Seven Chestnuts on the Open Fire – Q&A About Quiet Title Actions
Question: What is the difference and connection between unlawful detainer actions and quiet title actions?
Answer: You are all probably familiar with unlawful detainer actions- the main issue is possession of real property either under state law grounds or under a rent control ordinance. The landlord is trying to evict the tenant! The big brother of unlawful detainer actions are Quiet Title Actions. The main issue in a Quiet Title Action- is not the right to possession, but is the question of who owns what percentage of right, title, and interest in real property as of a given date. The court “quiets the title” and resolves the dispute because the imagery is two competing owners arguing about the right of percentage of ownership.
Obviously, there is substantive overlap and “sibling rivalry” between the questions presented in unlawful detainer actions (which deal with the right of possession) and quiet title actions (which deal with degree of ownership). If you don’t have clear title, then how can obtain possession? And, sometimes the fight is about a right to superior title, even if you have short term possession.
Question: Which court is the proper jurisdiction for Quiet Title Actions?
Answer: The proper jurisdiction is generally always the unlimited jurisdiction division of the local superior court where the property is located.
Question: Will the trial of a Quiet Title Cause of Action be tried by a judge or jury?
Answer: Generally speaking, the trier of the case will be the judge assigned to the case. The only exception is if there is a right to arbitration (private judge can decide the claim), or there are related damages claims for different causes of action- for those claims, there is a right to a jury trial. You don’t want a jury deciding title issues!
Question: What are the common types of Quiet Title Actions?
Answer: Examples include but are not limited to:
- Fraudulent transfer actions involving a fraudulent deed of trust or fraudulent transfer deed;
- Gaps in the chain of title;
- Mistake in legal description for a grant deed or deed of trust ;
- Mistake in recording priority for a lender or fee simple owner;
- Adverse possession.
5. Question: Can you bring a Quiet Title Action with other claims in court at the same time or do you need to file a separate action for your quiet title claim?
Answer: Quiet Title actions should be filed with factually related claims such as Reformation, Declaratory Relief, Fraud, Slander of Title, Breach of Contract, Specific Performance, or Equitable Subrogation. It just makes more economic sense to file all related claims in the same action.
Question: What is the Statute of Limitations (court filing deadline) for a Quiet Title Action?
Answer: Generally, there is no specific statute of limitations, but the Court may adopt and bootstrap the statute of limitations of an underlying factually related claims. For example, you are filing a case to quiet title due to a fraudulent transfer. The court may adopt the statute of limitations for fraud, which is 3 years from the time of discovery. The court may also apply the equitable principles of “laches,” if a claim is filed very late. So, you should file your quiet title action as soon as possible to preserve evidence and subpoena witnesses to testify. The court system does not reward plaintiffs who wait and sit on their rights.
Question: How can you protect you, your family, your companies, and your investors from title disputes?
- Purchase title insurance.
- Get a “title checkup” to see what is on your real estate title- review the property profile and most recent preliminary title report. You may be surprised at what you find. Do you own the property that you think you purchased? Check the legal description. Review your deeds.
- Consult LA Real Estate Law Group.
- Use the informational website www.laquiettitleattorney.com as a resource.
Copyright 2017 Nate Bernstein, Attorney at Law. LA Real Estate Law Group. All Rights Reserved.
The author of this article, Nate Bernstein, Esq., is the Managing Counsel of LA Real Estate Law Group, and a member of the State Bar of California and his practice concentrates in the areas of complex real estate litigation, commercial litigation, employment law, and bankruptcy matters. The contact number is (818) 383-5759, and email is [email protected]. Nate Bernstein is a 22-year veteran Los Angeles real estate and business attorney and trial lawyer. Mr. Bernstein also has expertise on bankruptcy law, the federal bankruptcy court system, creditor’s rights and debtor’s bankruptcy options. He previously served as Vice President and In House trial counsel at Fidelity Title Insurance Company, a Fortune 500 company, and in house counsel at Denley Investment Management Company. Nate Bernstein created www.laquiettitleattorney.com, a leading educational resource on quiet title real estate litigation. Nate Bernstein is a local expert on real estate law and economic trends in the real estate and leasing market, business law, and bankruptcy law. Nate has personally litigated more than 40 major real estate trials, and has settled more than 200 complex real estate and business cases.
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