When you purchase a piece of property, you want to make sure that no one can come knocking on your door saying they have a right to it. As part of the purchase process, your mortgage lender may have required you to obtain a title search before agreeing to give you any money.
You may have wondered what this was but shrugged it off as just part of the deal. Then, you find out that someone else may actually have a legal claim to the property you want to buy. What do you do now?
Dark clouds have gathered over the property
These claims, which can include old mortgages, heirs of a prior owner who never received notice of the death or old tax liens, could place "clouds" on the title. These clouds can prevent you from truly owning the property, and you would more than likely not be able to receive title insurance as a result.
Quieting the storm
This is where a quiet title action comes into play. In such a court proceeding, you ask the court to "quiet" all other claims to the property. Essentially, the court rules that, from the entry date of the order, any prior claims of ownership to the property no longer exist.
Going through this process can be especially important after a tax or foreclosure sale. Previous owners, lenders and taxing authorities may be able to come back at a later time and stake a claim to the property otherwise. A successful quiet title action ensures that you have complete legal ownership of the property.
Facilitating the winds of change
Nearly every quiet title action involves the following steps:
- The filing of a petition with the court
- Notification of all defendants
- Wait for the defendants' response time to run
If no one responds to the action, the court clears your title by default. You may wonder how much it will cost you to have this done. It will vary, depending on the circumstances and your location. However, the upfront costs of settling these matters are often much less than dealing with a problem that could arise in the future.
Once you receive an order from the court, you may need to take additional steps in order to clean up the real estate records to reflect the court's order.
Once you take these steps, you can proceed with your purchase, knowing that you will come out of it with full, unchallenged ownership of the property. That is, if you handled everything properly. In order to help ensure that nothing goes wrong, you may want to bring in someone experienced in real estate matters and quiet title actions.