Quiet Title Actions in California
Definition of Quiet Title: A lawsuit filed to establish a person’s right to ownership of property by bringing into Court other persons with adverse claims to the property, and compelling the other persons to either prove their claims to the property, or be forever after prevented from doing so. The purpose of the lawsuit is to define who has an interest in the property, and to provide clear and marketable title.
Quiet Title: The legal action called “quiet title” is filed to establish and clarify ownership to the land and buildings affixed to the land. The Plaintiff in a quiet title action seeks a Court Order to prevent other persons asserting an interest in the property from making subsequent claims to the property. When two or more persons have adverse claims to the same property, any of them may file a quiet title action. The purpose of the quiet title action is to eliminate an adverse claim to a legal interest in the property and to establish, “perfect”, or “quiet” the title in the property in one or more of the claimants.
A quiet title action may be brought to establish any kind of title or interest, whether legal or equitable, in real or personal property. It may be brought to establish a leasehold interest, an easement, a license to use the land, or to establish ownership.
A quiet title action is available to eliminate any kind of interest or adverse claim. a “Claim” includes any legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in the property. Therefore, not only a person claiming an ownership interest in the property may file a quiet title action, but also the owner of an easement, a tenant, or the holder of a license to use the property may file a lawsuit to quiet title.
An “adverse claimant” is anyone who asserts an ownership interest in the property, or anyone who interferes with the Plaintiff’s use or enjoyment of the property, causes a problem with the owner being able to obtain title insurance for the property, or otherwise decreases the value of the property.
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Circumstances in Which Quiet Title Actions May Be Filed
A property owner may quiet title against any adverse “claimants”, including all unknown persons claiming and adverse interest, as well as any known persons having an interest of record. In addition, such actions may be brought in a variety of other situations. An action to quiet title may be commenced:
- To establish the identity of a person in the chain of title
- To determine adverse interests in the property
- To remove a lien of cancelled taxes
- To terminate a right of entry or occupation of a lease for the production of oil and gas
- To quiet title against the state with respect to tax deeded property
- To re-establish title by a person in possession in the case of a destruction of public records
- To re-establish boundaries after a landslide, subsidence, or displacement
- To remove a cloud on title through the cancellation of an instrument
A Lis Pendens Must Be Recorded
When filing a Quiet Title lawsuit, the Plaintiff must immediately record a Lis Pendens (a Latin term meaning “Litigation is Pending”) with the county recorder in which the property is located . This provides notice of the claims being asserted in the lawsuit.
Quiet Title and Removal of Cloud on Title Distinguished
A Quiet Title action is different from a lawsuit to remove a cloud on title. To “remove a cloud on title” means to invalidate a particular instrument, such as a Grant Deed, a Quitclaim Deed, or Lien, and therefore requires proof of specific facts to show the invalidity of an apparently valid instrument recorded on title to the property.
In contrast, a person in possession of property can maintain an action to quiet title even though he has no documentary evidence of title and the person’s possession is wrongful, based on a claim of adverse possession. Likewise, a quiet title action can be brought by someone who is not in possession at the time the lawsuit is filed. Both the right to possession and the state of the Plaintiff’s title may be determined in the quiet title lawsuit.
Effect of a Judgement to Quiet Title
A quiet title judgment binds all persons, known and unknown, provided the Plaintiff complies with all of the procedural requirements provided by the relevant statutes. The effect of the judgment is to provide clear and marketable title. However, the judgment will not bind any person who was not made a party to the quiet title action and who had a claim of record to the property when the lis pendens was filed, or if no lis pendens was filed, when the quiet title judgment was recorded. The judgment is also not binding against a person without a recorded claim who was not made a party to the lawsuit if that person’s claim was actually known to the Plaintiff at any time before the judgment is entered, or if that person’s claim would have been reasonably apparent from an inspection of the property.
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