Protecting Property Interests Through a Quiet Title Action
Imagine that you are the heir to your grandmother’s estate. You cared deeply for your grandmother in the years leading up to her death. Due to her deteriorating health, she moved into your home before her eventual passing. The family home became vacant and began to fall into disrepair while she lived in your home. After her passing, you volunteered to serve as the administrator of her estate and stepped forward to handle the legal issues with the property.
Although the property needs substantial rehab, it would make an excellent investment property for a developer. You and the family members decide that it would be best to sell the property and distribute the proceeds among the heirs.
After engaging a realtor, the last recorded deed is retrieved. The deed shows a recent transfer to “ABC Investments LLC.” The deed purports to contain your grandmother’s signature, but it was allegedly signed six months after her passing. The property was stolen by a fly-by-night investor with the hope of flipping the property to an unsuspecting person. The investor’s fraud created a severe title problem for you and the heirs. The property cannot be sold and the inheritance money distributed until the title is recovered.
Stolen title is one of many title problems that can be solved with a Quiet Title lawsuit. Quiet title lawsuits can settle almost any interest in a property. Some quiet title actions are deeply adversarial while others are used to correct a defect in the chain of title.
An example of an adversarial case is where two parties both claim an interest in the same property. Our office once handled a case between a father and a son who both claimed rights to the same property. The father and son jointly purchased a property in the 1980s. The unwritten agreement between father and son was that the property would be placed in the son’s name but the father would pay the mortgage over the life of the property. This was done because the father had the money, but the son had good credit. However, in the ensuing years the relationship between the father and son deteriorated. Eventually, after the mortgage was paid in full, the son attempted to sell the property and fully exclude the father from the proceeds. Our office filed a lawsuit on behalf of the father to obtain an equitable share of the property.
Not all quiet title actions are adversarial. Quiet title lawsuits can be used to correct a problem in the chain of title. An example of a corrective lawsuit is where a mortgage was paid in full, but the lender never recorded a satisfaction in the chain of title. The property owner’s title remains clouded by the mortgage until a lawsuit is filed to declare the mortgage unenforceable.
There are many more situations that require a quiet title lawsuit to resolve a legal problem. Some examples include:
- Adverse Possession claims under Pennsylvania’s 21 year or 10 year rules
- Correct a defective deed such as where the grantor failed to actually sign the deed
- Correct a surveyor’s error in a deed
- Elimination of an easement that has lapsed
- Recover title lost due to a sheriff’s or judicial tax sale of a property
- Elimination of the Right of Redemption period for tax sale properties in Philadelphia County
- Assert a claim to an equitable interest in property
A quiet title lawsuit can release the property from legal problems and uncertainties. After a dispute is resolved or a defect corrected, the owner can sell the property or borrow against it as the owner sees fit.
As a probate law firm for estate executors, we help settle estates efficiently and reduce stress. If you know someone faced with a probate process or roadblocks to an estate property sale, please have them contact us for a free evaluation at:
Phone: (215) 918-4242
If you are not quite ready for a consultation, download our probate handbook HERE. We’ll send you helpful probate guides and resources so you know how to handle the estate.