Quiet title: an action and pathway for property litigation
There were over 139 million housing units in the US in July 2019.
Many of these will never be the subject of a property dispute. However, many others do form the basis for legal argument, especially if there is a dispute as to who is the rightful owner.
If you’re involved in a dispute over the rightful ownership over a piece of property, a quiet title action may be necessary to get to the bottom of your issue.
Read on as we explain what a quiet title action is and whether you should take one.
What Is a Quiet Title Action?
If you’re stuck in a property dispute of any kind, the only way to settle it definitively is by taking it to court. A quiet title action is perhaps the most effective legal means of clearing up a property dispute.
If there are a number of claims on a property, you can take a quiet title action to make a final determination as to whose claim is valid. The action takes its name from the effect it has; a successful action will “quiet” any title anyone else has to a piece of property.
A quiet title action is most commonly taken in respect of real property. However, it can be used to settle disputes over any property that is the subject of a title.
Many quiet title actions will be necessary only in a formal capacity. It may be perfectly clear who owns the property in question, and a quiet title action may simply be required to clear up some technical ambiguity.
In other cases, however, there may be several competing claims and different accounts of relevant facts. The quiet title action process in these cases can get very complicated, and may take years to reach a conclusion.
When Should You Take a Quiet Title Action?
There are certain situations in which property disputes are very common. We’ve looked at some of these here.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, it might be a good idea to take a quiet title action to settle your claim.
Distribution of Estates
One such situation arises after the death of a property holder. If there is some ambiguity after their death as to who the rightful owner of their property is, a quiet title action can settle this.
Such ambiguity might arise due to, for example, a lack of clarity in their will, or indeed a missing or invalid will.
Another common issue that gives rise to quiet title actions is imprecise boundary drawings. If there was never an accurate drawing of the boundary between properties, this will become an issue if one property holder wishes to sell their holding, or develop the contested portion of land.
No Certain Owner
If nobody has occupied a building for a long period, there may be no solid claim to its ownership. In this scenario, interested parties can take a quiet title action in order to confirm that no valid claim exists before making bids to purchase it.
An easement is a right over a piece of land held by the owner of an adjacent piece of land. A common example of this is a right of way, where a property owner has the legal right to cross their neighbor’s land to access their own property.
Where such an easement has existed for a long time, there may be a question as to which neighbor actually owns the entryway in question.
If a landholder claims that they paid off the mortgage on their piece of land, but has no way of proving this, the mortgagee may have a claim to the property. A quiet title could serve to clear up this uncertainty.
What Is the Outcome of a Quiet Title Action?
If you succeed in a quiet title action, no future claim against your entitlement to the property in question (due to the stated dispute) will be possible. Both you and your heirs will be immune to these challenges.
Because of its “clearing” effect, a quiet title action is sometimes called an “action to remove a cloud.”
However, quiet title actions may only clear up known disputes in relation to property ownership. If another dispute as to ownership of land comes up in the future, a fresh challenge may be possible in respect of this.
Therefore, quiet title actions must have specific named defendants.
What to Look for When Hiring a Property Dispute Lawyer
If you want to contest a property dispute, you’re going to need a lawyer. However, not just any lawyer will do.
The law around property disputes and quiet title actions is quite specific, and can get very complex in court. To make sure your claim lives up to its potential, you’ll need a lawyer with plenty of expertise in this field.
You’ll also need a competent litigator who can argue your case properly in front of a judge.
We have a dedicated real estate litigation team at TdD, and quiet title disputes are one of our specialties. If you enlist our help, you can be certain that you’re giving yourself every chance to succeed in your claim.
Asserting Your Claim Once & for All
A property dispute can be a difficult process. Nothing is as fundamental to your wellbeing and prosperity as the property you hold, so a threat to your ownership of it can be very worrying.
However, a successful quiet title lawsuit will put to rest any concerns you might have about your claim to a piece of property. Once you have succeeded in your quiet title action, no further action against you in this way will be possible.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you settle a property dispute, contact us today.