By Marc Shaw
When buying or selling real estate, many title issues can come up and delay the process. If you are selling a property, other parties can dispute your right to sell if there is an issue like a past lien, or if they have a competing claim of ownership. This may potentially stem from a contested inheritance or previously filed fraudulent deed. In cases like these, a title insurance company cannot issue a policy until these issues are resolved. You as a buyer will not be able to obtain title insurance but also because lenders require title insurance before a property can be transferred and these title issues can prevent the sale from going forward.
While title agents will do everything they can to resolve title issues and allow your sale to continue, some issues must be resolved in court through a process known as a quiet title action. Through this process, any competing claims of ownership or other issues can be “quieted,” giving the new buyer an undisputed claim of ownership in perpetuity moving forward.
A quiet title action can be a costly and time-consuming process, so they are generally only undertaken in the most complex cases that can’t be resolved through other means. In addition, quiet title laws vary from state to state. The average real estate buyer or seller will not be able to complete a quiet title action without a lot of research, expert advice, and legal representation. If you are interested in finding out more about quiet title actions in your state, the team at World Wide Land Transfer has worked through many such cases with counsel and would be happy to provide some feedback or a potential referral in your area.
Before starting a quiet title action, it’s a good idea to get as much background information as possible. Your state’s website is a good place to start. Here, you can find the specific laws that apply to your situation and get ideas about the best way to proceed. A legal library in your area is another good resource, like the Jenkins Law Library in Pennsylvania, for example. Here, you can find legal documents and research previous cases that can shed light on the title issues you are facing.
If title issues are holding up your real estate transaction, your title insurance company may be able to help. Title insurance companies like World Wide Land Transfer have a vested interest in ensuring a transaction goes through with no future claims on the horizon. We will work tirelessly to “cure” any title issues so a policy can be issued with no exceptions. This may involve tracking down improperly filed documents or speaking to past mortgage holders or creditors to find out why a specific lien remains on title. In many cases, these issues can be resolved without a quiet title action, allowing your transaction to go forward.
In cases where your title insurance company cannot cure title defects, it’s best to speak to an attorney who specifically deals with real estate law. Not only can a real estate attorney advise you about the best way to proceed, but they can also represent you in court if a quiet title action is needed.
Quiet title actions may also be taken against you as a property owner, and in some cases, the system has been abused to take property from someone who rightfully owns it. In some jurisdictions, vague language in quiet title laws can make it possible for other parties to dispute ownership of a property without the current owner knowing about it.
In one such case, a woman in Marshalltown, Iowa found that her home was placed up for sale while she was away in Mexico. During that time, another area woman started a quiet title action against the property, which she claimed was abandoned, and presented a tax sale certificate showing she had had the property since 2018. The validity of this document was later disputed, but it was enough to start the quiet title action. Because the owner of the home was away at the time the petition was filed, she did not receive any communication related to the quiet title action. She also did not see any of the three required notices that were published in Marshalltown’s local newspaper informing her that she was the defendant in a quiet title action.
As a result, she did not show up for the quiet title action hearing, and the property was awarded to the plaintiff by default. It was later found that the plaintiff had also acquired at least 18 other Marshalltown properties through quiet title actions, including several that had been damaged by extreme weather events in 2018 and 2020. Although the owner was eventually able to recover her home, it took a great deal of time, money, and legal assistance to do so. Multiple other states have quiet title action laws on the books using similar language as the Iowa law, and housing officials warn that anyone could be vulnerable to losing their property because of this fact. Coincidentally this is one of the items that is covered in certain “Enhanced Title Insurance Policies” depending on the state you are referring to. Take a look at the enhanced coverage in your state and you may be able to obtain future coverage for instances like this.
In cases like the one in Marshalltown, a title insurance company would have resolved any title defects before a policy was issued, protecting the owner from losing their property due to any previous claims of ownership. A title insurance company can also protect you from other issues like liens, property line disputes, previously undiscovered wills, or incorrectly filed documents. These and other title defects can cost you time and money, or put your ownership of a property into question. If you are involved in any real estate transaction, whether as a buyer, seller, or lender, it is crucial that you protect your investment with the proper title insurance policy, even if it is not required by state law.
If you need a reliable title insurance company to facilitate your next transaction or protect your ownership rights, World Wide Land Transfer has 20 years of experience in the title insurance industry. Our title examiners will always go the extra mile to find title defects and resolve them so you can have peace of mind. Visit our contact page to find a World Wide Land Transfer office near you and get in touch with us to find out more about the cost of title insurance and the important protections it offers.
Learn more about the Enhanced Policy NY address and more with World Wide Land Transfer today.
World Wide Land Transfer is a service-oriented PA title company with offices in Philadelphia, New York, Florida, Texas, and Washington, D.C. With a record of going above and beyond, we are trusted to close everything from complex commercial transactions to residential refinance and purchase transactions.
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