A quiet title action is a lawsuit in which the plaintiff asks the court to declare that the plaintiff has sole legal title to a piece of property. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff should name any person or entity that might possibly have an ownership claim to the property as a defendant. Here are some common reasons for bringing a quiet title action:
1. Tax Deeds and Title Insurance
Florida title insurance companies will not insure title to land that a buyer purchased in a tax sale until the deed to the land has been on record for least four years. To shorten this time frame, however, the buyer can bring a quiet title action to settle all potential claims of ownership to the property. If the defendants are all previous title owners of record and all previous mortgagees of the property, the buyer can purchase title insurance and have marketable title as soon as the court awards judgment in favor of the buyer in the quiet title action.
2. Adverse Possession and Prescriptive Easements
Adverse possession is acquiring ownership of real property without actually buying it. A prescriptive easement is the right to use someone else’s land without their express or implied permission. The time to acquire title to land by adverse possession is seven years. The time to acquire an easement by prescription is 20 years. However, ownership of the land or easement will not automatically transfer to the adverse possessor or easement holder when these timeframes expire. To establish ownership by adverse possession or prescriptive easement, the party must bring a quiet title action.
3. Alternative to Probate
Sometimes a piece of real property will have transferred down through several generations of families who have died in more than one state. In this situation, probating all of the estates to determine an heir’s title to property could take years and be very expensive. As an alternative to probate, the heir could file a quiet title action in the county of the state where the land is located. However, the quiet title action will not bar creditors’ claims. Consequently, an heir should not bring a quiet title action until all claims against all of the estates have been settled.
4. Quiet Title Count in Other Real Estate Litigation
Adding a quiet title count to a lawsuit that relates to other real estate matters can be a good idea. For example, in an action to cancel an easement, the plaintiff may want to add a claim for quieting title so that there is no cloud on the plaintiff’s title at the end of the litigation.
5. Quiet Title Counterclaim
Defendants in quiet title litigation should consider bringing a counterclaim to quiet title in their favor. If they win the quiet title counterclaim, their title will be cleared without further litigation and cost.