A proceeding to establish an individual's right to ownership of real property against one or more adverse claimants.
An action to quiet title is a lawsuit filed to establish ownership of real property (land and buildings affixed to land). The plaintiff in a quiet title action seeks a court order that prevents the respondent from making any subsequent claim to the property. Quiet title actions are necessary because real estate may change hands often, and it is not always easy to determine who has title to the property.
A quiet title suit is also called a suit to remove a cloud. A cloud is any claim or potential claim to ownership of the property. The cloud can be a claim of full ownership of the property or a claim of partial ownership, such as a lien in an amount that does not exceed the value of the property. A title to real property is clouded if the plaintiff, as the buyer or recipient of real estate, might have to defend her full ownership of the property in court against some party in the future. A landowner may bring a quiet title action regardless of whether the respondent is asserting a present right to gain possession of the premises.
For example, assume that the seller of the property agreed to sell but died before the sale was finalized. Assume further that the seller also gave the property to a nephew in a will. In such a situation, both the nephew and the buyer have valid grounds for filing a suit to quiet title because each has a valid claim to the property.
The law on quiet title actions varies from state to state. Some states have quiet title statutes. Other states allow courts to fashion most of the laws regarding quiet title actions. Under COMMON LAW, a plaintiff must be in possession of the property to bring a quiet title action, but many state statutes do not require actual possession by the plaintiff. In other states possession is not relevant. In some states only the person who holds legal title to the real estate may file a quiet title action, but in other states anyone with sufficient interest in the property may bring a quiet title action. Generally, a person who has sold the property does not have sufficient interest. When a landowner owns property subject to a mortgage, the landowner may bring a quiet title action in states where the mortgagor retains title to the property. If the mortgagee keeps the title until the mortgage is paid, the mortgagee, not the landowner, would have to bring the action.
The general rule in a quiet title action is that the plaintiff may succeed only on the strength of his own claim to the real estate, and not on the weakness of the respondent's claim. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving that he owns the title to the property. A plaintiff may have less than a fee simple, or less than full ownership, and maintain an action to quiet title. So long as the plaintiff's interest is valid and the respondent's interest is not, the plaintiff will succeed in removing the cloud (the respondent's claim) from the title to the property.
A lawsuit to establish a party's title to real property against anyone and everyone, and thus "quiet" any challenges or claims to the title. Such a suit usually arises when there is some question about clear title, there exists some recorded problem (such as an old lease or failure to clear title after payment of a mortgage), an error in description which casts doubt on the amount of property owned, or an easement used for years without a recorded description. An action for quiet title requires description of the property to be "quieted," naming as defendants anyone who might have an interest (including descendants---known or unknown---of prior owners), and the factual and legal basis for the claim of title. Notice must be given to all potentially interested parties, including known and unknown, by publication. If the court is convinced title is in the plaintiff (the plaintiff owns the title), a quiet title judgment will be granted which can be recorded and thus provide legal "good title." Quiet title actions are a common example of "friendly" lawsuits in which often there is no opposition.
An action to quiet title is a brought in a court having jurisdiction over land disputes, in order to establish a party's title to real property against anyone and everyone, and thus "quiet" any challenges or claims to the title.
This legal action is "brought to remove a cloud on the title so that the plaintiff and those in privity with him/her may forever be free of claims against the property.
This lawsuit is also sometimes called a Try title, trespass to try title, or ejectment action "to recover possession of land wrongfully occupied by a defendant." However, there are slight differences. In an ejectment action, it is typically done to remove a tenant or lessee in an eviction action, or an eviction after a foreclosure. Nonetheless, in some states, all terms are used synonymously.
It comprises a complaint that the ownership (title) of a parcel of land or other real property is defective in some fashion, typically where title to the property is ambiguous – for example, where it has been conveyed by a quitclaim deed through which the previous owner disclaims all interest, but does not promise that good title is conveyed. Such an action may also be brought to dispel a restraint on alienation or another party's claim of a non-possessory interest in land such as an easement by prescription.
Unlike acquisition through a deed of sale, a quiet title action will give the party seeking such relief no cause of action against previous owners of the property, unless the plaintiff in the quiet title action acquired its interest through a warranty deed and had to bring the action to settle defects that existed when the warranty deed was delivered.
One has to be careful about talking about quiet title actions in the context of registration systems. Quiet title actions really have no applicability where a registration system is in place, having been wholly replaced by the registration statutes. Quiet title actions derive in common law jurisdictions from a common law equitable cause of action by the same name. In many jurisdictions they have been supplemented or replaced by a statutory cause of action, which may or may not have the same legal elements of the common law action. Where dealing with statutory quiet title it is more appropriate to talk about actions in the nature of quiet title.
Quiet title actions do not “clear title” completely. They are actions for the purpose of clearing a particular, known claim, title defect, or perceived defect. Contrast title registration which settles all title issues, both known and unknown. Quiet title actions are always subject to attack and are particularly vulnerable to jurisdictional challenges, both subject matter and personal, even years after final court decree in the action. It usually takes 3-6 months depending on the state where it is done.
A quiet title action is also subject in many a Geographic Jurisdiction, to a Statute of Limitations. This limitations of action is often 10 or 20 years.
An equitable action to determine all adverse claims to the property in question; a suit in equity brought to obtain a final determination as to the title of a specific piece of property; such a suit is usually the result of various individuals asserting contradictory rights to the same parcel of land. In such a situation, the court, in order to prevent a multiplicity of suits, will bring all interested parties together to determine the right and ultimately issue an injunction. 164 N.W. 338, 341. A "quiet title" action is distinguished from an action to remove cloud on title. The latter is brought to determine and resolve problems of instruments conveying a particular piece of land, rather than to resolve the actual claims to that land.
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