What is a Quiet Title Action?
A quiet title action is a lawsuit that is brought in circuit court to clear a party’s title to real property. The purpose of a quiet title action is to eliminate all claims to title, which might stand in the way of a title insurance company issuing a clear title insurance policy. Liens, claims by prior owners, and other matters affecting title are called “clouds” on title. The purpose of a quiet title action is to eliminate any of these “clouds” on title.
Quiet title actions can be used in a number of different situations. For example, they are often used after a party purchases real property at a tax deed sale. The purpose here is to forever bar prior owners, mortgage and lien holders from asserting any interest in the real property. A successful quiet title action will allow a title insurance company to write a policy insuring title to the property purchased, provided that all parties are named in the action and that it is properly pursued.
Alternatively, if a purchaser at a tax deed sale holds an interest in the property purchased and pays taxes and maintains the property for four years, then it is possible to avoid having to file a quiet title action. However, it may be difficult to sell the property within four years without filing a quiet title action.
In certain instances, a quiet title action may not eliminate all liens. For example, in Florida there is currently a controversy as to whether unpaid condominium and HOA assessments survive a tax deed sale when no claim of lien has been filed. The Associations have argued that the current owner is jointly and severally liable with the prior owner. However, chapter 197, which governs tax deed sales, provides that only governmental liens survive a tax deed sale. If it was determined that a lien or encumbrance survived a tax deed sale, it would not be wiped out by filing a quiet title action.
Quiet title actions can also be used to resolve ownership disputes where there is a break in the “chain of title” or it is unclear who owns the property. This lack of clarity could result from errors made in recording or executing deeds or from what we call “wild” deeds which are deeds executed outside of the chain of title.
In short, quiet title actions help to clarify title issues involving real property. All parties who might claim an interest in the real property are notified of the lawsuit and given a chance to assert their interest in the real property. If nobody comes forward, then the court can issue a judgment quieting title in the Plaintiff’s favor. This is the ultimate goal of the quiet title action. However, if someone does come forward, then the court must determine the interests of the parties in the real property and enter a judgment accordingly.
When proceeding with a Quiet Title Action, it is important to remember that the title is not clear until:
• Superior liens are satisfied,
• The quiet title action is complete and the court has ruled in your favor, and
• The underwriter is satisfied that all parties were named in the quiet title action.