Owners, purchasers and sellers of real property in Pennsylvania have a strong interest in making sure that the title to the property is free of any defects or competing claims. A cloud on the title can hold up a sale or refinancing. Title insurance provides some protection, but the insurer may refuse to issue a title insurance policy on the property if there is a title defect or unresolved claim.
Actions to quiet title are a very useful tool for resolving competing claims to real estate and establishing clear and insurable title in the state of Pennsylvania. In a quiet title action, a party with an interest in the property files a lawsuit against any other parties who have an apparent claim to an interest in the property.
Quiet title actions are particularly useful when a property owner claims that another party has fraudulently conveyed the property, which might occur, for example, by coercion or a forged deed. These actions also are sometimes used by owners who have lost their property at a judicial sale or a tax sale in order to allege that the sale was improper or by purchasers of property at such sales to remove any claims by the former owner.
In Pennsylvania, actions to quiet title are heard by a judge, not a jury. If the plaintiff prevails, title is conclusively established against the adverse claims. In many cases, especially those involving very old claims or defects, the adverse parties fail to appear, which results in a default victory for the plaintiff. Once judgment is entered for the plaintiff, the defendants are forever barred from asserting their claims.
Quiet title actions require a thorough understanding of real estate laws and careful attention to court procedure. If you are interested in establishing clear title to a piece of real estate in the Philadelphia area, an experienced real estate law firm can help.
Source: Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, “Quiet Title Packet,” accessed Dec. 12, 2014