Most homebuyers don’t worry about someone challenging their right to the property they are purchasing. However, there are cases in which the interests to a particular piece of real estate are in dispute. Controversies like these require a quiet title action to resolve the issue of who actually owns the property. Quiet title actions can be complex, so having experienced real estate litigation and legal counsel is essential. The attorneys of Palumbo Law are here to help.
What Is A Quiet Title Action?
A quiet title action is a legal proceeding to determine who truly owns a piece of property. Someone who disputes another person’s claim to property can file a lawsuit requesting a court to decide the matter. The action is so named because the objective is to quiet anyone who claims to possess the actual title to the property. Filing a quiet title action is often necessary to remove a cloud on the title that can prevent a person from conveying the property to someone else (for example, through a real estate sale).
Quiet title actions often arise in such matters as:
- Boundary disputes. Two neighboring property owners may disagree on where exactly the boundary between their two pieces of land is. This is often the result of vague deed descriptions or one landowner developing property too close to the boundary.
- Adverse possession. Adverse possession refers to an individual’s ability to assume ownership of someone else’s property after continuous and exclusive use of it. Adverse claims often trigger quiet title actions and require the court to step in.
- Prescriptive easement. A prescriptive easement is similar to adverse possession, but it lacks the exclusive element. To enforce or challenge a prescriptive easement, a quiet title action is necessary.
- Possible claims by heirs. When a property owner dies, the land may be sold by the estate. However, loved ones and other heirs may be able to lay claim to it. To ensure the title is clean and no one can challenge it, a quiet title action may be desirable.
- Encumbrances. An encumbrance is a claim against a piece of property by someone who is not an owner. Examples include mortgages, liens, and easements. Encumbrances place clouds on a property’s title, discouraging potential buyers from purchasing it. A quiet title action can lift the cloud.
- Chain of title problems. Whenever property is conveyed from one owner to another, a new link is added to the so-called chain of title. But missing interests, discrepancies, and other issues can potentially cause problems with the chain of title. A quiet title action can fix them.
- Missing records. There could be missing or unrecorded conveyances, mortgages, easements, or other instruments affecting the property. For example, the mortgage may have been paid off, but the records that prove this could be lost.
- Clerical errors. When property deeds are recorded, clerical mistakes can raise questions about property ownership. These errors must first be identified and then corrected to ensure there are no title disputes.
Why A Property Owner May Need A Quiet Title Action
Clouds on title may affect the entire property or only part of it. Regardless, if an individual may later need to defend his or her ownership of the property, a quiet title action is typically the way to do so. A dispute over the title could affect the right of the owner to:
- Use the property as he or she wishes
- Sell or otherwise convey the property
- Obtain a mortgage or lender financing
- Develop the property
Moreover, questions about the title may emerge in the context of:
- Title insurance coverage
- Another party’s easement rights
These and related issues could either compel you to file a quiet title action or cause someone to file one against you.
How To File A Claim
A person who wants to obtain a quiet title to property and thereby resolve disputes over its ownership will begin by filing a complaint. The complaint must contain a number of elements, such as:
- A complete and accurate description of the real property involved
- The right, title, interest, and nature of the person claiming the property (plaintiff)
- The nature of any adverse or potentially adverse claims to the plaintiff’s interest
- The efforts made to ascertain the identity of those with adverse claims
- An explanation of how the plaintiff has occupied and used the property
Quiet title actions are relatively unique among civil lawsuits in that they often involve unknown defendants. These are individuals, unknown to the plaintiff, who have or may have an interest in the property. An example is a potential estate heir who may be able to claim title to a piece of land.
The complaint must be properly served. There are different rules for serving residents, nonresidents, and defendants who are unknown to the plaintiff. Proof of service, often accomplished by way of an affidavit, is required before the court can hear the matter.
As part of the proceedings, a title company or a knowledgeable attorney will examine the title contained in the complaint. A title abstract and report will be given to the court. The purpose of this step is to identify individuals who should be made parties to the action. Notice of the quiet title action will then be given to them.
During the hearing, the court will consider evidence and arguments from the plaintiff and others who may have an interest in the property. If the court is convinced of the plaintiff’s claim, a judgment of quiet title will be issued. The court will also determine the property interests, if any, of the other parties. The court may lift any clouds on the title to the property.
Contact Our Rhode Island Quiet Title Action Attorney
Quiet title actions can settle property disputes and give the true owners peace of mind as to their rights. If you have questions about another individual’s claim to property, or someone is disputing your ownership rights, it’s time to retain Palumbo Law. Call us today.