Understanding Lis Pendens in Florida
Lis Pendens, a Latin term that translates to “suit pending,” refers to the jurisdiction, power, or control that courts acquire over a property involved in ongoing litigation[^1^]. When a notice of lis pendens is filed on the public record, it serves as a warning to anyone interested that the title to a particular property is currently under dispute, often due to a lien[^1^].
The Purpose of Lis Pendens in Florida
The primary objective of a lis pendens is to protect the property by notifying creditors, potential buyers, and others that the title to a specific piece of real estate is subject to ongoing legal proceedings[^1^]. This doctrine and its accompanying protections only come into effect when the notice of lis pendens is filed in the county clerk’s office, where the property is located[^2^]. By implementing a lis pendens, the plaintiff in the case minimizes the risk of a bona fide purchaser acquiring the property and potentially extinguishing any equitable claims held by the plaintiff[^2^].
To comply with Florida Statute Section 48.23, a lis pendens must contain a caption with the names of all parties involved, the date of the action, a property description, and a statement detailing the relief sought[^2^]. It is important to use the Supreme Court-approved form when filing the notice.
Additionally, the duration of a lis pendens is limited to one year unless extended by the court under reasonable grounds[^3^]. If the lis pendens is not based on a mechanic’s lien or a duly recorded instrument, such as a deed, the court may either require a lis pendens bond or dissolve the notice entirely[^3^]. The dissolution of a lis pendens is typically accomplished through a notice, stipulation, or order dismissing the lis pendens, which must be recorded[^3^].
The Role of Bonds in Lis Pendens Cases
Florida Statute Section 48.23 establishes two distinct types of lis pendens. The first type relates to a lis pendens that is based on a duly recorded instrument or a mechanics lien[^4^]. In these cases, the court cannot demand a lis pendens bond[^4^]. The second type of lis pendens, as contemplated by the statute, involves property connected to an underlying action that is not founded on a duly recorded instrument or a mechanics lien[^4^]. In such instances, the court has the authority to require a lis pendens bond to safeguard the rights of the property owner, just as the lis pendens itself protects the rights of the plaintiff[^4^].
The determination of whether a lis pendens is “founded on a duly recorded instrument” can prove crucial in these cases. Equally significant is the court’s discretion in setting the bond amount[^5^]. In a landmark case, Medical Facilities Development, Inc. v. Little Arch Creek Properties, Inc., the Florida Supreme Court concluded that the trial court has the authority to require the proponents of a lis pendens to post a bond only if the property owner/defendant demonstrates that damages are likely to result if the lis pendens were to be unjustified[^5^]. While damages do not need to meet the threshold of irreparable harm, the Supreme Court agreed with Sparks v. Charles Wayne Group, stating that the mention of “injunctions” in Section 48.23 simply allows the property owner to seek a bond to protect their interests against potential harm[^5^]. Ultimately, the determination of the bond amount is left to the lower court’s discretion, with the caveat that it should maintain a reasonable relationship to the demonstrated potential damages[^5^]. The defendant proposing the bond bears the burden of presenting evidence of the potential damages, including associated attorney’s fees required to dissolve an unjust lis pendens[^5^].
If you require assistance with a Lis Pendens or any real estate litigation matter in Florida, our office specializes in handling estate, real estate, and trust disputes throughout the state. Feel free to reach out to us for a free and no-obligation consultation.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be taken as specific legal advice. Laws are subject to change, and the facts of each individual case must be carefully analyzed by competent legal counsel.
[^1^]: Florida Law Firm, Garrity Traina: Florida’s Lis Pendens: An Overview
[^2^]: Zoecklein Law, P.A.: Lis Pendens
[^3^]: Florida Statute Section 48.23
[^4^]: American Legion Community Club v. Diamond, 561 So.2d 268.269 n. 2 (Fla. 1990)
[^5^]: Medical Facilities Development, Inc. v. Little Arch Creek Properties, Inc., 675 So.2d 915, 917 (Fla. 1996)