As a probate and real estate attorney in Summerville, SC, I’m often asked to explain the meaning of a “Quiet Title” or “Quiet Title Action”.  A quiet title is a term often used when there is a dispute or defect in the title or ownership of a piece of property. A dispute may arise when the ownership of a piece of property is unclear and there are multiple parties that have a claim or interest in the title.  These claims, sometimes called “clouds”, must be removed from the title in order for the property to be deemed a “marketable title”, or a title that is free from outside claims and defects.

Why Would I Need to File a Quiet Title Action in South Carolina?

Clearly, if you believe that you own a piece of property, you would want to eliminate any claims that someone else might have to your land. Therefore, you would file a Quiet Title Action and have a hearing before the Master of Equity to determine ownership of the property. When you file a Quiet Title Action, you are essentially telling anyone with a claim to the property that you intend to eliminate their claims and that if they want to defend those claims, they need to attend the hearing and present their argument. This is where the oft mistaken phrase “quiet title” comes from; quiet isn’t an adjective describing the title, but a verb. You are quieting or quelling anyone else’s claims on the asset itself.

What Does Quieting a Title Accomplish?

The defendants in a quiet title case can either be known or unknown. Known parties are individuals or entities that have a claim, interest, or possession of the property. If the claimant or claimants are unknown, however, simply publishing notice of the lawsuit in a local newspaper is sufficient to move forward with the action.

Ideally, the action is uncontested and you are able to obtain the quitclaim deed, which states that the claim of the other party is surrendered. Should this be the case, you would then be able to record your ownership in the real county records and solidify your claim to the property. If the action is contested, however, then a trial would be held to determine which party has the strongest ownership claim.  The defendant must prove that their claim is stronger than the plaintiff’s. At the trial’s conclusion, the Master of Equity would issue an order extinguishing the claims of the defeated party. The order is then entered into the county’s real property records. To finalize the action, the “chain of title”, or history of ownership of the title, is updated to include the prevailing party’s claim to the property.

If you’re on either side of a property dispute in Summerville, SC, Watts Law Firm is here to help. We understand that title law can be extremely confusing and trying to “go it alone” will likely be overwhelming. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation – we’ll do everything we can to alleviate your stress and get you the best results possible.