REMOVING ALL DOUBT: How a Quiet Title Action Parts The Clouds on Title and Makes Your Newly Acquired Property Insurable

Imagine that you buy a piece of property. You move into a house on that property (or rent it out if it’s an investment), and after you or your renters have been living in that house for a few years, someone sends you a letter claiming that they own the house that you paid for. This scenario plays out more often than you might think. When it does, homeowners will often file a quiet title action in order to legally establish that they own the property in question.

So what is a quiet title action? A quiet title action (also called a “suit to quiet title”) is a lawsuit, the outcome of which establishes the true ownership of real property. A suit to quiet title is filed when two or more parties claim to own a particular parcel of land. Why would two or more parties have a claim to ownership of a single parcel of land, you ask. One common scenario is when multiple parties claim ownership if a new “possessor” of a piece of property claims that they have acquired ownership over the land via adverse possession. Another scenario is that in which a seller sells a parcel to two different buyers by using a forged deed. Another is when a lender failed to take the necessary steps to clear title after a prior mortgage was paid off.

The most common scenario, however, is when a buyer purchases property via a tax sale. When a tax sale purchase is the case, a suit to quiet title is almost always filed to clear the cloud on title that has resulted from a governmental “taking.” Regardless of which situation calls for the filing of a quiet title action, the idea is to have a court determine who legally owns the property so as to “quiet” all other claims.

Tennessee, like other states, has its own quiet title statutes, but as with other states, Tennessee requires the claimant (the plaintiff, in this case) to show two things. First, the claimant must be show that they have a legitimate claim to the property in question. Second, the claimant must prove that they took possession of the property in good faith. If the claimant is able to show both of these things, then their claim to the property is deemed valid, and the court will grant a judgment quieting title announcing that the claimant’s claim to the property supersedes that of anyone else on the property. So how does one go about proving those two things?

Due Process

Due process is an essential element in any suit to quiet title. Due process requirements have heightened dramatically in recent years due to a decision in 2015 by the Tennessee Supreme Court in Turner v. Turner, No. W2013-01833-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. 2015). That decision requires that a claimant make a “diligent effort,” not only to locate and provide notice of the action to prior owners of record, but, if those owners are deceased, also to their heirs.

Needless to say, a simple Google search does not suffice in attempting to locate prior owners and their heirs. Actions that used to take 4-6 months are now taking 8-10 months due to the demands that courts are making on claimants in meeting the “due diligence” standard set forth by Turner.

Need Legal Advice?

As long as there is a cloud on your title, your property will not be insurable with a title company. If you live in Tennessee and would like to file a quiet title action because you’ve purchased property out of a tax sale, have been contacted by someone else claiming ownership of your property, or otherwise have clouded title on your real property, contact the Law Office of Akin Maloney. Our real estate attorneys have the experience necessary to help you navigate the cloudy waters of a quiet title action. Call us at (615) 627-3845.

The Wisdom of Pooh

Last week, I found myself in attendance at a sponsorship event for a client organization called "Girls To The Moon." I was asked to introduce myself to the room. More specifically, I was asked to tell my “role” with Girls To The Moon. What the Moon Goddesses (as I call my three friends who are GTTM's principles) wanted me to say was that I am their attorney, a sponsor, and cousin to one of them. And then, I assume, they wanted me to sit down and shut up. And that is basically what happened.

What went through my mind, however, was something more than that. What went through my mind is the real reason I am involved with Girls To The Moon: that I am the father of a little girl who needs to understand all that she is capable of being so that she can then go be it. What went through my mind was a moment in time from a few years ago.

I was in the Hallmark store looking for a last minute Christmas gift. I do not recall for whom I was shopping, but I do remember that I was unsuccessful. However, I ran across this little memento that caught my eye because a friend had given me this same memento a few years earlier. I kept it on my desk at work. It was a small, perhaps 5" x 5" print in a wooden frame with a quotation on it.

It said, “’Promise me you will always remember: you are Braver than you Believe, you are Stronger than you Seem, and you are Smarter than you Think.’ - Christopher Robin to Pooh.”

I smiled, reading the quotation once or twice and I soon realized that I had to buy it for my little girl. I not only had to buy it, but I had to put it somewhere where she would see it often. It still hangs on the wall beside her bed.

I didn’t want the print for its decorative value. I didn’t want it so my child would read it one time like a birthday card or a Facebook meme, before tossing it aside or scrolling down. I bought the print with the hope that Christopher Robin’s words to Winnie The Pooh would be imprinted on her heart. As parents of little girls, we all want them to understand just how brave they can be, how strong they should feel, and how smart they truly are.

That is why I am involved with Girls To The Moon. Yes, it was founded by my friends. One of them is my cousin. And yes, they approached me about doing their legal work. But I support the organization because it is their mission to imprint on little girls’ hearts the very best of what they can be so that they will be. I cannot imagine not wanting to be a part of that.

I kind of wish I had said all that last week.

 

(Girls To The Moon is an organization that provides a one-day "campference" bringing girls together to build their curiosity and creativity, strengthen their relationships, and grow their confidence to become leaders in their communities. We at akin maloney are proud to call them a client. For more information about them, check out their website at: girlstothemoon.com.)