In Pennsylvania, selling, purchasing or refinancing real estate may require you to have a clear title. If there are claims on the title, it could result in delays, and although title insurance may provide you with protection, some title insurance companies will not issue a policy if there is a defect on the title. In these cases, you may need to look into a quiet title action.
Claims against the title
If you purchased the property at a tax deed sale, you may have to deal with real estate litigation and disputes. Normally, the tax deed sale overrides other liens, including the mortgage and the previous owner’s claim to the property. However, before the interest in the property from other parties is dissolved, the claim remains on the title until title certification is completed or you file a quiet title action. A claim against the title may also exist if a previous owner believes that the property was conveyed fraudulently. This may occur after a judicial or tax sale.
Other title issues
There are other issues that may cause a claim to be filed against a title. These include:
- Deed errors
- Easement, such as a shared driveway or entrance
- Estate sales and probate problems
- Incorrect survey or lack of property survey leading to boundary disagreements
- Satisfied mortgage but no public record of the satisfaction
Quiet title action
A quiet title action is a useful tool against these claims. The process allows you to file a lawsuit against anyone who has a claim on the title. In Pennsylvania, a quiet title action is not decided by a jury; instead, a judge determines the outcome. If the judge sides with you, all adverse claims are released, and the defendant is barred from attempting to file a claim again in the future. In some cases, the claims may be old, and the defendant fails to appear. This results in a default judgment with the same outcome. An attorney may be a helpful resource in determining if a quiet title action would assist you in clearing a title.
Real estate litigation and disputes are not uncommon, especially if there are allegation of fraud, the property was purchased from an estate, or you obtained it through a tax deed sale. It is important to discuss your options with an attorney, who may advise you on what steps to take to create a clear title for any property you purchase, sell or refinance.