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.
Quiet title actions are particularly prevalent in cases where there is a disagreement on the title and the lawsuit is meant to remove, or “quiet,” a claim or objection to a title. The result is a clear title.
- 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 may not give the new owner the same level of protection against the previous owner.
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Understanding a Quiet Title Action
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 the plaintiff's heirs, and they will also be protected from any further claims of ownership made against the property by other outside entities.
Title insurance can protect property owners against certain legal defects that could be subject to a quiet title action.
Quiet Title Action Uses
Quiet title action can be used for several reasons. Among the most common include:
- Estate Sale: 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.
- Remove Lienholders: To resolve issues with a mortgage lender whose interest in the property was not properly dealt with after the loan was paid off.
- Gaps in Title: To clear the title to a property that has been unoccupied for some time, allowing for outside parties to make bids for its purchase.
- Quitclaim Deeds: 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.
- Adverse Possession: 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.
- Easement & Boundary Disputes: To sort out issues relating to land access imposed by an easement and/or disputed property lines between private parties or government entities.
Other grounds for a quiet title action include to settle tax issues with a property; 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.
How the Quiet Title Action Process Works
To initiate a quiet title action, you should first determine if it is an appropriate course of action. If so, obtain a copy of the deed from the county clerk or records office. With the aid of a real estate attorney (sometimes in conjunction with a realtor), write up the complaint for the quiet title action and file the suit with the appropriate court
The quiet title action acts thus as a lawsuit levied by the party who is claiming to be the sole owner of the property against all others who may claim to have a stake in it. A judge will then rule on the merits of the case, and if successful they will issue a judgment or court order. Once the proceeding has gone through and the purported owner prevails in the quiet title action, the title is considered close and "quiet" for that owner and no further challenges to the title can be leveraged.
The process from start to finish will generally take as little as 30 days and up to more than one year depending on the complexity of the claim, the state the action takes place in, and the court's backlog.
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 they 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.
What Is the Meaning of Quieting a Title?
Quieting a title is the legal process of removing competing claims or challenges to title to real property.
How Much Does a Suit to Quiet Title Cost?
A quiet title action will typically cost between $1,500 to $5,000 or more, depending on what state the action takes place in and the complexity of the claim.
How Do You Fight a Quiet Title Action?
If you find yourself facing a quiet title action, you can fight it by producing a deed and other information proving that you have superior title and that their claim is invalid or mistaken. This often involves showing up to a legal hearing to present your arguments defending your title. Hiring a skilled and knowledgeable attorney to help with the defense is recommended.
The Bottom Line
The quiet title action is a legal remedy to resolve property disputes involving competing claims or challenges to its title. If a title is not clear, it is not "quiet". This can arise from liens, boundary disputes, easements, gaps in the chain of ownership, adverse possession, or estate sales. This action is essentially a lawsuit where the judgment that is rendered can result in a clear, or quiet title.