If you buy real estate in Florida at a tax deed sale, or if you accept a quitclaim deed from the seller, your title will not be insurable or marketable secure until you file and win a quiet title action in state court. In a quiet title action, you identify any party with a claim over your property (such as mortgage holders or competing claimants to title), sue them, and ask the state to declare you the sole owner of the property free from all encumbrances.
Take possession of the property. You may take possession by moving onto the property, building a fence, posting "No Trespassing" signs, or by performing any other action that puts the world on notice that you are claiming ownership of the property. You are not in possession of the property if you have leased it to someone else. The laws of some states require you to be in legal possession of the property in order to file a quiet title lawsuit.
Read More: What is a Quiet Title?
Perform a title search on the property at the local land recorder's office. Title searches require knowledge and skill, and are normally performed by real estate attorneys or title insurance companies. A title search will reveal the presence of any mortgages or other liens against the property, as well as any potential competing claimants for your title.
Gather evidence to prove that your claim of title to the property is superior to all other claims, including asserted liens and mortgages. If there are any legitimate claims, they will have to be satisfied before you can proceed with a quiet title lawsuit.
File a quiet title action using a civil complaint form, with the state district court that has jurisdiction over the location of the property (even if you live out of state or in another district). Some states have special forms for quiet title actions.
Place a conspicuous notice of the quiet title lawsuit on the property itself, and place a classified ad in the local newspaper to notify readers of the existence of the lawsuit. The purpose of these measures is to communicate with unknown claimants. The exact requirements and procedures vary according to state law.
Wait for a statutorily defined waiting period to expire (this period varies according to state law). If this period expires and no party has responded to your complaint, you will win a default judgment. If any party responds, prepare for a protracted legal battle with uncertain results.
If you fail to name all possible defendants in your complaint, your property will remain uninsurable even if you win the lawsuit.
It is best not to proceed with a quiet title lawsuit if you find other parties with legitimate claims against the property, because you will probably lose the lawsuit. Instead, negotiate a settlement with these parties and then file a quiet title lawsuit.
- If you fail to name all possible defendants in your complaint, your property will remain uninsurable even if you win the lawsuit.
David Carnes has been a full-time writer since 1998 and has published two full-length novels. He spends much of his time in various Asian countries and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law.