A judgment search is a search of the High Court Central Office Registers for any unsatisfied Money Judgments and any Lis Pendens against the party in the last five years.
There is a frequently held misconception that a judgment search is a search for what are generally called ‘money judgments’. In fact, a judgment search is a search of the High Court’s Central Office Register of Lis Pendens and Index of Money Judgments for a period of five years. It is highly advisable that solicitors ensure their searchers cover both indices.
When a judgment is registered in the central office it presents the possibility of a judgment mortgage being registered against the property. While the judgment itself does not affect the lands until a judgment mortgage is registered, one which is registered after the closing of the sale will not impact the former owner. All their interest in the property will pass to the purchaser on payment of the balance of the purchase money on closing. However, if judgments appear on searches, a purchaser’s solicitor is on notice of the potential for a judgment mortgage to be registered against the property and so registration of the purchaser’s title should be treated as a matter of priority.
A purchaser of registered land takes the land free of a judgment mortgage against the vendor, post contract, as the entire beneficial interest passes to the purchaser on the making of an enforceable contract for the disposition of the land. Hence, a judgment mortgage registered after the execution of the contract will not affect the property.
In the case of unregistered land, if judgments appear on the searches it is prudent to attend the Registry of Deeds to record the date of the closing of the sale.
If a Lis Pendens is disclosed against registered land the purchaser is on notice of the proceedings and they will be bound by the outcome of such proceedings if they proceed with the transaction.
A Lis Pendens against unregistered land will only bound the purchaser if they can reasonably be expected to have knowledge of it, as a Lis Pendens can only be registered in the Central Office and the Land Registry. It is strongly advisable therefore for a prospective purchaser to conduct a five year Lis Pendens search as a reasonable precaution against the existence of a Lis Pendens.