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How to File a Lis Pendens in California

How to File a Lis Pendens in California

When involved in a real estate dispute in California, filing a lis pendens can be a crucial step to protect your interests. A lis pendens, which means “lawsuit pending” in Latin, is a legal document that informs potential buyers or lenders that there is a pending lawsuit concerning the property. This article will guide you through the process of filing a lis pendens in California, ensuring you understand the requirements and potential outcomes.

What is a Lis Pendens?

A lis pendens is a notice recorded with the county recorder’s office where the property is located. It serves as a public record that a lawsuit has been filed involving the property. By filing a lis pendens, any subsequent purchasers or lenders will be notified of the pending legal action. This notice will discourage new transactions involving the property until the lawsuit is resolved.

When to File a Lis Pendens?

A lis pendens is typically filed when there is a real property dispute, such as a breach of contract, boundary dispute, or clouded title. It is essential to consult with an attorney to determine if filing a lis pendens is appropriate for your specific case. They will evaluate the merits of your claims and guide you accordingly.

Steps to File a Lis Pendens

1. Consult with an attorney: Before taking any legal action, it is crucial to consult with an experienced real estate attorney. They will evaluate your case, determine the grounds for filing a lis pendens, and guide you through the process.

2. Draft a complaint: A complaint is a legal document that outlines the details of your lawsuit. Your attorney will help you draft a complaint that includes all the necessary information, such as the parties involved, the nature of the dispute, and the relief sought.

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3. File the complaint: Once the complaint is prepared, it must be filed with the appropriate court. Pay the required filing fees and obtain a file-stamped copy of the complaint.

4. Prepare the lis pendens: Your attorney will prepare the lis pendens document, which will include the case number, the court where the case was filed, and a legal description of the property. The document must comply with California Civil Code Section 405.20.

5. Record the lis pendens: Take the prepared lis pendens document to the county recorder’s office in the county where the property is located. Pay the recording fee and have the document officially recorded. You will receive a recorded copy as proof of filing.

6. Serve the lis pendens: After recording the lis pendens, your attorney will serve a copy on all parties involved in the lawsuit. Proper service is essential to ensure that all parties are aware of the pending legal action.


1. Is it necessary to hire an attorney to file a lis pendens in California?
While it is not mandatory to hire an attorney, it is highly recommended. An attorney will ensure that all legal requirements are met, increasing the chances of a successful lis pendens filing.

2. How long does a lis pendens last?
In California, a lis pendens is effective until the lawsuit is resolved or the lis pendens is expunged by the court.

3. Can a lis pendens be challenged or removed?
Yes, a lis pendens can be challenged or removed if it is improperly filed or if the underlying lawsuit is resolved. A party can file a motion to expunge the lis pendens, and the court will determine its validity.

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4. What are the potential consequences of filing a lis pendens?
Filing a lis pendens can have serious consequences. It can cloud the property’s title, making it difficult to sell or refinance. Additionally, if the lis pendens is found to be frivolous or improperly filed, the filer may be liable for damages.


Filing a lis pendens in California is a crucial step to protect your interests in a real estate dispute. However, it is essential to consult with an experienced attorney to understand the legal requirements and potential consequences. By following the steps outlined in this article and seeking professional guidance, you can navigate the lis pendens filing process successfully.

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