What Is a Quiet Title Action?

A quiet title action, also known as an action of quiet title, is a circuit court action—or lawsuit—that is filed with the intended purpose to establish or settle the title to a property. They are particularly prevalent in cases where there is a disagreement on the title. The lawsuit is meant to remove, or “quiet,” a claim or objection to a title.

Key Takeaways

  • A quiet title action is a legal action that is intended to clarify ownership of a given property. 
  • Quiet title actions are typically used in cases where title ownership is in question. 
  • The beneficiary of a quiet title action is often protected by attempts from outside entities to acquire the property in question. 
  • Quiet title actions are common following mortgage lender disputes, the death of title owners, cases of adverse possession, and long periods of time where the property is unoccupied. 
  • A quiet title action often does not adequately protect the owner of a title from previous owners. 

How a Quiet Title Action Works

A quiet title action occurs when one property claimant challenges one or more other people in a court of law for the purpose of determining who is the rightful legal owner of the property in question. It is intended to quiet the conflicting claims on the property by eliminating any ambiguities in the title, thus clarifying the question of legal ownership. Following the quiet title action, the plaintiff will be in full possession of the property in perpetuity, as will be his or her heirs, and they will also be protected from any further claims of ownership made against the property by other outside entities.

A quiet title action is oftentimes a lengthy process, sometimes taking as long as 8-10 weeks.

Special Considerations 

A quiet title action might be used to clear up claims on the ownership of real property—or other property that is titled—following the death of the owner, particularly in situations where there is any question regarding whether all of the heirs have been notified of the sale of the estate. It can also be used to resolve issues with a mortgage lender whose interest in the property was not properly dealt with after the loan was paid off. It can also be used to clear the title to a property that has been unoccupied for some time, allowing for outside parties to make bids for its purchase.

Other grounds for a quiet title action include the conveyance of an interest in the property via a quitclaim deed in which the previous owner disclaims interest, but does not promise that the title is clear. Additionally, quiet title actions could be used to convey title to a property in the case of adverse possession, in which a party occupies property that is legally not theirs for purposes of laying claim to it. It can be used to settle tax issues with a property; boundary disputes between private parties, nations, states or municipalities; errors in surveying; fraudulent conveyance of the property by coercion or forged deed; treaty disputes between nations; or competing claims by lien holders, reverters, missing heirs or remainders.

Criticism of Quiet Title Action

A quiet title action does not give the new owner the same level of protection against the previous owner in most cases; if there are problems with the property, the new owner can’t sue the previous owner, unless he or she acquired the property via warranty deed and sued for defects when the warranty deed was delivered.

Additionally, quiet title actions don’t always clear up all issues with a title. In some jurisdictions, they can only be used to clear up specific claims or title defects.