What is a quiet title?
A quiet title is a real estate lawsuit filed by a property owner in Superior Court. Property owners file quiet title actions to either (1) remove “clouds” on their title (conventional) or (2) establish that they, and no one else, own the property in question (statutory).
What is a Cloud on Title?
A cloud on a title means a possible adverse interest in real estate. In most situations, property owners cannot refinance or sell a property with a clouded title.
When Should You File a Quiet Title?
Many times, when property owners attempt to refinance or sell their property, the process grinds to a halt when they find out that there is a cloud on their title. While a closing attorney can sometimes fix a cloud on the title with additional paperwork, some situations cannot be resolved without a quiet title.
A forged deed is an example of a cloud on a title. See, e.g., Vatacs Grp., Inc. v. U. S. Bank, N.A., 292 Ga. 483, 485 (2013) (forged deed). Open security deeds (mortgage loans that have not been marked as paid) also cloud a title and must be cleaned up before a refinance or sale is possible.
Other situations that require a quiet title are (1) heir property not formally transferred from the decedent to the heirs; and (2) boundary line, encroachment, easement, and trespass claims.
Tax Deeds and Tax Sales
Real Estate owners also file quiet titles “against all the world.” These quiet titles are all-encompassing and are required in certain situations, such as following a tax sale.
Filing a Quiet Title Action in Georgia
At Gomez & Golomb, we regularly file quiet title actions for real estate owners. Whether you’re trying to get a marketable title following a tax sale or trying to clear up a clouded title, the filing party must own/hold title, and there must be a cloud against the filing party’s title.
Conventional Quiet Titles: Getting Rid of a Specific Claim or Interest
An action for a conventional quiet title is an equity case and must be filed per the venue provisions of the Georgia Constitution. Thus, it must be filed in the county of residence of one of the named defendants. In a conventional quiet title action, the named defendants are served. Then discovery proceeds as in any civil case. And the case is ultimately presented to the judge for a final hearing. As in other equity cases, “there shall be no right to a jury trial.” OCGA § 23-3-43.
Statutory Quiet Titles: Against All the World
A statutory quiet title action is not only against the adverse claimants. But an action in rem against the land itself. OCGA § 23-3-62 provides that it is a proceeding in rem. It shall be filed in the superior court of the county where the land is located. In a quiet title against all the world, the petition must be submitted to a special master. The Special Master examines the title, determines the interested parties, ensures the interested parties are served, holds a hearing, and issues recommendations to the court. The appointment of a Special Master is required. OCGA § 23-6-63. Once appointed, the Special Master substantially controls the course of the case.
Initially, the Special Master determines who is entitled to notice, including adjacent landowners and all adverse claimants. Known claimants must be personally served, and all “unknown claimants” are served by publication. OCGA § 23-6-65. The Special Master exercises “complete jurisdiction” over the case to ascertain and determine the validity, nature, or extent of the petitioner’s title and all other interests in the land and to remove any particular cloud upon the title to the land. OCGA § 23-3-66. The Special Master then makes a report of their findings to the judge of the court. Id.
Unlike in a conventional quiet title case, a jury trial is available. Id. Upon receiving the Special Master’s report or the jury verdict, the court issues a decree to be recorded in the county real property records. This decree binds the land affected and is conclusive upon all claimants, known or unknown. OCGA § 23-3-67.
Need Advice Regarding a Quiet Title in Georgia
If you have any questions or wish to learn more about your rights and options, please call us at 404-392-9994.