In real estate law, we frequently say that land is “unique.” So it should come as no surprise that the legal procedures governing disputes involving real estate are pretty unique too.
In real estate, a quiet title action is no exception. They are pretty unique legal actions. An action to quiet title is a legal procedure to establish a person’s right to ownership of real property. It can be against one or more adverse claimants and the laws on quiet title actions vary from state to state, so be sure to consult with counsel where you live.
Here are 3 things that make quiet title actions unique.
- Quiet Title Actions Are Initiated with a Petition, Not a Complaint.
Most litigations are initiated by means of filing a complaint with the court. A “complaint” is the legal paper that describes the injury/damage that the plaintiff (the person “complaining”) suffered due to the negligence/improper actions of the defendant (i.e., the person who caused the damage/injury).
In a quite title action, the paper that is filed with the court is not a “complaint,” but a Petition. You “petition” the court to help you with your legal problem instead of “complaining” against the other party. While the effect may be much the same, in a quiet title action the person seeking legal redress is the “petitioner,” and the person responding is the “respondent.”
- You Must File a Lis Pendens.
Another aspect of quiet title actions (in addition to many others) that makes them different from other lawsuits is that when you file your Petition with the court, you must also file a lis pendens.
A lis pendens is a legal notice that puts the “whole world” on notice that a lawsuit has been filed regarding a specific piece of land (identified in the notice.) It serves to provide notice to everyone that there is a lawsuit pending regarding the land and that anyone that takes it by deed or transfer, does so subject to that lawsuit.
- You Do Not Get Money Damages.
Quiet title actions are considered equitable actions. They are actions brought in equity, not in law. This means that the court is being asked to “do equity” – in other words, to put something right, not to award money damages. As a result, quiet title actions rarely award a person money damages. Instead, they are used to declare who is the true owner of a property, or to remove clouds on title.
Quiet title actions have a number of other unique features and specific requirements which is why, if you have a matter concerning your real estate, you should consult with experienced real estate counsel.
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