Quiet Title Actions arise when ownership of a piece of property is in question. It usually occurs from a mistake in a survey description. Prior to the Twentieth Century, Deeds were typically handwritten and the property was described in what was called a “chain and link” description. The property would be described as such: “. . . along the property line of Joe Smith to the large rock, through the middle of the stream that borders the property owned by Bob Jones to the large oak tree at the property owned by John Doe and along the split rail fence to Main Street . . .”.
The advent of modern surveying equipment in the early to mid-Twentieth Century allowed surveyors to more precisely measure the three-dimension position of points and the distances of angles between them. As a result, in almost every property sale, the survey is accurate and the property properly described.
However, issues can arise when there is an “overlap” or a “gore”. An overlap is when each adjourning owner believes that their property ends in a particular place but the descriptions on their deeds show that the property ends elsewhere, typically, on the neighboring property. A gore arises when there is a strip of property which is not described and therefore is never adequately conveyed leaving that strip of property in “no man’s land”. When these circumstances exist, an action can be brought in the Superior Court to ”Quiet Title”. The property owner asks that the Court issue an order determining the proper boundaries of the property. Often these proceedings are of an administrative nature, but sometimes they are contested. Without the Quiet Title Action and the judgment of the Court, the property will forever remain in limbo.
An important protection against title issues is title insurance, which protects buyers from survey errors and preexisting judgments, liens and encumbrances on your property. Title insurance companies have a financial incentive to make sure the description of a property is accurate and all preexisting liens or judgments are addressed prior to purchase.
If you have a title issue affecting your property, we can help. Contact one of our real estate attorneys today for more information.