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Quiet Title Action – What is a Quiet Title?

What Is a Quiet Title Action?

Quiet Title A quiet title action is a type of legal proceeding used to identify who owns real property, fix a title error, or settle an ownership dispute. A party having a claim to land can bring an action to quiet title.  Simply put, it is essentially a lawsuit against everyone else who has a claim to the land. If the owner wins the quiet title action, no further title challenges can be filed.

A quiet title action is a circuit court lawsuit.  It is filed to establish or resolve the title to a piece of property. Quiet title proceedings are common when there is a dispute over the title.  The litigation is intended to remove, or “quiet,” a claim or objection to the title. When real estate passes from one owner to another, a new link is added to the chain of title. When this chain of title is questioned, a quiet title suit may be required. There are other reasons for bringing a quiet title action besides title claims.  They might include resolving tax difficulties with a property, boundary disputes between private parties, surveying errors, and fraudulent conveyance of the property.

What Does Quiet Title Mean?

In real estate law, having the title to a property signifies that you are the legitimate owner of the property. As a result, you are free to live on or sell the property as you see fit. However, property ownership is not always easy. Sometimes, conflicts arise over who owns the title and the land itself. For a variety of reasons, a second party may claim they are entitled to the property. Ultimately, this may bring into question the true title holder’s rights. For example, if family members differ about whether the title was lawfully transmitted from the previous property owner to the new owner. Title disagreements are also prevalent when a property has more than one owner.

The person whose ownership rights are being contested may need to take legal action.  Ultimately, this is to terminate the issue and reassert their right to the title. This is referred to as a quiet title action. Conflicts arise when another party has cause to believe that they have a claim to the property as well. As a result, the goal of quiet title litigation is to have the other party’s claim dismissed.  Further, the action prevents future conflicts as the title is once again considered free and clear.

Quiet Title Action – A Closer Look

A tight set of regulations guides the creation of a new link. These restrictions ensure that the genuine owner of the property can always be recognized.  A quick search through public records is all it takes to prevent false claims of ownership. Stable and assured ownership of real property is required for a system of private property rights to function efficiently. If you are the first owner of a newly built home, you may not require this. However, every time a property is transferred to a new owner, a new link is added to the “chain of title.” Eventually, there may be a disagreement during the transfer of ownership. Title companies will not provide title policies and customers will not buy property if there is even the slightest doubt. In other words, the title’s links must be completely intact leaving no confusion about ownership.

A quiet title lawsuit often happens when one property claimant sues one or more other people in court.  The purpose is to determine who is the true legal owner of the property in question. Further, it settles future claims on the property by removing any ambiguities in the title, clarifying the issue of legal possession. Following the quiet title action, the plaintiff, as well as his successors, will have perpetual possession of the property.  They will be shielded from any additional claims of ownership made against the property by other outside bodies.

Who Can File a Quiet Title Action?

The action to quiet title is brought by a titleholder.  The action is raised when their claim to the title is disputed by someone else. For example, when another party also claims to have rights to the title and the property. The quiet title process settles the disputed party’s claim, allowing them to reclaim their dispute-free title. Obviously, the title owner expects to resolve the issue in their favor.  However, the court will determine who the actual property owner is based on a variety of variables. After the presentation of all the evidence, either side could be granted ownership of the property by the court.

The court may sanction the property owner’s quiet title action.  However, only if the proof shows that they are the legitimate owner of the land. If this is the case, the party who filed the complaint will receive a clear title. However, if the court judges that other parties have a legal right to the title, the good title will be transferred to the proper party. Any outcome will be filed with the county where the action takes place. As a result, it will be a public record, and subsequent controversies may be averted.

Each state has its own rules governing quiet title actions.  Also, there are qualifying requirements for bringing a quiet title action. In general, most states require that the individual filing a claim owns the real property at the time of filing. If the property is subject to a mortgage, several states require the mortgagee or lender to file the quiet title action. An attorney will be best prepared to clarify the requirements for filing an action to quiet title.

Quiet Title Actions & Resolutions

In general, quiet title actions are resolved by establishing free and clear ownership of a property.  Sometimes, the action is required to resolve potential flaws discovered during a title search. For example, to remove ongoing liens caused by administrative errors.  These flaws can occur when the number of foreclosed properties increases. Quiet titles are also used to remedy concerns with quitclaim deeds.  Other reasons for a quiet title action include resolving tax issues with a property.  Or, as boundary disputes between private parties or municipalities.  Occasionally, there are surveying errors and fraudulent conveyance of the property by coercion or forged deed.  However, most actions are due to competing claims by lien holders and missing heirs.

There are two main causes for a quiet title action:

  • Administrative Title Defect – In this case, nobody seriously questions who the true owner is. However, due to conveyancing issues, the title records are faulty.  This makes it difficult to sell or refinance the property. The title problem can be remedied by a quiet title.
  • Actual Ownership Dispute – This happens when there is a genuine disagreement about who owns the property in question. Two or more parties claim ownership of the same real estate. This can occur following the death of the owner.  Especially, if there is any doubt as to whether all of the heirs were properly notified of an estate’s sale or transfer. A quiet title action may be required to put an end to the debate.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations can come up in defenses where the person out of possession tries to quiet title after a period of time in which they were not in exclusive and uncontested possession of the property. Ankoanda v. Walker-Smith (1966) 44 CA4th 610, 616. In this case, the court concluded (Ankoanda) that the applicable statute of limitations (based on the underlying allegations of fraud or mistake) began to run once the owner was not in sole and undisputed possession. (Source: schorr-law.com)

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