Quiet Title Action: What is it?
Topic: Quiet Title, Legal, Attorney, Title, article by Damon Simon
This article is about filing a Quiet Title Action. In its most basic definition: A Quiet title Action is lawsuit to remove anyone’s interest in the property other than the person who is filing it. It answers in detail some of the most common question we get about Quieting a Title.
What is a Quiet Title Action?
A Quiet Title Action or Action to Quiet Title is a lawsuit brought in the court that has jurisdiction of where the property is located to quiet a title. It is a real lawsuit, but usually a “Friendly lawsuit” since often there is no opposition. It is a way to establish a party’s title to real property against anyone that might have a claim again the property’s title. In simple terms you may have bought a property from someone without a warranty that the title is free and clear. This is a complicated legal way of the old way from hundreds of years ago of standing on your new piece of land or house and shouting “This is my property, and unless you speak up in the next 60 days, you no longer have any claims against this property”. After 60 days if no one comes forth with a claim against the property and can prove their claim valid, you now have a property that is free & clear and can get title insurance on it.
When do I need to Quiet a Title?
You will always need to consider filing a quiet title action if you bought a property at Tax Deed Auctions from the County or from a Sheriff’s sale. Often these properties have “clouded titles” meaning broken title chains, or other encumbrances that are unknown. Imagine this common scenario of a property that is sold off at a County run Tax Deed sale: Mr & Mrs. Smith are and elderly couple living alone. Mr. Smith had bought several properties and vacant lands over the past 50 in several states and counties that he has lived near over the years, and he dies suddenly. During this time of distress the family or only aware of his properties that are local and others that are rented, as they have a regular paper trail of checks going in and out each month. What about the out-of-state properties that are vacant like vacant lands or rundown vacant homes? More often than not these quickly get forgotten, the surviving wife moves, notices of overdue bills and taxes never get delivered. Often the family just doesn’t care about the properties as they are not worth much, or perhaps the family can’t afford the taxes as Mr. Smith didn’t leave a large enough estate to cover all the costs. These get sold off at tax deed auctions on a regular basis, and the auction bidders would be prime examples of those that need to file Quiet Title Actions.
How much does a Quiet Title Action Cost?
Typically, Quiet Title Actions cost approximately $1,500 - $2,500 to have an attorney file it. There are many steps involved and it’s advisable if the property is worth enough money to justify the expense, you have an attorney file the action. Before you hire an attorney be sure this is something they specialize in, and they practice law in the county the property is located in. If you pick a firm that rarely deals with property law, and Quiet Title Actions, they might not file the action and follow through correctly, which becomes a very expensive bad situation down the road. Inexperienced Attorneys can really cost an investor a lot of time and money fixing their mistakes on Quiet Title Actions. Always be sure and check an attorney references specifically on previous quiet title action clients.
Can I File my own Quiet Title Action?
Although most people opt for an attorney to file the action on their behalf, anyone can file the paper work and follow the steps to create a Quiet Title Action. This is a simple thing to do if you know the history of the liens and previous owner of the property, but that isn’t the case many times. You also must be comfortable filing your own paperwork with the county courts, reading title searches, and legal documents in official records. The court fees can be upwards of $400, and then other costs involved are usually title searches which can cost $75 to $200, and publication fees for filing public notices in newspapers which vary greatly.
How long does it take to complete a Quiet Title Action?
Most Quiet Title Actions take approximately 60 to 90 days to complete from the first filing until the final hearing. There are situations where it might take longer to quiet a title. There can be mistakes with a deed from 25 years ago and if you don’t know where those parties are to serve them notice, you have a problem. Often times someone will need to be hired to track down any parties that may have a claim on the title, and even heirs of theirs to serve them (defendants) notice. Once all defendants have been served with the Quiet Title Action, they have 20 days to file a response in court. If a defendant does not respond within the 20 days a default Judgement is submitted to judge to extinguish their claim. If a defendant cannot be located personally, then the court allows you to publish notice in a newspaper for 4 weeks in a row. Placing a notice in a newspaper with a large enough circulation is considered notice for those that you could not serve individually but might have an interest in your property. Once these steps have taken place notice is considered to have been served to all parties known or unknown that might have interest in your property. Each State, County, and Court has its own procedures and times, so it’s important that you plan for this before considering hold times for flip projects for example.
Although I am well versed in the above subject you should ALWAYS fact check with a qualified attorney as Florida Property Statutes change quite frequently.