What you need to know about a quiet title action

When purchasing property, you may think that because you paid for it you own it. What happens if another person or financial institution had a claim on that property that you were not aware of and now they want their fair share?


The definition

A quiet title is used to define and establish an individual’s right to ownership of real property against other claimants. Essentially, it is a lawsuit filed to establish true ownership of property in cases when an adverse party, or multiple parties, have claims on the property.

When is it applicable?

Quiet title proceedings might be appropriate in situations when you want to ensure the title of the property is clear and prevent it from being contested later. In cases where the property was part of an estate or a foreclosure, other parties may have a claim to the property and want compensation. Also, if a mortgage was paid off but the lender has not cleared the lien from the title, a quiet title action could clear the property.

Quiet title actions must be filed in the court jurisdiction where the property is located. All of the potential defendants must be notified. If a defendant is not notified, the quiet title does not prevent them from making an adverse claim against the title later on. This can include heirs, prior lenders or anyone that may believe they have ownership. One of the risks with locating all the potential defendants is that it may cause them to stake claim in the property and draw out the proceedings.

What is included in a quiet title action?

A complaint to file a quiet action must contain these items:

  • A description: A legal description of the property as well as the property address.
  • Claimant: The name of the claimant seeking the determination of the title. If the action is based on adverse possession, information about the possession should be included.
  • Adverse claimant: The name of the adverse party, or parties. This would include a person or a financial institution.
  • Date: The date by which the determination is sought.
  • A prayer: A description of the claimant’s requested outcomes, giving the judge an idea of what is sought.

The process can seem lengthy and complicated and the results are not often immediate, but that should not deter you from taking action. It is in the best interest of the purchaser to make sure the property has a clear title and it may even be required if the purchase is being financed by a lender. Knowing your property is protected against potential claims outweighs the time and cost.

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