Why would I need a quiet title lawsuit?
As I wrote in my last post, the main reason clients come to me for a quiet title action is because there is a tax sale in their property's history. But what are some other reasons that a property owner might need a quiet title action in South Carolina?
A quiet title lawsuit is a way to settle certain specific, known problems with ownership rights and/or title defects in a particular piece of land, including:
When a person passes away and the transfer of their ownership interest in a piece of land is not documented by a deed of distribution. This often happens when a person dies without a will and their estate is never processed through probate court.
Ex: Grandma Cornelia owned Greenacre. She died without a will and Grandpa Henry passed away before her, so ownership of Greenacre automatically passed to her two children, Lily and Janet. Grandma Cornelia didn't own much, so Lily and Janet never went through the probate process. Lily and Janet rent the property out for 10 years, then decide that they want to sell it. The problem is that the current deed still has Grandma Cornelia's name on it, but Grandma Cornelia is not around anymore to sign it over to the buyer. Lily and Janet cannot probate her estate anymore because it has been more than ten years since Grandma Cornelia's death. To solve the ownership issue so that they can sell Greenacre, they can either bring a quiet title action in equity court or a petition for determination of heirs in the probate court.
Problems with a previous deed, including incorrect or missing legal descriptions, improper signatures, typos (also known as "scrivener's errors"), or if a previous deed was not recorded at all or was recorded out of order.
To clarify a landowner's rights to use an access road or easement over another's land.
In these types of cases, if the relevant landowners are on good terms, it may be easier to ask them to sign an easement agreement rather than go through a quiet title action.
To clarify boundaries where lot lines are unclear or disputed.
To settle old mortgages or liens where no satisfaction has been filed. Normally you would request a satisfaction, lost mortgage satisfaction, or release of lien from the lien holder first. If the lien holder will not give you a satisfaction or release, then you could file a quiet title action and ask the court to declare that the liens are no longer a problem. Reasons for this may include that the statute of limitations has passed, the person who mortgaged the property believes that they paid it off but no satisfaction was ever field, or a municipal tax lien may have been wiped out when the property was sold by the county for unpaid county taxes.
The purpose of a quiet title action is to fix a problem with title to land so that the owner can convey marketable title to a buyer. Why does that matter? Most title insurance companies will not issue title insurance for the issues listed above, and most banks will not issue loans on properties that can't get title insurance. For sellers, this typically means that if your property has a title issue and you have not cured it with a quiet title action, then your pool of potential purchasers is narrowed to cash buyers only.
If you are interested in selling or purchasing land in South Carolina that has one of the title problems listed above, feel free to call McConoughey Law Firm for a consultation at (864) 256-0855.