Can I Remove or Expunge a Lis Pendens?

A lis pendens is a legal document that provides notice to the public that a lawsuit involving the ownership of real property is pending. This notice effectively prevents the real estate from being transferred, as the lis pendens serves as a warning to potential buyers. However, if the lis pendens was improperly filed, the property owner may be able to remove or expunge it from the property’s record. 

What does expunging, removing, or cancelling a lis pendens mean?

Under California law, a lis pendens can be removed through a process known as “expungement.” When the owner of real property believes a lis pendens has been improperly filed, they can file a motion to expunge the notice of pendency of action. If the motion is successful, the lis pendens will be removed and released. Additionally, the judge may award legal fees and court costs to the successful property owner in some situations.

Expungements are primarily granted for one of two reasons. First, a lis pendens can be expunged if the judge determines that the legal action will not have an effect on the ownership of the property. For example, a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner would not be a proper cause of action for a lis pendens. Even if the plaintiff wins, the remedy will be money damages, which will not impact title or possession. 

Another basis for expungement is that, although the lawsuit involves ownership of the property, insufficient evidence exists to prove that the party that filed the lis pendens has a reasonable chance of winning. If the judge determines there is not enough proof that the lawsuit will be successful, the lis pendens will be expunged.

What does lis pendens do?

A lis pendens, also known as a notice of pendency of action, is a written document that gives notice of a pending lawsuit that may impact the title to or possession of real estate. The party bringing the lawsuit must record the lis pendens in the county recorder’s office where the property is located. In order to be legally valid, the notice must include the names of all parties involved in the case and a description of the property in question. 

How long is a lis pendens valid?

There is no specific time frame for how long a lis pendens is valid. Rather, a lis pendens is valid until it is expunged or the underlying case is resolved. If not expunged, a lis pendens is often removed as part of a settlement agreement reached between the parties. However, if the case does not settle, the lis pendens will remain in effect until the legal action, including appeals, is completed. 

When should I contact a probate litigation attorney?

Lis pendens can be employed in a variety of legal contexts. When it comes to probate litigation, it is most commonly used when a pending will or trust contest calls into question the ownership of real property. For example, if a will that leaves the decedent’s home to one party is being challenged, a lis pendens may be appropriate. 

In these situations, you should contact a probate litigation attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. You should not record a lis pendens without first consulting with an experienced lawyer, as strict requirements must be met to avoid expungement.

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About RMO, LLP

RMO LLP serves clients in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Orange County, San Diego, Kansas City, Miami, and communities throughout California, Florida, Missouri, and Kansas. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn, has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates. For a free consultation, call (424) 320-9444 or visit: https://rmolawyers.com.