Over the past few months we have been asked more frequently if it is possible for a property owner to do their own quiet title case. It seems that as more possibly incorrect records are showing up in title records, the need to perform a quiet title is more common.
In most states a quiet title action can be described as a specific type of lawsuit, where the property itself is the subject of the action. A pleading is made to the court to expunge certain specific or unknown claims against the property title. The process normally involves sending notices to all parties with a potential interest in the property, and publishing legal notices in the official organ of the jurisdiction. Once a certain time period has passed with no objection, the judge or court issues a ruling of quiet title for the property. More detailed descriptions on the quiet title process can be found at this link.
As property owners discover potential title defects due to dormant mechanics liens, incorrect deeds, missing mortgage assignments, or fraudulent claims they often turn to the quiet title process to get a clear title. The first thought is to try and perform a do-it-yourself quiet title. While the process is relatively simple, it is not easy and should be left for an attorney. Hiring a lawyer for this will cost money, but the danger is that with a quiet title one wrong move can void the process and either fail in removing the title defect or worse. In some cases an incorrect quiet title filing can permanently establish the claim the property owner was looking to remove, or even create a new title defect.
A defective filing can even expose the owner to a claim of slander of title by those with legitimate claims. Even though the quiet title process is not rocket science, there are very specific requirements which must be adhered to. If a property owner wants to keep the costs down they may be able to ask the attorney of there are any parts of the process they can do themselves, such as document recording or obtaining records. One other factor to consider is before filing a quiet title, be sure to discover all claims against the property in advance to be sure that others don’t need to be addresses in the action. For example, if you find out there is one old mechanics lien on a property and file a quiet title to remove that one, it would be disappointing to find out afterwards that some other defect exists.
The other claim could probably have been handled in the same quiet title with no additional expense, and more troubling is the fact that the second claim holder can dispute a second quiet title action arguing that the first one established his lien as valid.