Laying Down the Law – Quiet Title Actions and Real Estate: What You Need to Know
June 3, 2022
Quiet title actions are not commonly understood. Disputes with neighbors over property ownership and boundary lines are common and frustrating. Many of these disagreements arise from old surveys and practices or agreements between former property owners. In some cases, the only solution is to engage a real estate lawyer to untangle the disagreement through negotiations or worst-case scenario, to turn to the courts to clear title to your property through a “quiet title action.”
The Purpose of Quiet Title Actions
Quiet title actions aim to resolve disputes over real estate ownership by removing any “clouds” on the title to real estate. These “clouds” can include items such as liens on the property, title disputes, boundary disputes, claims by previous owners, and other claims of ownership to the property. When there is a cloud on the title to a property, it can adversely affect your ability to sell or otherwise transfer the property. It also may affect your ability to encumber the property with a mortgage or use it as collateral for another type of loan.
For instance, you might file a quiet title action when a property owner has died and left no will indicating who should inherit the property. Likewise, when more than one person is claiming a right to ownership of the property, a quiet title action may be necessary to settle the dispute as to property ownership.
Another common reason for a quiet title action is in the case of joint ownership of property. For example, if one of the property owners breaches the partnership agreement, the other owner might file a quiet title action to gain full ownership of the property.
Finally, disputes among neighbors about the exact location of property lines and easements across property belonging to others often are the subject of quiet title actions. Parties can get a resolution to these kinds of disputes through a quiet title action.
Filing Quiet Title Actions
A.R.S. § 12-1101 allows any party claiming or having an interest in real property to file an action in court to determine and quiet title to that property. Under A.R.S. § 12-1102, the party can file a complaint to quiet title under oath. The party must describe the claim at issue and details of the claim that the defendant is making that is adverse to the party. Finally, the complaint must contain a request to establish the party’s ownership right in the property and an order that the other party is barred and estopped from having or claiming any right or title to the property.
The prevailing party in a quiet title action is entitled to recovery of their attorneys’ fees and costs if they properly follow the statutory process. Per A.R.S. § 12-1103, before filing a lawsuit, the claimant can send a letter to the defendant 20 days before filing the quiet title lawsuit with a quitclaim deed to the property and the sum of $5.00. The party should request that the defendant execute the proposed form of quit claim deed and return the quitclaim deed in the letter.
If the defendant fails to return the quitclaim deed within 20 days, the party can file the quiet title lawsuit and seek recovery of their fees and costs.
Attorney Christopher Charles regularly represents property owners concerning quiet title actions and other real property disputes. If you or someone you know is facing a property dispute, or any other real estate matter, contact us today to schedule an office meeting or virtual consultation with Mr. Charles or one of our other excellent real estate attorneys.
Christopher J. Charles is the Founder and Managing Partner of Provident Law ®. He is a State Bar Certified Real Estate Specialist and a former “Broker Hotline Attorney” for the Arizona Association of REALTORS ® (the “AAR”). Mr. Charles holds the AV ® Preeminent Rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings system which connotes the highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards. He serves as an Arbitrator and Mediator for the AAR regarding real estate disputes; and he served on the State Bar of Arizona’s Civil Jury Instructions Committee where he helped draft the Agency Instructions and the Residential Landlord/Tenant Eviction Jury Instructions. Christopher regularly teaches continuing education classes at the Arizona School of Real Estate and Business, and he can be reached at chris@ProvidentLawyers.com or at 480-388-3343.