Quiet Title A General Overview

What Is A Quiet Title Action Lawsuit in California [GUIDE]

Updated on April 4, 2024

Are you looking to file a quiet title action lawsuit in California but not sure where to start? Disputes involving title, ownership and usage of real property can be tricky to resolve where there are competing demands on real property. In this post, we explain some steps to file a quiet title action to determine who has certain legal rights with respect to disputed property. 

Quiet Title Disputes

A quiet title action is a type of lawsuit that requests the Court to resolve disputes or clouds on title to real property. Title disputes can involve a multitude of scenarios. For example, a quiet title action can ask the Court to determine whether or not a deed has been forged and thus, who is the true owner of the property. A quiet title action can also involve disputes over the use and possession of land with respect boundary disputes and even adverse possession cases. Another type of dispute that is resolved via a quiet title claim involves whether or not a lien encumbering the property is valid.

While the underlying reasons and legal theories behind these difference scenarios can differ widely, all of them have the goal of clarifying the status of title, which is especially important when the property owner (or claimant) wants to have marketable title. With that goal in mind, no matter the type of dispute, the process for filing a quiet title action remains fairly uniform.

File A Quiet Title

Scenarios Involving a Boundary Dispute

For a dispute involving issues related to the boundary, the first step is to obtain a survey of the property or at least the area in question to confirm the location of the boundary line. The best practice is to obtain a complete survey, which will show the location of the boundary line, major physical improvements, and landmarks in relation to the boundary line. If you are having a survey done, we recommend you ask the surveyor to separately identify the area in dispute, measure it and provide a legal description of it because you may need all of these items to resolve the dispute.

Understand the Quiet Title Action

When deciding to file a quiet title action, it is important that the action be filed in the county where the real property is physically located. Once the action has been filed, the Court then has the power to make its determination on title issues. Cal. Civ. Code § 760.040, 760.050.

ALSO READ  Litigation Privileges and Invalid Abstract of Judgment

QUIET TITLE ACTION CALIFORNIA

Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 761.020, a complaint to quiet title action in California must be verified and contain:

  1. A description of the property that is the subject of the action;
  2. The title of the Plaintiff as to which a determination of quiet title is sought;
  3. The adverse claims to Plaintiff’s title;
  4. The date as of which the determination is sought; and
  5. A prayer for the determination of Plaintiff’s title against the adverse claims.

In addition, a Plaintiff seeking to quiet title against a person who has legal title to a property bears the burden of proving title by clear and convincing proof. Cal. Evid. Code § 662.

However, when the quiet title action involves a dispute as to which party has legal title to a piece of real property, the standard of proof is determined by the preponderance of the evidence. See Murray v. Murray (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 1062.

Judgment in Quiet Title Action Case

Furthermore, a judgment in a quiet title action is binding against all persons who were named as parties in the action and who have a claim to the property. Cal. Civ. Code § 764.030.

However, said judgment will have no effect affect to a person who was not named as a party in the action if their claim was of record or if the claim was actually known, or should have reasonably been known to the Plaintiff. Cal. Civ. Code § 764.045.

The Importance of a Litigation Guarantee when Filing a Quiet Title Action

For all quiet title disputes, the next recommended step is to obtain a litigation guarantee or, at the very least, a preliminary title report. The purpose of this step is to confirm the current status of title and identify parties that hold a record title interest in the property. This step is important to ensure that any judgment is binding on all necessary parties as anyone who is not named in the lawsuit may not be bound by any eventual judgment. This step may also identify previously unknown parties that claim an interest in the property. The best practice is to obtain a litigation guarantee, which is a form of title insurance where a title company confirms all parties who may hold an interest in the title of record and the last known address. The party seeking the insurance will need to pay a premium based on the amount of the policy, which is usually the value of the subject property. A preliminary title report is a less expensive option which will identify potential claimants of record, but without any guarantee.

ALSO READ  The Difference Between Quiet Title, Easements, and Adverse Possession

Draft the Complaint

The next step is to draft the complaint. At that point, the attorney will work with the client to prepare a statement of facts and causes of action to address the claims at issue. All quiet title complaints require a verification under penalty of perjury. Accordingly, it is important to spend time to get the facts rights since the plaintiffs will be verifying that the facts alleged therein are true under penalty of perjury.

File in Court

Once a draft of the complaint is complete, we would then file it in Court, who will process the complaint and issue a case number. Upon receiving the case number, we will prepare a lis pendens, also known as a notice of pendency of action. The purpose of the lis pendens is to give the world constructive notice of the pending claims against the property and preserve priority. To that end, after conducting the necessary due diligence to identify all relevant addresses for any defendants or parties on the assessor role, we will serve it by certified mail with return receipt, send it out for recording, and then file it with the Court. At that point, the lawsuit proceeds like any other lawsuit, except that additional issues may arise in connection with the lis pendens.

Reasons to file a Quiet Title Action:

  • Boundary Disputes – This usually arises when adjoining property owners disagree as to the location of the boundary line between their properties.
  • Discrepancies/Errors on a Deed – There may be a clerical error on a deed that needs to be resolved.
  • Easement on a Property – A person may seek to establish the rights and duties as to an easement on a property.
  • Claims by Lien-holders – There may be claims against the property for unpaid property taxes or for an outstanding Deed of Trust that does not appear to have been discharged.

Examples of Quiet Title Disputes

At Schorr Law, we have litigated literally hundreds of quiet title matters. Below are just a few examples of the quiet title disputes we have experience litigating:

  1. Disputes Between Co-Owners: When there’s a disagreement among co-owners or heirs about the ownership or division of property, a quiet title action can clarify and establish legal ownership.
  2. Adverse Possession Claims: If someone occupies land for a certain period under specific conditions (openly, notoriously, continuously, and hostilely), they may claim ownership through adverse possession. A quiet title action can resolve these claims by either validating or nullifying the adverse possessor’s claim to the title.
  3. Boundary Disputes: Quiet title actions can resolve disputes over property boundaries when neighbors disagree over the exact location of property lines.
  4. Claims by Previous Owners or Heirs: Sometimes, previous owners or their heirs might surface, claiming ownership rights due to improper or incomplete transfers of title. A quiet title suit can address these claims and confirm the current owner’s rights.
  5. Easements and Encumbrances: If there’s uncertainty or dispute over the existence or extent of easements (the right to use another’s property for a specific purpose), or if undisclosed encumbrances (like liens or mortgages) are discovered, a quiet title action can clarify these rights and potentially remove encumbrances.
  6. Errors in Public Records: Mistakes in deeds, plat maps, or other public records can lead to title disputes. Quiet title actions can correct these errors, ensuring the title accurately reflects the property’s legal status.
  7. Foreclosure Issues: After a foreclosure, there might be disputes about the property’s title, especially if the foreclosure process was flawed or if junior lienholders were not properly notified. A quiet title action can resolve these issues, providing a clean title to the new owner.
  8. Tax Sale Disputes: Properties purchased at tax sales might come with title issues, especially if the original owners or other interested parties contest the sale or if proper notice was not given. Quiet title actions can help validate the purchaser’s title against such claims.
ALSO READ  Proper Service for Quiet Title Lawsuits

Are you looking for a quiet title attorney in Los Angeles? Schorr Law has the top rated quiet title lawyers in California. At Schorr Law, our Los Angeles real estate attorney have a great deal of experience litigating quiet title actions. To see if you qualify for a free 30-minute consultation regarding your quiet title matter, contact us today! You can call us directly at (310) 954-1877, text us at (310) 706-2265, or send us a message here.

 


Areas We Serve in California 

Los Angeles            San Bernardino         San Diego County              Riverside County           Kern County          Ventura County


 

Scroll