Quiet Title

What is a Quiet Title Case

Quiet Title in California is governed by the California Code of Civil Procedure §760.010 - §764.010. These rules designate how to proceed and draft a claim for Quiet Title as well as the rules for serving, recording, and filing a Notice of Pendency of Action (Lis Pendens) which is required with every Quiet Title. [Code Civ. Proc. §761.010].

A Lis Pendens is a NOTICE recorded with the county recorder of an action in which a real property claim is alleged. [Code Civ. Proc. §405.2] The Lis Pendens provides constructive notice to purchasers or encumbrancers that there is pending litigation affecting title to a property and enables those parties to find the NOTICE in the recorder’s office in the county in which the real property is located. It is a warning to anyone attempting to acquire a legal or equitable interest in the real property.

Quiet Title is a cause of action that may exist alone or along with other claims when there is a dispute over title to real property. When there is a dispute between multiple parties the Quiet Title case may include a cause of action for Partition and one for an Accounting. In these cases, the Court will usually order a sale and dictate who gets what proportion of the proceeds based on multiple factors including contributions of money and/ or sweat equity.

Quiet Title is used to settle adverse interests against a property, such as when someone records a lien, a mortgage, or a quitclaim against the property – rightfully or wrongfully. [Code Civ. Proc. §760.020]  Quiet Title is an equitable claim that does not entitle the Plaintiff/ titleholder to a jury trial. Quiet Title cases seek declaratory relief and are by judges with declaratory orders.

A Quiet Title may also include legal causes of action, such as those for Fraud and one for Cancellation of Instruments, which are legal (not equitable) claims that allow you to request a jury trial. If the plaintiff is out of possession and seeks to recover possession by a quiet title action, such an action is also legal. When there are legal claims, the relief sought will not just be declaratory relief, but may also include damages. Once the action is before the court, the court has complete power to determine title issues. [Code Civ. Proc. §§760.040, 760.050]The venue of a Quiet Title action must be the superior court of the county in which the real property is located. [Code Civ. Proc. §§760.040, 760.050.] A complaint to the quiet title must be verified (sworn to) by the Plaintiff and must contain all of the following information:

  • a description of the property that is the subject of the action. This must include both the legal description and the street address or common designation if any;
  • the title of the plaintiff as to which a determination of quiet title is sought. If the complaint is based on adverse possession, the complaint must allege the specific facts constituting the adverse possession;
  • the adverse claims to the plaintiff’s title;
  • the date as of which the determination is sought. If the determination is sought as of a date other than the date the complaint is filed, the complaint must include a statement of the reasons why a determination as of that date is sought;
  • a prayer for the determination of plaintiff’s title against the adverse claims; and
  • the plaintiff must name as defendants all persons known or unknown claiming an interest in the property. [Code Civ. Proc. §§762.010, 762.020]

Any person who claims an interest in the property can join in the action, whether or not named as a defendant. [Code Civ. Proc. §762.050]

Since Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) has begun to appear on mortgages (starting in the 1990s), Quiet Title cases in California have been used to challenge the rights of lenders and beneficiaries that appeared on a borrowers deed of trust, but no longer retain any interest or no longer exist.

A judgment in an action to quiet title is binding and conclusive on all persons known or unknown who were parties to the litigation and who have a claim to the property. [Code Civ. Proc. §764.030] The judgment will not affect the title of a person who was not a party to the action if their claim was of record or if the claim was actually known, or should reasonably have been known, to the plaintiff. [Code Civ. Proc. §764.045]

In response to your Quiet Title Claim by a Defendant’ responsive pleading must include:

  • the Defendant’s claim to the title
  • the facts in dispute
  • the statement of any new information creating a defense

Once both sides have presented their information and claims, the court makes a determination and issues a judgment binding on all the parties. Once the action is before the court, the court has complete power to determine title issues. [Code Civ. Proc. §§760.040, 760.050]

A judgment in an action to quiet title is binding and conclusive on all persons known or unknown who were parties to the litigation and who have a claim to the property. [Code Civ. Proc. §764.030] The judgment will not affect the title of a person who was not a party to the action if their claim was of record or if the claim was actually known, or should reasonably have been known, to the plaintiff. [Code Civ. Proc. §764.045]

Quiet title causes of action arise when multiple parties claim ownership of or title to a property, and an owner seeks a declaratory judgment from the court “quieting title.” Traditionally, quiet title causes of action were between co-borrowers, co-owners, lien holders, or family members who disputed each other’s’ contributions and interests. In a non-judicial foreclosure state such as California, a quiet title cause of action can also be used to challenge lenders and trustees who appear on a borrower’s deed of trust but no longer retain any interest or no longer exist. 

Under California law, a lender may challenge a borrower’s right to quiet title by demanding that the borrower first tender the full amount of the loan. This does not occur when borrowers seek to quiet title against non-existent beneficiaries who sold the loan, yet remain on the deed of trust. If a borrower is successful in quieting title against a nonexistent beneficiary, that borrower may also request an expungement of the deed of trust that was originated in that defendant’s name.  This quiet title judgment and expungement is good against all subsequent beneficiaries who may claim they were assigned the loan.

Through quiet title actions, our experienced team at Advocate Legal helps homeowners protect their homes when lenders do not have legitimate claims to the title. In our initial evaluation, we look at all the factors surrounding your property and help you determine whether a quiet title cause of action is the appropriate course. When it is, we have the resources and litigation skills to guide you through your lawsuit.

Quiet Title Actions: The Process

Knowing what happened to your loan — whether it was sold, securitized, lost or written off — is an important aspect of foreclosure defense. A quiet title cause of action works to clarify legal ownership of the property when there is a cloud on title or ownership is in dispute. A quiet title judgment can provide you with clear title, allow you to expunge fraudulent or outdated deeds, give you release from liens and force your lender to modify your loan.

A lawsuit for quiet title must be brought in local Superior Court. To begin the lawsuit, the plaintiff (the lender or homeowner) files a complaint with the court followed by a Notice of Pendency of Action (a Lis Pendens) that is recorded with the county recorder and filed with the court. The complaint must be verified, meaning that the plaintiff must swear that his/her information is true, and the complaint must cover several requirements:

  • A description of the property at issue, including both legal and actual descriptions
  • How the plaintiff’s title was obtained and facts supporting the claim to the title
  • Any adverse claims to the title claimed by the plaintiff
  • Whether the title is being determined as of the date of the complaint or another date
  • A prayer for the determination of the plaintiff’s title against adverse claims

In response to the complaint, the defendant files an answer, which also must include certain required information:

  • Defendant’s claim to the title
  • Facts in dispute
  • Statement of any new information creating a defense

Once both sides have presented their information and claims, the court makes a determination and issues a judgment binding on all the parties.

Investigations

Quiet title is a complex legal cause of action that requires the experience and resources of skilled lawyers. The originator of your deed of trust may be out of business, and there may be no other assignments recorded.  Quiet title is a legal cause of action that rests on the documents recorded with the county recorder.

The first thing we do at Advocate Legal is to investigate your loan starting with your original deed of trust and all the documents recorded after. Through further investigation by a securitized (sometimes called a Bloomberg) audit, we may discover unrecorded assignments and uncover what actually happened to your loan including lender violations and other information that may help clarify your claim.

Contact Attorneys with the Experience and Dedication to Get Results

With decades of experience that include real estate matters and strategic litigation, our attorneys at Advocate Legal are committed to providing you with straightforward advice and guidance throughout your case.