What Does it Mean to Quiet Title and Why is it the Most Contested Claim in Real Estate Litigation?

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When title or interest in real property is contested by competing parties, one can initiate a quiet title action to determine the rights of all persons involved as it relates to the subject property. For example, if you purchased a home but later find out that another person is contemporaneously claiming ownership of your home, you may seek to perfect or “quiet” title by obtaining a judicial determination of your rights to the property against the claims of all others. Court orders resolving rights to a property not only provide peace of mind but also maintain property value by removing uncertainty over adverse interests in the property.

To begin a quiet title lawsuit, a plaintiff must file a verified complaint and include the following:

1. A description of the property that is the subject of the action;
2. The title of the plaintiff as to which a determination is sought and the basis of the title;
3. The adverse claims to the title of the plaintiff against which a determination is sought;
4. The date as of which the determination is sought; and
5. A specific request for the determination of the title of the plaintiff against the adverse claims.
See California Code of Civil Procedure § 761.020.

Additionally, under California Code of Civil Procedure section 761.010, a plaintiff in a quiet title action must also record a lis pendens, also known as a Notice of Pendency of Action, in the recorder’s office of the county in which the subject property is located. A lis pendens serves as notice to the world that claims and interests relating the property are in dispute.

A plaintiff seeking to quiet title must first have an interest or title to the property. Thus, the most effective defense to a quiet title action is showing that the plaintiff is without any valid interest. If the plaintiff prevails, the court will issue a judgment binding all persons, known or unknown, to the decree quieting title provided that the plaintiff complied with all procedural requirements. Although there is no specific statute of limitations for a quiet title action, it is important to commence such action before adverse claims become legally recognized rights to property such as title by adverse possession or prescriptive easements.

If your interest or title to property is being contested by adverse claims, contact Lee & Kim LLP at (213) 468-8840 for a free consultation.

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