Having a "clear title" to any piece of real property is vital for owners or potential buyers. A clear title is key to getting a mortgage, avoiding lien holder issues, and eventually selling the property yourself. But not all titles are free of controversy. In some situations, you may need to establish the title and thus prove that you are the legal owner of the property. This is done through a quiet title action.
When might you need to take the matter to court using a quiet title action? Here are some of the most common situations.
1. The Prior Owner Died.
When a property owner passes away, their real estate is often sold by their estate. However, an estate sale of property might not have established that there are no claims to the property by heirs — such as siblings, children, or parents. This is particularly concerning if the owner passed away during the real estate transaction.
2. The Boundaries Aren't Established.
Properties that have been bought and sold over many decades may not have had their boundaries and easements clearly defined for some time. If a survey turns up confusion about the exact boundaries or other features of the property, now is the time to settle the matter.
3. There May Be Old Liens.
Did a prior owner owe delinquent property taxes or a mortgage against the property? The current owner (or future buyer) should ensure that documentation exists to establish that these obligations have been paid. Otherwise, the state or lender might come after the property regardless of who owed the debt.
4. There Are Deed Errors.
Errors do happen, and they can sometimes go undetected for years. Errors on a title, though, are not harmless. Anything from a misspelled name to incorrect numbers to wrong dates could cause problems when you want to sell the property to a more observant party.
5. The Property Transfer Was Unusual.
Transfers of property that occur outside the normal sales process could create confusion or be missing some element of documentation. If you participated in a quitclaim deed, a foreclosure through the state, law enforcement sale, or an abandoned property transaction, don't assume that the title will be clear as a result.
Does your home purchase or an existing piece of property fall into any of these categories? If so, the sooner you confirm a clear title, the better. A quiet title action could be relatively painless and will protect your investment for a lifetime. Learn more by consulting with a real estate law firm in your area today.