Who owns what property is one the most complex issues in the law. It’s based on an ancient system of recording documents with the county and now includes a black box system set up by mortgage lenders.

Many people wonder why the state doesn’t just issue a certificate of title as they would for a car. The reason is that real property ownership is a whole lot more complex than car ownership. Real property is subject to liens, easements, covenants, mineral rights, etc. A car on the other hand has an owner, a lender, and maybe some other lienholder. Otherwise, it’s cut and dry.

This is why title insurance exists. Because real property issues are so complex and decided based on ancient documents, insurance is necessary in case someone missed something.

What is Quiet Title?

Basically, two or more people claim ownership to the same property. This can be a result of confusion, conflicting documents that have been recorded as a result of honest error, or straight out fraud.

When a dispute arises, any of the interested parties may file for quiet title asking the court to determine who truly owns the property. The court has complete authority to decide the matter, and the court’s ruling is conclusive.

Filing a Quiet Title Action

The plaintiff files a quiet title action that includes the legal and street description of the property, the facts proving their case, and the adverse claims, among other things. All interested parties must be served with the complaint.

Quiet title is an action in equity. Simply put, this means the court is asked to take action, not award money. Equity cases are decided by the judge and not a jury.


Quiet title is determined by a preponderance of evidence. For instance, I had one case in which a house was sold by the owner after he had passed away, an impossibility. The person who was supposed to inherit the home hired me to resolve this case. It turned out that the son of the deceased owner had the same name as his father and was therefore able to sign over the deed and have it notarized with his own ID, even though he wasn’t the true owner.

The dispute was between my client, who was to inherit the home, and the person to whom the property was sold. In essence, the poor fellow who bought the property from the son was simply duped, an innocent bystander who didn’t know any better. We filed suit to determine the true ownership of the property. Death certificates were presented showing that the property was sold after the decedent’s death. After proving the decedent had title originally, the judge ruled in our favor, ordering the title restored to the deceased and thus pass to my client through inheritance.

Quiet title actions are often interesting cases like this one.

If you have questions about property ownership disputes, please call or e-mail me for a free consultation to discuss your situation. (213) 223-2350 or marcweitz@weitzlegal.com.

The above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please seek advice from counsel.