Whether you purchase or inherit a property, it could come with issues on its title that impact your ownership rights. Someone else’s name or a lien are common defects. Typically, such issues get addressed when a title insurance company produces a policy on the property.
However, if the title company can’t clear the issue themselves or if you discover the issue because you inherited the property or have owned it for years and now want to sell, you may have to take steps to address the problem yourself.
Thankfully, the California legal system does permit quiet title actions, which are effectively civil court proceedings intended to address the blemishes on the title to your property. Quiet title action can clarify ownership, remove inaccurate liens and set you up to either refinance or sell a property with a serious title issue.
How quiet title proceedings usually function
Once you identify a blemish on your property’s title and realize that you cannot address it yourself, you can file a request for a quiet title hearing in court. During the hearing, you will present documentation to the judge much like you would in any other civil proceeding.
For example, if there is a mechanic’s lien from years ago that should no longer be on the property’s records because you paid it off, presenting the letter from the creditor saying you paid the debt in full or submitting proof of payment via bank records can be sufficient to clear that lien from the title.
Other times, you may need to show that someone whose name appears on title is dead or has already received compensation to give up their interest in the property. The nature of the blemish will inform the kind of evidence necessary for success in these hearings.
Real estate law is often too tricky to handle alone
There is actually an entire sub-industry called the title industry that operates in conjunction with the banking and real estate industries. Title actions are complex and can result in pitfalls even for experienced professionals.
Your best option when concerned about a title defect that you can’t clear without going to court will usually involve partnering with an attorney to help build your case and gather the necessary evidence.