Lis pendens is a Latin phrase that refers to a pending lawsuit concerning real estate. The lis pendens is filed with the county. This lets interested parties know that the property could be included in a lawsuit and that there could be a forced ownership transfer to the winner of the suit. Lis pendens are frequently filed as part of foreclosure proceedings, so searching for a lis pendens can also be a way to find out if a property is going into foreclosure.
Search at your county clerk or county recorder's office for a lis pendens. While some offices have online searches, others require you to go into their office and use their computers to search the system. However, using this service is always free and will usually give you the fastest notice of a lis pendens, since it's where the notice actually gets filed.
Since the lis pendens is filed against the property, all that you need is the property's parcel number. Usually, you can convert the property's address to a parcel number using the systems at the government office, although you may also choose to use a "property information search" or property tax lookup service to do this conversion before you get to the office to save time.
Read a local business or legal newspaper. Frequently, these papers print legal notices such as bankruptcies, law suits and major real estate document recordings, like the filings of lis pendens. If you can't find one to buy, the main branch of your local library may have them available for you to read for free. In addition, the notice of foreclosure sale, if that's why you're looking for the lis pendens, will also be published.
Use an online real estate data site. Major real estate search sites like Trulia or Zillow frequently list foreclosures, but not necessarily lis pendens.
Call a title company and have them search the property for you. Since title companies are in the business of insuring the state of a property's ownership, they typically have extensive, and frequently updated, databases of recorded documents. If you have a relationship with a title company's representative, he may do the search for you at no cost. Otherwise, you may have to pay a fee for the search.
Subscribe to a website or other data service that lists lis pendens or foreclosure sales data. These sites and services frequently charge a fee although you might be able to get access to a free trial period. They aggregate data from county clerks and recorders, saving you from the inconvenience of going to multiple offices or websites.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.