When you purchase a home or a piece of real estate, you want to make sure that the property title is free and clear. If not, “clouds” on the title can lead to future problems related to ownership or the ability to secure mortgage financing. For those who may be experiencing such issues, there is a legal tool known as quiet title action that can help you protect your ownership interests.
Quiet Title – Defined:
A quiet title action is a legal proceeding that helps clear title to property by determining exactly who has the legal interest in the real estate. The lawsuit “quiets” claims by clearing up any possible discrepancies on the title.
In Georgia, there are two types of quiet title actions: statutory quiet title (quia timet against the world) and conventional quiet title (conventional quia timet). A statutory quiet title action is when the court determines the property rights against people known or unknown. Any party who claims an interest in the property can bring an action – they do not have to be currently residing on, using, or in possession of the property. A conventional quiet title action is often used in situations where the court needs to declare or remove a lien or recorded interest and there is a small, specific group of persons involved.
Reasons for Filing a Quiet Title Action
Quiet title actions are brought when there’s any issue as to the ownership of a piece of real estate. Some common examples include:
- Defective deed, title, or other ownership documents
- Encroachment or trespass issues
- Forged deeds
- Heirs claiming ownership of the property
- Lienholder claims; no proof that liens have been discharged
- No proof of old mortgage payoff
- Trespass issues
- Uncertain property boundaries or fence lines
- Unpaid taxes; no proof of paid taxes
- Unsettled easement on the property
How to File a Quiet Title Action
You do not have to have any active claims or ongoing disputes to file a quiet title action. The property owner seeking a clear and free title can file their lawsuit at any time. Typically, the plaintiff or their attorney will file the quiet title action, and then the defendant will be served notice of the lawsuit. The defendant has a specific window of time to respond to the lawsuit. If the defendant contests the quiet title action, the issue will go to court. If the defendant does not respond or contest the lawsuit, the court will clear the title in favor of the plaintiff.
Specifically, with statutory quiet title actions, the court will appoint a Special Master who will provide notice to all interested parties and will investigate the validity of the claims. The court will base its decision upon the Special Master’s findings; the court’s decision quiets title and binds the true owner to the property.
With most quiet title actions, the process takes about eight to 12 weeks. One of the benefits of this type of lawsuit is that if the court makes a determination in favor of the plaintiff, no one can challenge the plaintiff’s ownership in the future. Their ownership title is free and clear.
Have Additional Questions? Contact Our Team of Real Estate Attorneys
If you are purchasing property or are involved in an ownership dispute, please reach out to one of the experienced real estate attorneys at Brian M. Douglas & Associates. We can discuss your situation and see if a quiet title action would be in your best interest. Our attorneys can advise you of your options and help safeguard your interests. You can call (770) 933-9009 or use our online contact form. We’re always happy to help.