16.00 Quiet Title Suits

16.00.1

In General

A "quiet title suit" is a judicial proceeding to remove a cloud or clouds on a title to real property. A "quiet title suit" may also be used to establish title as where a plaintiff claims title through adverse possession.  A cloud on title is an interest or lien that appears to affect the title.

16.00.2

Common Purposes

A quiet title action is frequently used to:

  • Extinguish easements.
  • Clear tax titles.
  • Release remote claims to the property.
  • Substantiate the title of an adverse possessor.
  • Clear the cloud on the title produced by a forfeited recorded contract for deed.
  • Furnish record evidence of titles which would otherwise rest entirely on estoppel by deed.
  • Reform or construe original records which were invalid by reason of inherent defects, or uncertain as to parties, property, or terms.

There are advantages of a decree entered in an action to quiet or confirm title. In a properly conducted action, it may adjudicate the title of the owner as against:

  • Parties from whom the securing of voluntary releases would be impracticable or impossible;
  • Nonresidents;
  • Unknown claimants;
  • Parties yet unborn or not ascertainable.

The importance of these decrees in a chain of title cannot be overestimated. Even when rights adverse to the record owner have been barred by laches, estoppel or limitation, those facts can seldom be made to appear of record other than by a court adjudication.

16.00.3

Validity and Sufficiency of the Decree

Because any decree or judgment entered in a suit to quiet title becomes a muniment of title, it becomes necessary to determine that:

  • It is valid.
  • It is sufficient to remove the cloud, defect, or uncertainty which was the occasion for the action.

In this respect, the following points should be considered:

Proper Jurisdiction of the Court

A district court must enter the order.  A probate court cannot enter a decree quieting title based upon adverse possession.

The court must have control over the ?thing? affected by the judgment, e.g., the land must be located within the territorial area of the court before it can enter a decree quieting the title.

Petition or Complaint

The allegations in a petition to quiet title can disclose a legal or equitable cause of action or can combine the two kinds of actions.

Since we do not insure property subject to a quiet title action until a final judgment has been rendered in the case, the details of pleading are not the subject matter of this section.

Defendants

All persons or entities who have estates, interests or encumbrances on the land and who will be affected by the decree must be made parties to the suit and must have become subject to the orders of the court either by reason of their voluntary entries of appearance or by proper service of process upon them.

Guardian Ad Litem

Guardians ad litem must be appointed by the court in order to protect the rights of minors, unborn or unknown defendants, and also, to comply with the provisions of theServicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003.

Decree

A judgment in favor of a plaintiff who claims absolute title is all that is necessary to bar every right of ownership which the defendant might have.

Appeal

After a judgment has been entered:

  • the court making it, on the motion of any of the parties or on its own motion, can modify it or set it aside;
  • a party to the suit can file an appeal to a higher court, requesting that the decree be modified or set aside.

Parties With Interest Who Were Not Named as Defendants

Parties with interest in the property who were not named as defendants are not bound by the decree or judgment quieting the title.

Recordability

After the expiration of the appeal or review period, a certified copy of the judgment or decree must be filed for record in the appropriate recorder's or register's office.

16.00.4

Insuring Title Coming Through a Suit to Quiet Title

Ascertain the sufficiency and validity of the decree or judgment.

Determine that the time to appeal or review has expired.  In Texas this time is 30 days after the judgment has become final and is not appealed. In the alternative, raise the proper exception.