it’s crucial to have legal guidance throughout the process.

Lis pendens is a powerful tool for plaintiffs in real estate disputes, but it can also cause headaches for innocent buyers. By being aware of lis pendens and taking proper precautions, you can protect yourself from unexpected complications during your real estate transaction.

Here at Lord & Lindley we have deep expertise in real estate law and are available to help. Contacting us at 704-457-1010 to find out how we may assist you.  For more information regarding our firm, attorneys, and practice areas, please visit our website at

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