Whenever a Tennessee resident purchases a tract of real property, that person wants to be certain that, after the transaction closes, he or she will be the legal owner of the land in question. Occasionally, an error slips into the documents that are used to prove ownership, and the purchaser does not acquire legal title. If that happens, the purchaser has one remedy: a quiet title action against all persons who may have an interest in the property.
Beginning the action
A quiet title action is begun very much like any other lawsuit. The person seeking to establish legal ownership, that is, seeking to quiet title, must serve a complaint on all persons known to claim or assert an interest in the land. The interest can be an unfiled mortgage, an erroneous deed, a lien arising out of a debt, or any other circumstance that creates doubt as to the enforceability of the legal title of the grantee in the most recent deed. The person who starts the lawsuit, i.e., the plaintiff, must serve a copy of the complaint on all persons who claim or may have an interest in the property. If a person holding a valid interest is not served, that person’s interest in the property will survive the quiet title action. The quiet title action must be filed in the court in the county where the property is located.
What happens next?
The plaintiff must submit evidence proving that he holds legal title to the land and that the interests of all other claimants are not legally enforceable. For example, a party may hold what he believes to be an enforceable mortgage on the property. If the plaintiff is able to show that the mortgage was either invalid or that it has been paid off, the mortgage interest will be extinguished by the court’s order.
Close of the trial
At the close of the trial, the court will issue an order determining which interests are valid and which are not. If the plaintiff is able to prove that his interest is superior to all other interests in the property, the court will issue an order declaring the plaintiff to hold good and marketable title to the land. All other claims will be deemed to have been rendered unenforceable. A quiet title action can be complex, and anyone who is considering starting such an action will want to consult an experienced real estate attorney for advice on how to proceed and the likelihood of prevailing.