What is a Quiet Title Action?

Quiet Title ActionA quiet title action (or lawsuits to quiet title) is a special legal proceeding to determine ownership of real property (real estate).  A party with a claim of ownership to land can file an action to quiet title, which serves as a lawsuit against anyone and everyone else who has a claim to the real property.  If the owner prevails in a quiet title action, no further challenges to the title can be brought in the future.  Thus, if our Charleston real estate attorney is successful in a quiet title lawsuit, the court decree will settle the real property dispute.

Suits to quiet title, or quiet title suits, characterize any lawsuit which seeks to establish ownership for a real estate property and often aims to prevent another party from claiming the title to this property. Some suits to quiet title can result from a lack title insurance, whereas others result from a complex web of personal, family and/or business disputes. In any case, suits to quiet title can follow from a myriad of legal issues ranging from, but not limited to:

Our Charleston real estate litigation attorneys provide legal counsel to individuals, families and businesses to defend the ownership rights of real property by litigating quiet title actions in court. A action to quiet title may be brought in a South Carolina court having jurisdiction over the real estate in dispute. Generally, a quiet title action will typically take 8-10 weeks to complete, depending on the complexity of the case.

What is a Cloud on the Title?

The cloud on the title may have been created by a deed, contract, judgment or other legal instrument.  “Clouds” may include mortgages or deeds of trust with no recording showing the secured debt was paid off, a failure to properly transfer all interests in the real estate to a former owner, a previous deed which was improperly executed, an unresolved legal debt or levy by a creditor or a taxing authority, or some other doubtful link in the chain of title.

The goal of our Charleston real estate lawyer is to obtain a court decree that declares the adverse claim against title to the real property is invalid.  In effect, the court judgment would settle or “quiet” the title to the real estate so that title is no longer in dispute.  The court judgment would also remove any and all “clouds” on the real estate so that the owner may sell, transfer or bequeath the real property free and clear of any liens, title defects or encumbrances.

Understanding Adverse Possession

Another common trend in suits of quiet title is the argument of adverse possession. Adverse possession outlines a counterintuitive legal principle whereby a trespasser can actually gain legal ownership of a property- or portion of a property- that is not their own by simply using the property as if it were under their ownership. For instance, suppose Ryan decides to build a fence and this fence happens to encroach upon his neighbor’s property. This could be considered an act of trespassing and that neighbor would have full legal authority to charge Ryan with trespassing which would force Ryan to redo his fence. Suppose however that the neighbor does not file any charges and Ryan proceeds to paint the fence, mow the lawn and upkeep his new land for the next ten years. After this ten year period, the neighbor would now be unable to reclaim the land according to laws of adverse possession in South Carolina and Ryan would now have gained full ownership of the section of land on his side of the fence. Adverse possession is an important legal tool to understand in suits to quiet title as it can often affect the ownership rights of individuals and families in unexpected ways.