When purchasing a piece of real property, you anticipate receiving a deed to it that indicates you are the sole owner and that no one else has a right to the property. That could be a challenge with certain tracts of land because previous owners and others failed to appropriately handle issues involving the title in the past.
Unless you take care of these issues, you may not truly have ownership in the property. To rectify this situation, you could initiate a "quiet title" action. This proceeding may remove any specifically identified adverse claims against the property that would interfere in your ownership of it.
Why would I need to file a quiet title action?
Any number of issues could put a "cloud" on the title to the property you wish to purchase. Some examples include the following:
- A prior mortgage or other lien remains attached to the property.
- The previous owner died and not all potential heirs may have received notification.
- A foreclosure auction (by a tax authority or mortgage lender) may leave one or more parties listed as having an interest in the property.
Other instances in which the ownership of a piece of property is in question could also require such an action. The issue may need further research before making that decision. For instance, if a review of the real estate records indicates mistakes, you may need to file a quiet title action in order to fix those errors.
There is a danger, however
If you determine that a quiet title action is necessary and appropriate, you also need to be aware of one particular downside. Any party who may have a valid claim to the property (such as a previously uninformed heir) may decide to claim it. If you are able to convince this party to relinquish his or her right to the property, you may have to pay for it.
Even so, the same thing could happen later when you sell the property or after you substantially improve the property. Therefore, it may be worth the risk.
Legal help may be beneficial
Quiet title actions involve some specific procedures and deadlines. Missing any of them could put you back at square one or deny you a clear title. It would likely benefit you to seek out the appropriate advice and assistance before embarking on this endeavor. Considering the sizable investment you likely made in the property, it would not be a good idea to leave anything to chance.