There has been a lot of talk in regard to Quiet Title actions, but less talk in regard to what a Quiet Title action is, what it is for, and how to obtain quiet title.
There are several things to be discussed here such as the different types of quiet title actions, their elements, and result.
First let’s discuss what type of action constitutes a quiet title action. The first thing to know is that the term “quiet title” is both specific and general. In the specific sense the term “Petition for Quiet Title” is an action that is filed into court and has the specific term “quiet title” in the title of the petition. In the general sense it is any action that is meant to remove a “cloud” from an existing recorded land title.
For clarification, “Cloud on Title” is defined as, “A defect or potential defect in the owner’s title to a piece of land arising from some claim or encumbrance such as a lien, an easement, or a court order.” Blacks Law Dictionary 2nd Pocket Edition (2001) Id. 105
Types of quiet title actions:
• Quiet Title Action – “A proceeding to establish a plaintiff’s title to land by compelling the adverse claimant to establish a claim or be forever estopped from asserting it.” Blacks Law Dictionary 2nd Pocket Edition (2001) Id. 12
• Slander of Title – “A false statement, made orally or in writing, that casts doubt on another person’s ownership of property.” Blacks Law Dictionary 2nd Pocket Edition (2001) Id. 651
• Trespass to Try Title – “1. At common law, an action for the recovery of property unlawfully withheld from an owner who has immediate right to possession. 2. A procedure under which a claim to title may be adjudicated.” Blacks Law Dictionary 2nd Pocket Edition (2001) Id.721
• Rescission – “A party’s unilateral unmaking of a contract for a legally sufficient reason, such as the other party’s material breach. 2. an agreement by contracting parties to discharge all remaining duties of performance and terminate the contract. Blacks Law Dictionary 2nd Pocket Edition (2001) Id. 606
• Reformation – “An equitable remedy by which a court will modify a written agreement to reflect the actual intent of the parties, usu. to correct fraud or mutual mistake, such as an incomplete property description in a deed.” Blacks Law Dictionary 2nd Pocket Edition (2001) Id. 592, 593
“The equitable cause of action to quiet title or remove a cloud should not be confused with other actions that may have the effect of clearing or establishing title, such as a suit in trespass to try title or an action to rescind or reform a deed or other contract. The goal of an action to quiet title is not to establish the superiority of the petitioner’s title or declare the invalidity or correct the irregularity of some instrument the petitioner was unlawfully induced to sign; rather, its purpose is to nullify the effect of the disputed claim or encumbrance (the “cloud”) that affects or impairs the title to the property when no other means exist to establish that the claim is invalid or unenforceable [see Sadler v. Duvall, 815 S.W.2d 285, 293 n.2 (Tex. App. – Texarkana 1991, den.); Vanguard Equities, Inc. v. Sellers, 587 S.W.2d 521, 525 (Civ. App. – Corpus Christ! 1979, no writ)].” (Source) 17-257 Dorsaneo, Texas Litigation Guide – Suit to Quiet Title § 257.01[a]
If successful, attorney’s fees can be recovered in a “quiet title” action depending on the circumstances of the case and individual state statutes however; in general a mere quiet title action is a petition for a declaratory judgment in where damages cannot be recovered or awarded.
“A plaintiff who establishes each element of the cause of action for slander of title may recover actual damages as compensation for the loss of the specific sale of the property [see § 257.11[d]]. The loss is equal to the amount the plaintiff would have realized from the sale less the amount for which the property could be sold at the time of trial with the cloud removed [Duncan Land & Exploration, Inc. v. Littlepage, 984 S.W.2d 318, 333 (Tex. App. – Fort Worth 1998, pet. denied); Williams v. Jennings, 755 S,W. 2d 874, 885 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 1988, den.) – evidence showed no possibility of sale at time of trial even if adverse claim was removed].” (Source) 17-257 Dorsaneo, Texas Litigation Guide – Suit to Quiet Title § 257.13(1)
Generally actions to quiet title, trespass to try title, or reformation are not barred by a limitation of time as where suits in regard to slander of title, or rescission have applicable statutes of limitations respectively.
The elements of a quiet title action are quite simple and straight forward:
Quiet title, Trespass to Try Title:
• an interest in specific property
• that title to the property is affected by a claim by the defendant, and
• that the claim, although facially valid, is invalid or unenforceable
Slander of Title:
• Publication or “Utterance”
• Loss of Specific Sale
• Loss of Specific Sale
The Dorsaneo, Texas Litigation Guide – Suit to Quiet Title is an excellent source of information for understanding quiet title or related actions, and preparing suitable petitions. I highly recommended anyone considering filing an action to remove a cloud from their title to study this litigation guide or better yet see if there is a similar litigation guide specific to their state as some state’s statutes do often differ in some regard.
Which ever the case, if you intend to file a quiet title action or any other action to show a court that your mortgage or a lien on your property is invalid and unenforceable you will need “Competent Evidence” to file into court.