Maintaining a clear title to property is the cornerstone of property ownership. As a property owner, it is necessary to ensure clear title to your property for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, a mortgage company will not offer financing if there is a cloud on the title. Alternatively, you may be involved in a spat with your neighbor who insists that the fence you built is on his property, and you need a way to prove otherwise. For those experiencing such issues, there exists a legal mechanism called a quiet title action.
A quiet title action is defined as a legal proceeding that can help clear title to real property, especially if there are multiple claims, disputed interest, or title defects. The lawsuit will “quiet” certain claims to the property, clarifying ownership as well as clearing up possible discrepancies on the title. There are a litany of reasons why a quiet title action may be necessary, including but not limited to:
- Property Boundaries Uncertain: It may be unclear where the exact property borders are. This could be due to an incomplete survey, lack of property survey or a dispute with neighbors.
- Easement on Property: There may be an easement on the property, such as a shared driveway, which may cause property ownership to be questioned.
- Old Mortgage Payoffs: A previous owner may claim that an old mortgage was paid off, but may not have any physical record or proof of the payoff.
- Claims by Lienholders: There could be claims by other lienholders on the property, such as a lien by the city for unpaid taxes, which do not have documentation to show that they were discharged.
- Heirs Attempting to Claim Ownership of the Property: If a homeowner dies, their property is often sold in what is known as an Estate Sale. This is based on the belief that all the heirs to the property that were named in the owners will have agreed to sell the property. If you are unable to confirm that all heirs have given up ownership in the property, a quiet title lawsuit may be the way to establish clean title and sole claim to the property.
- Errors on the Deed: There may be clerical errors on the deed which need to be resolved
Put simply, the purpose of a quiet title action is to establish title of the property and determine who actually has legal interest in the property. A quiet title action may also resolve other existing issues between the parties and the property, and the court has the discretion to hear other motions of any party and require a resolution.
A quiet title action does not need any active disputes to be initiated. Instead, it is just a way to guarantee that ownership is free and clear for future homeowners. A major benefit of a quiet title action is that once a determination has been made in favor of the plaintiff, no challenge to their ownership can be made in the future.
One thing worth noting is that although typically more “friendly” than a traditional lawsuit, a quiet title action is still a legal dispute, and the parties involved are typically represented by an attorney. The action is filed in a court of law by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney, and the defendant is served notice of the suit. The defendant is given a window of time to respond to the suit. If contested, it is taken to court to be resolved; if no response is given or it goes uncontested, then the title will be cleared in favor of the plaintiff’s argument. In most typical quiet title actions, the process takes up to eight weeks.
If you are involved in a real estate transaction and feel a quiet title action may be needed, consult an experienced real estate attorney at Thrift McLemore to discuss your specific situation and see if a quiet title action best suits your needs. You can contact us by email at email@example.com or by phone at 678-784-4150 today!