Quiet Title

A quiet title action is a type of lawsuit in which plaintiff requests a declaration from the court that he or she possesses the only legal title to a property in question.

Quiet title actions have become increasingly common in Florida in the wake of the housing crisis, as homeowners seek challenge to the banks’ ability to foreclose on properties where records were improperly managed.

Jacobs Keeley Trial Lawyers recognize, however, that there are numerous other reasons a plaintiff may have for bringing a quiet title action.

Those include:

  • Tax deeds and title insurance
  • Adverse possession and prescriptive easements
  • Alternative to probate
  • Quiet title count in other real estate litigation
  • Quiet title counterclaim

A substantial portion of the Jacobs Keeley law practice focuses on real estate litigation, and we are uniquely qualified to assist in furthering quiet title claims.

F.S. 65.011-081 addresses the process of quieting a title in Florida. Such action can be brought either by individuals and corporations, depending on the purpose.

When there is doubt as to the legal ownership of a piece of property due to claims that are conflicting or not valid, the title to that property is considered “clouded.”

Some examples of clouded title include invalid, inoperative or conflicting records, outstanding instruments, claims or encumbrances such as deeds, mortgages or liens. A quiet title action “quiets” those claims on the title and removes clouds in order to conclusively determine the proper owner.

Reasons to Seek Quiet Title Action

Aside from quiet title actions related to foreclosures, there are a number of reasons individuals or companies pursue such litigation.

One reason is that Florida title insurance companies won’t insure a title to land purchased in a tax sale unless the deed has been on record at least four years. However, this timeline can be reduced if a quiet title action settles all other potential claims to that land.

Quiet title action can also be useful when property has been transferred from family members generation to generation. Taking the matter to probate to address each possible claim could be time-consuming and expensive. Sometimes, it takes years. Alternatively, an heir may seek a quiet title action. Although it will not stop creditors from filing a claim on the property, it may streamline a process that would otherwise be costly and convoluted.

In other cases, quiet title actions can be tacked on to other real estate litigation, such as cancellation of an easement, as a “count.” This will allow the plaintiff to avoid a cloud on the property title when the lawsuit is resolved.

Finally, defendants in a quiet title action may want to file a counterclaim, asking the quiet title ruling be made in their favor. If successful, the title will be cleared in their name without having to file a separate case.

Quiet Title by Associations

When an association takes claim of a title through lien foreclosure, according to F.S. Chapters 718 or 720, a quiet title action might be necessary to establish the ownership free of any other claims.

Usually when a mortgage exists on a property at the time the association assumes the title, the mortgage holder is the one with superior right to enforce it and foreclose on the property, thereby taking the title from the association.

But, F.S. 95.11 only gives the mortgage holder five years from the time of default in which to enforce that mortgage. If the property has been continuously in default for five years, the mortgage is no longer enforceable. Still, a quiet title action would be needed to remove cloud on the mortgage holder’s claim to that property.

Of course, the action is only going to be successful if the mortgage is indeed unenforceable. Many times, an association may not be sure of the exact date of default. If at any point during those five years, the mortgage was reinstated, the statute of limitations clock would be reset.

If the association is able to quiet the title, that will allow the association to sell the property for its fair market value.

An example of such action would be if a homeowner defaults on the mortgage and the bank initiates a foreclosure. However, the case remains idle for several years (as has happened countless times as banks and courts wade through the glut of foreclosure cases). In the meantime, the property racks up thousands in past-due assessments. The association can file a lien on the property, foreclose on it and take the title. If the bank foreclosure case is ultimately dismissed, the association can file a quiet title action. If the date of default is more than five years past, the mortgage is unenforceable and the association could obtain a clear title. That means the association could sell the property, usually for a substantial net profit even after satisfying the liens and factoring in legal costs.

Contact the Miami Quiet Title Attorneys at Jacobs Keeley Trial Lawyers for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.

Call us at (305) 358-7991.

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