Quiet Title Action: What It Means In Real Estate

4 Min Read
Updated Aug. 24, 2022
Two Women Working
Written By Ashley Kilroy

Every buyer works hard to own their property, whether it’s a vacation spot down the beach or your primary home. Because of that, you know the value of your real estate both financially and sentimentally.

But ownership comes with its challenges, especially when someone contests yours. A quiet title is a legal proceeding that allows the courts to decide who has property rights in a dispute. Here’s how that process works.

What Is A Quiet Title Action?

Let’s go back to basics first and remember the definition of “title.” When someone brings up the word “title” in real estate, they are talking about property ownership. That’s because a title indicates who has rights over a specific piece of real estate.

A quiet title action (or an action of quiet title) is a type of legal proceeding used to confirm the owner of the property in question. You can also use this legal action to fix a title error or settle a dispute between two property claimants.

You may not need this if you’re the first owner of a home. But every time a property moves to a new owner, it creates a link in the “chain of title.” During the transfer of ownership, there may be a dispute.

A quiet title allows the involved parties to provide evidence in court against any adverse claims. From there, the court makes a judgment regarding who receives property rights, which gets documented in county records.

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Why Would A Property Owner File A Quiet Title Suit?

There are a few reasons why you may need to file a quiet title lawsuit. For instance:

  1. Adverse possession: Better known as “squatters’ rights,” adverse possession occurs when a trespasser occupies your property. If they do this long enough, they can eventually gain a legal right to it during a quiet title. Sometimes it’s an honest mistake, while other times it’s a type of boundary dispute.
  2. Break in the chain of title: The chain of title is the complete historical record of ownership for a given property. In some situations, you may not know who currently owns a property you like. You can file a quiet title suit to make sure there are no title issues.
  3. Boundary disputes: Some quiet title suits do not involve deeds or titles. Instead, they are used to solve property line disputes.
  4. Easement: An easement allows another person or entity the right to access a property. This is usually for a specific purpose, like sharing a driveway.
  5. Estate sale: Let’s say you purchase a property during an estate sale. Family members of the previous owners might claim they have a right to the property if they weren’t properly notified.
  6. Removal of lienholders: You may believe that a lien against your property is illegitimate. A quiet title action can force lien holders to appear in court and defend their lien. If they fail to do so, the court will remove it.
  7. Quitclaim deeds: Quitclaim deeds are one way to transfer interest in a property quickly. The owner of the property simply disclaims interest, allowing them to easily transfer it to someone else. This is a common tool between family members; however, it doesn’t provide the buyer with any protections. Other people may have a claim to the property, which can lead to a quiet title proceeding. Since there are significant risks, you should consider title insurance.

The Quiet Title Process

Usually, a quiet title action takes 8 – 10 weeks to complete. However, not every case is the same; complexity and location may affect the timeline. As a result, some title legal processes can take up to 6 months.

Generally, the process moves as follows:

  1. Researching ownership and title requirements
  2. Getting a copy of the deed at the office of your local county recorder or county assessor-recorder’s office
  3. Hiring an attorney and real estate agent (potentially) 
  4. Drafting a complaint for an action to quiet title
  5. Filing the suit and serving any parties involved
  6. Obtaining the court order

How Much Does A Suit To Quiet Title Cost?

Ultimately, if a title company can’t fix a title defect, then you likely have to resort to a quiet title.

The cost to file a quiet title action can vary once you establish an attorney-client relationship. For example, an uncontested lawsuit may range anywhere from $1,500 – $5,000. But the amount you end up paying relies heavily on how complex the issue is and whether the opposing party contests it.

The Bottom Line

A quiet title is a legal action that determines the rightful owner of a property in the eyes of the law. Because of this, they are a last line of defense you can use to protect your rights as a property owner.

You can file a quiet title in a few different situations, whether you have a squatter or you’re trying to buy real estate with a clouded title. Regardless, make sure you have an air-tight case before you move forward. Your best bet to achieve success will require using a real estate attorney. While professional help comes at a cost, you save significantly more time and funds hiring an expert.

You can learn about real estate attorneys to decide if you need help from one.

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