Tag: quiet title

Quiet Title: Cancelling an Expired Security Deed

Expiration of Security Deeds in Georgia

We have previously discussed that security deeds (i.e., a mortgage) can automatically expire in Georgia. If a security deed expires, the lender cannot foreclose, and the security deed no longer acts as a lien against the property, and the security deed can be canceled. Generally, under OCGA § 44-14-80, a security deed expires (1) seven years after the maturity date of the security deed, or (2) if there is a statement in the security deed that says the maturity date is perpetual or infinite, 20 years from the date of the conveyance.

Recent Quiet Title Action

The above statute was tested in a recent quiet title action. See Freeport Title & Guaranty, Inc. v. Braswell, A23A0442 (2023). In Freeport, a property owner, A, conveyed real estate to B in 2004. The owner financed the sale, meaning that B borrowed money from A to purchase the property and gave a security deed to A.

B defaulted on the loan, but A did not foreclose on the security deed until 2020. A claimed that the security deed was valid because the security deed has “perpetual/infinite” language and, therefore, the above 20-year rule applied. Conversely, B argued that the security deed (and the 2020 foreclosure) were invalid because the seven-year rule applied.

The Court of Appeals ruled for A, finding that the security deed contained sufficient language to activate the 20-year rule. The Court rejected B’s argument that the language in the security deed was insufficient to show intent for a perpetual duration.

Read the Security Deed

The lesson here is that you must closely read the security deed to determine the expiration date of a security deed. Please call us at 404-382-9994 if you have questions regarding whether a security deed on your property is enforceable and whether you are entitled to file a quiet title to remove the security deed.

Quiet Title Actions In Georgia

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.

Tax Deed Services For Owners of Tax Deeds

If you own a tax deed, we offer two services related to tax deeds: (1) barring the right of redemption and (2) quiet title.

(1) Barring right to redeem/Notice of Foreclosure of Right to Redeem. In Georgia, you are entitled to bar/foreclose the right to redeem any time after one year has passed from the tax sale. Barment notices need to be sent to the owner of the property at the time of the tax sale and to any other party that holds an interest in the property.  

We are normally willing to charge a fixed fee (depending on the circumstances of the tax deed) plus expenses. Expenses include title search (about $300), publication (about $150), sheriff’s service ($50/service), and certified mail ($6.80/envelope).

The average cost to foreclose/bar the right to redeem, including expenses, is approximately $1,500.

(2) Quiet Title Against All the World. This is done after the barment is complete in order to obtain marketable title. A quiet title involves filing a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the county where the property is located. On these, we charge attorney’s fees on an hourly basis. Normally, the attorney’s fees are about $2,500, but like any lawsuit, we can’t quote an exact amount because the time required varies from case to case. In a quiet title, the court will appoint a special master: a special master is a local attorney who reviews the case and gives a recommendation to the court regarding title. The special master will cost an additional 2,500 (this amount is approximate). Court costs are an additional $500 (filing fee is approximately $250 and service on each defendant is $50).

The total cost of a quiet title is about $5,000.