What is a Florida Quiet Title Action?
A quiet title action is a formal court procedure for determining whether any open claims to title to real property are valid. Anyone who buys a home or real property for a business wants to be sure they completely own the property – subject only to limited rights such as the right of utility companies to enter your property. Title to your property means you can use your property as you want and that that you will be able to sell it or transfer it.
Generally, real property in Florida can be titled in your name only (as sole owner) or jointly (as tenants by the entirety with a spouse, as joint tenants with right of survivorship, or as tenants in common). Real property can also be held by using a real estate trust. In a real estate trust, the trust owns the real estate. A trustee manages the real property – on behalf of named beneficiaries.
How does a Florida quiet title action (QTA) work?
The Florida, courts, pursuant to Chapter 65 of the Florida statutes, have jurisdiction to decide quiet title actions. The court that hears the QTA decides who the true owners are. Real property generally includes the land and any building on the land. In a QTA, the person claiming complete ownership (the plaintiff) files a QTA that requests that any clouds (claims) against the real property be terminated – so the plaintiff can use and sell the property without fear of any actions by the respondents.
- QTAs are often filed by sellers so that they can sell their property – free from any claims by creditors, mortgage companies, or lienholders. Other clouds include tax deeds, tax assessments, and lis pendens actions.
- QTAs are also filed if anyone claims title through adverse ownership, boundary disputes, or for other reasons. A respondent doesn’t have to formally claim possession of the property in order to file a QTA.
- Another reason for filing a QTA is that a title company can write title insurance for the property. Title insurance is used to pay any claims against the property – provided the title company covers those claims.
A QTA only clarifies who owns the property. There is no financial award with a QTA. Some claims, such as federal tax liens, can’t be terminated by a QTA.
What are the basic QTA requirements in Florida?
Our experienced Indian River County real estate lawyers understand the requirements for filing a QTA. Generally, the complaint must:
- Have a formal legal description of the property
- State that the property address
- Include the parcel number and the tax ID
- State that plaintiff is the owner of the property.
- Describe how the plaintiff became the owner of the property – such as by purchase from a prior owner.
- Identify the clouds against the title.
The claimant can be a person or a corporation.
Florida statute § 65.061(3) also requires that plaintiff’s claim to title be good for at least 7 years prior to the date the QTA is filed – unless a court orders otherwise. The claim by the plaintiff must be from an identifiable source such as a deed, adverse possession, or through the defendants. In some QTAs, where both plaintiffs and respondents claim ownership from a common grantor, title should be given to the party who can show superior title from that common grantor.
Other QTA considerations include:
- The QTA only applies to the defendants/respondents who are named in the complaint.
- The QTA is only valid against the claims of the named defendants.
- Superior liens should be satisfied in writing and recorded.
- As discussed, the QTA judgment document should be filed in the county recorder of deeds office.
- The judgment document should make clear that the open claims are removed or satisfied.
If there is a concern about the title to your property, our skilled real property lawyers work, often with professional real estate searchers, to determine the possible claims against the property.
Who has the right to file a quiet title action in Florida?
Any person or corporation that has a claim to the real property can file a QTA. The claim must show the claimant has title to the property – not the right to possess the real property. Others can join the QTA – such as joint owners or people who have an equitable interest in the real property. The mortgagee does not need to be a party to the QTA.
Respondents often include the heirs of a deceased prior owner, construction lien holders, and leaseholders. The state of Florida or a governmental unit can be named as a defendant such as when there is a tax lien.
Defendants have the right to contest the plaintiff’s claim and assert the validity and priority of their claim.
What are the costs for filing a QTA in Florida?
The main costs, along with the legal fees, are the cost to conduct a title search, the cost to file the complaint, the cost of notifications/publication, and additional costs if a guardian ad litem is required.
Generally, legal fees for a QTA are about $1,000 to $1,500.
Can you file a QTA if you have a tax deed?
Someone who holds a tax deed (by virtue of paying off the property owner’s real estate taxes and costs from a tax collector) can file a QTA to clear title whether or not the prior owner is in possession of the property. Tax deeds are generally considered valid against other claims – except if the prior owner can show he/she did pay the taxes before the issuance of the tax deed.
Speak with an experienced Indian River County real estate lawyer today
At Lulich & Attorneys, our Vero Beach and Sebastian real estate lawyers handle residential and commercial purchases and sales of real estate. We also represent buyers and sellers in quiet title actions. We advise buyers and sellers about all phases of a purchase/sale including the sales agreement, financing, inspection, title insurance, settlement, and all legal claims. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Indian River County real estate lawyer, call us at 772-589-5500 or fill out our contact form.