Affirming Ownership of Your California Home with Quiet Title Action
What is Quiet Title Action in California?
When two or more persons have adverse claims to the same property, any of the claimants may initiate a quiet title action to resolve the dispute. The purpose of the quiet title action is to eliminate an adverse claim to title and to establish, or “quiet”, the title to property in the name of one or more of the claimants.
A “claim” includes any legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in property or any cloud on the title. An “adverse claimant” is one who asserts an ownership interest in the property, or anyone who interferes with the Plaintiff’s enjoyment of the property, renders title to the property uninsurable, or otherwise decreases the value of the property.
A quiet title action may be brought to either establish one’s title to property, or remove someone from title to property, and applies to any kind of title or type of interest in real or personal property, whether the interest is a legal interest or an equitable interest. For example, a quiet title action may be brought not only to establish complete ownership in a property, but may be brought to establish an easement or license in land, or a leasehold interest.
Is Removing a Cloud on Title the Same Thing as a Quiet Title Action?
An action to remove a cloud on title is different than a quiet title action. An action to remove a cloud on title seeks to invalidate a particular instrument and so requires proof of specific facts to show the invalidity of the allegedly invalid document recorded in the chain of title to a piece of real estate.
Can a Quiet Title Action Resolve a Boundary Line Location Dispute?
Title is not quieted as to the location of boundaries but only as to legal or equitable ownership interests in property.
Who Can File a Quiet Title Action in California?
A quiet title action is available to any holder of any interest in land. The owner of an easement or a license may maintain an action to quiet title. The holder of a leasehold interest, or the holder of a tenancy-in-common interest in property can bring a quiet title action. And the purchaser under a contract of sale to buy the property who has an equitable interest in the property is entitled to bring a quiet title action.
Even a person without any documentary evidence of title and whose possession is wrongful, but who is in possession of the real property at the time the action is filed, (claim by adverse possession) has the right to file a quiet title action in Court. See California Civil Code Section 1006; California Code of Civil Procedure Section 318; Davis v. Crump, (1912) 162 Cal. 513,518; Pilone v. Conarty, (1ST Dist. 1944) 152 P.2D 452. And in some cases a quiet title action can be filed by a person who is not in possession of the real property. Hyatt v. Colkins, (1917) 174 Cal. 580; Davis at 516. At the trial, both the state of title and the right to possession will be determined.
Remedies Available in a Quiet Title Action?
The quiet title remedy is cumulative with any other remedy deemed appropriate by the Court in the particular case and is not exclusive of any other remedy, cause of action, or proceeding provided by law. California Code of Civil Procedure Section 760.030(a).
The measure of damages for the recovery of possession of real property is the value of the use of the property. That value is measured by the greater of either: (1) the reasonable rental value of the property during the period that possession has been wrongfully withheld from the claimant after the claimant has a cause of action for recovery of possession; or (2) the benefits obtained by the person wrongfully occupying the property by reason of the wrongful occupation.
Statute of Limitations for a Quiet Title Action
There is no specific statute of limitations for an action to quiet title. The applicable period of limitations is based on the theory of relief underlying the action. An outstanding claim that amounts only to a cloud on title is a continuing cause of action and is not barred by the passage of time until a “hostile” claim is asserted so as to jeopardize the title.
Thus, as long as an adverse claim is dormant, the owner of the superior title may allow it to remain indefinitely. Western Title Guaranty Co. v. Sacramento Drainage Dist., (3d Dist. 1965) 235 Cal. App.2d 815. When the Plaintiff remains in possession of the property, the dormant adverse claim does not trigger the statute of limitations.
However, when the adverse claimant assert his claim sufficiently to bring it to the attention of the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff must file a quiet title action within five years of the assertion of the adverse claim, or within three years, depending upon the nature of the adverse claim.
Generally, the statute of limitations for a quiet title claim does not begin to run during the time Plaintiff is in exclusive and undisputed possession of the property, but this does not apply to the situations where Plaintiff and Defendant are co-tenants, each with a right to possession.
What is the Effect of a Judgement to Quiet Title?
The purpose of a quiet title judgment is to provide clear and marketable title. A judgment to quiet title is binding on all persons, known or unknown, provided Plaintiff complies with all of the procedural requirements of the statutory framework. The judgment will not bind any person who was not made a party to the action and who had a claim or is on record title to the property when the lis pendens was filed, or, if none was filed, when the judgment to quiet title was recorded.
The judgment is also not effective against a bona fide purchaser for value without notice of the claim, or against a person without a recorded claim who was not made a party to the action if that person’s claim was actually known to the Plaintiff at any time before the judgement was entered, or where the claim would have been reasonably apparent from an inspection of the property. For these reasons, a Lis Pendens (Notice of Pending Litigation) is recorded against the property during the litigation as a warning to third persons about the disputed title.
How Can You Find Out More About Your Quiet Title Claim?
To learn more about this complex area of real estate law, contact attorney Debra Grimaila, Esq. at Orange County Business Lawyer, P.C.
In addition to practicing real estate and business law since 1986, Debra Grimaila, Esq. has been a California Real Estate Broker since 1989. This provides attorney Debra Grimaila, Esq. with a unique insight into real estate legal issues, and real estate resources not available to other real estate attorneys.
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