QUIET TITLE ACTIONS IN CALIFORNIA – A BASIC OVERVIEW
The following is general legal information and is not to be construed as legal advice or a substitute for legal advice. The information below many not be complete, accurate, or up-to-date as the law can, and does frequently change. For specific questions about your quiet title case, contact a real estate or foreclosure defense attorney to review the facts of your case.
CALIFORNIA QUIET TITLE LAW – A GENERAL OVERVIEW
The statutory provisions for Quiet Title in California can be found in the California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 760.10-760.060. A Quiet Title action is basically a legal action that seeks to “quiet title” to the property where adverse claims are made against the property. For example, where a lender wrongfully forecloses on a property and claims the property as their own, but the homeowner challenges this.
Here is the California Quiet Title Statutory Law (there are also cases interpreting these quiet title provisions). Bolded and italics material are provided by me:
760.010. As used in this chapter:
(a) “Claim” includes a legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in property or cloud upon title.
(b) “Property” includes real property, and to the extent
applicable, personal property.
760.020. (a) An action may be brought under this chapter to establish title against adverse claims to real or personal property or any interest therein.
(b) An action may be brought under this chapter by parties to an agreement entered into pursuant to Section 6307 or 6357 of the Public Resources Code to confirm the validity of the agreement.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the right of members of the public to bring or participate in actions challenging the validity of agreements entered into pursuant to Section 6307 or 6357 of the Public Resources Code.
760.030. (a) The remedy provided in this chapter is cumulative and not exclusive of any other remedy, form or right of action, or proceeding provided by law for establishing or quieting title to property.
(b) In an action or proceeding in which establishing or quieting title to property is in issue the court in its discretion may, upon motion of any party, require that the issue be resolved pursuant to the provisions of this chapter to the extent practicable.
760.040. (a) The superior court has jurisdiction of actions under this chapter.
(b) The court has complete jurisdiction over the parties to the action and the property described in the complaint and is deemed to have obtained possession and control of the property for the purposes of the action with complete jurisdiction to render the judgment provided for in this chapter.
(c) Nothing in this chapter limits any authority the court may have to grant such equitable relief as may be proper under the circumstances of the case.
760.050. Subject to the power of the court to transfer actions, the proper county for the trial of an action under this chapter is:
(a) Where the subject of the action is real property or real and personal property, the county in which the real property, or some part thereof, is located.
(b) Where the subject of the action is personal property, the county in which the personal property is principally located at the commencement of the action or in which the defendants, or any of them, reside at the commencement of the action.
760.060. The statutes and rules governing practice in civil actions generally apply to actions under this chapter except where they are inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter.
CALIFORNIA QUIET TITLE LAW SUMMARY
So, in short, the main purpose of a quiet title action is to establish title against adverse claims to real property or personal property. As set forth above, the remedy of quiet title can be combined with other causes of action or other remedies. And, in any action or proceeding in which establishing or quieting title to property is in issue, the court may, in its discretion and on the motion of any party, require that the issue be resolved pursuant to the California Code Of Civil Procedure provisions relating to quiet title actions.
In regards to proper jurisdiction for a California quiet title lawsuit, the quiet title lawsuit must be brought in the superior court of the county where the real property is located. Once the Quiet Title Action is before the court, the court has complete power to determine title issues.
NOTE: SECTION 761.020-761.040 OF THE CALIFORNIA CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE SETS FORTH SPECIFIC PLEADING REQUIREMENTS AND LIS PENDES RULES WHEN FILING A QUIET TITLE LAWSUIT. THE RULES CAN BE FOUND HERE:
761.010. (a) An action under this chapter is commenced by filing a complaint with the court.
(b) Immediately upon commencement of the action, the plaintiff shall file a notice of the pendency (THIS IS THE “LIS PENDENS” WE HAVE TALKED ABOUT THIS IN OTHER BLOG ARTICLES) of the action in the office of the county recorder of each county in which any real property described in the complaint is located.
LIS PENDENS NOTE (NOW CALLED THE NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION): This lis pendens puts other parties on notice of your claim to real property and usually stops anyone from buying or selling your real property while the lawsuit is pending. The lis pendens can later be removed, or dissolved by Court order. Please note, there are very specific requirements for filing a lis pendens that you will need to be familiar with (google “vondran lis pendens” for more information).
761.020. The complaint shall be verified and shall include all of the following:
(a) A description of the property that is the subject of the action. In the case of tangible personal property, the description shall include its usual location. In the case of real property, the description shall include both its legal description and its street address or common designation, if any.
(b) The title of the plaintiff as to which a determination under this chapter is sought and the basis of the title. If the title is based upon adverse possession, the complaint shall allege the specific facts constituting the adverse possession.
(c) The adverse claims to the title of the plaintiff against which a determination is sought.
(d) The date as of which the determination is sought. If the determination is sought as of a date other than the date the complaint is filed, the complaint shall include a statement of the reasons why a determination as of that date is sought.
(e) A prayer for the determination of the title of the plaintiff against the adverse claims.
REQUIREMENTS OF THE DEFENDANTS ANSWER TO A CALIFORNIA QUIET TITLE LAWSUIT:
761.030. (a) The answer shall be verified and shall set forth:
(1) Any claim the defendant has.
(2) Any facts tending to controvert such material allegations of the complaint as the defendant does not wish to be taken as true.
(3) A statement of any new matter constituting a defense.
(b) If the defendant disclaims in the answer any claim, or suffers judgment to be taken without answer, the plaintiff shall not recover costs.
761.040. (a) The defendant may by cross-complaint seek affirmative relief in the action.
(b) If the defendant seeks a determination of title as of a date other than the date specified in the complaint, the cross-complaint shall include the date and a statement of the reasons why a determination as of that date is sought.
PARTIES IN A CALIFORNIA QUIET TITLE ACTION (PARTY ISSUES).
California Code of Civil Procedure Section 762.010-762.090 states that the when filing the Quiet Title Lawsuit, the Plaintiff must name as defendants all persons known or unknown claiming an interest in the property and other rules regarding proper parties in a quiet title action are addressed in these sections.
Here are those Sections:
762.010. The plaintiff shall name as defendants in the action the persons having adverse claims to the title of the plaintiff against which a determination is sought.
762.020. (a) If the name of a person required to be named as a defendant is not known to the plaintiff, the plaintiff shall so state in the complaint and shall name as parties all persons unknown in the manner provided in Section 762.060.
(b) If the claim or the share or quantity of the claim of a person required to be named as a defendant is unknown, uncertain, or contingent, the plaintiff shall so state in the complaint. If the lack of knowledge, uncertainty, or contingency is caused by a transfer to an unborn or un-ascertained person or class member, or by a transfer in the form of a contingent remainder, vested remainder subject to defeasance, executory interest, or similar disposition, the plaintiff shall also state in the complaint, so far as is known to the plaintiff, the name, age, and legal disability (if any) of the person in being who would be entitled to the claim had the contingency upon which the claim depends occurred prior to the commencement of the action.
762.030. (a) If a person required to be named as a defendant is dead and the plaintiff knows of a personal representative, the plaintiff shall join the personal representative as a defendant.
(b) If a person required to be named as a defendant is dead, or is believed by the plaintiff to be dead, and the plaintiff knows of no personal representative:
(1) The plaintiff shall state these facts in an affidavit filed with the complaint.
(2) Where it is stated in the affidavit that such person is dead, the plaintiff may join as defendants “the testate and intestate
successors of ____ (naming the deceased person), deceased, and all persons claiming by, through, or under such decedent,” naming them in that manner.
(3) Where it is stated in the affidavit that such person is believed to be dead, the plaintiff may join the person as a defendant, and may also join “the testate and intestate successors of ____ (naming the person) believed to be deceased, and all persons claiming by, through, or under such person,” naming them in that manner.
762.040. The court upon its own motion may, and upon motion of any party shall, make such orders as appear appropriate:
(a) For joinder of such additional parties as are necessary or proper.
(b) Requiring the plaintiff to procure a title report and designate a place where it shall be kept for inspection, use, and copying by the parties.
762.050. Any person who has a claim to the property described in the complaint may appear in the proceeding. Whether or not the person is named as a defendant in the complaint, the person shall appear as a defendant.
762.060. (a) In addition to the persons required to be named as defendants in the action, the plaintiff may name as defendants “all persons unknown, claiming any legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in the property described in the complaint adverse to plaintiff’s title, or any cloud upon plaintiff’s title thereto,” naming them in that manner.
(b) In an action under this section, the plaintiff shall name as defendants the persons having adverse claims that are of record or known to the plaintiff or reasonably apparent from an inspection of the property.
(c) If the plaintiff admits the validity of any adverse claim, the complaint shall so state.
762.070. A person named and served as an unknown defendant has the same rights as are provided by law in cases of all other defendants named and served, and the action shall proceed against unknown defendants in the same manner as against other defendants named and served, and with the same effect.
762.080. The court upon its own motion may, and upon motion of any party shall, make such orders for appointment of guardians ad litem as appear necessary to protect the interest of any party.
762.090. (a) The state may be joined as a party to an action under this chapter.
(b) This section does not constitute a change in, but is
declaratory of, existing law.
WHO BEARS THE BURDEN OF PROOF IN A CALIFORNIA QUIET TITLE ACTION? THE ANSWER WILL USUALLY DEPEND ON WHETHER DEFENDANT HOLDS LEGAL TITLE OR WHETHER TITLE IS DISPUTED.
In a California Quiet Title lawsuit (WHERE LEGAL TITLE VESTS IN DEFENDANTS), the Plaintiff must bear the burden of proof (this is the case in most civil lawsuits). The normal burden of proof in a civil lawsuit is “preponderance of the evidence.” However, in a Quiet Title action, the standard of proof is higher and the Plaintiff must establish its right to title by “CLEAR AND CONVINCING” proof. See California Evidence Code Section 662 which discusses the burden of proof in a Quiet Title case:
662. The owner of the legal title to property is presumed to be the owner of the full beneficial title. This presumption may be rebutted only by clear and convincing proof.
IF TITLE TO REAL PROPERTY IS “DISPUTED” (AS OPPOSED TO HAVING LEGAL TITLE HELD BY A DEFENDANT) THEN THE TYPICAL “PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE” STANDARD WILL APPLY.
A JUDGEMENT IN A QUIET TITLE ACTION IS NORMALLY CONCLUSIVE ON ALL PARTIES KNOWN OR UNKNOWN WHO WERE PARTIES TO THE ACTION.
California Code of Civil Procedure Section 764.030 States:
764.030. The judgment in the action is binding and conclusive on all of the following persons, regardless of any legal disability:
(a) All persons known and unknown who were parties to the action and who have any claim to the property, whether present or future, vested or contingent, legal or equitable, several or undivided. Except as provided in Section 764.045, all persons who were not parties to the action and who have any claim to the property which was not of record at the time the lis pendens was filed or, if none was filed, at the time the judgment was recorded.
HOWEVER, A QUIET TITLE ACTION WILL NOT NORMALLY AFFECT TITLE TO PARTIES WHO WERE NOT A PARTY TO THE ACTION IF THEIR CLAIM WAS KNOWN, OR REASONABLY SHOULD HAVE BEEN KNOWN.
California Code of Civil Procedure Section 764.045 states:
764.045. Except to the extent provided in Section 1908, the judgment does not affect a claim in the property or part thereof of any person who was not a party to the action if any of the following conditions is satisfied:
(a) The claim was of record at the time the lis pendens was filed or, if none was filed, at the time the judgment was recorded.
(b) The claim was actually known to the plaintiff or would have been reasonably apparent from an inspection of the property at the time the lis pendens was filed or, if none was filed, at the time the judgment was entered. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to impair the rights of a bona fide purchaser or encumbrancer for value dealing with the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s successors in interest.
THERE ARE NO DEFAULT JUDGMENTS – EVIDENCE IS REQUIRED IN A QUIET TITLE LAWSUIT:
California Code of Civil Procedure Section 764.010 States:
764.010. The court shall examine into and determine the plaintiff’s title against the claims of all the defendants. The court shall not enter judgment by default but shall in all cases require evidence of plaintiff’s title and hear such evidence as may be offered respecting the claims of any of the defendants, other than claims the validity of which is admitted by the plaintiff in the complaint. The court shall render judgment in accordance with the evidence and the law.
Quiet Title Case: Mangindin v. Washington Mutual Bank, 637 F. Supp.2d 700, (N.D. Cal.) 2009.
QUIET TITLE IN THE FORECLOSURE CONTEXT: TENDER ISSUES
Under California law, a plaintiff seeking to quiet title in the face of a foreclosure must allege tender or an offer of tender of the amount borrowed. See Arnolds Management Corp v. Eischen, 158 Cal.App.3d 575, 578, 205 Cal.Rptr. 15 (1984). This may make Quiet Title a more difficult proposition in a foreclosure case.
QUICK SUMMARY OF CALIFORNIA QUIET TITLE LAW
(1) THE COMPLAINT AND ANSWER TO A QUIET TITLE ACTION MUST BE VERIFIED (ESSENTIALLY MEANING MADE UNDER OATH) AND NAME ALL KNOWN OR UNKNOWN PARTIES CLAIMING AN INTEREST IN THE PROPERTY.
(2) THE QUIET TITLE COMPLAINT MUST DESCRIBE THE PROPERTY WITH A LEGAL DESCRIPTION AND COMMON ADDRESS DESCRIPTION.
(3) PLAINTIFF IN A CALIFORNIA QUIET TITLE ACTION MUST SET FORTH WHAT THE ADVERSE CLAIMS (SETTING FORTH SPECIFIC FACTS) ARE AND WHAT TYPE OF DETERMINATION IS SOUGHT.
(4) QUIET TITLE ACTION MUST SET FORTH THE DATE THE DETERMINATION IS SOUGHT AND A PRAYER FOR RELIEF TO DETERMINE PLAINTIFF’S TITLE AGAINST THE ADVERSE CLAIMS.
(5) A QUIET TITLE LAWSUIT MUST BE BROUGHT IN THE PROPER COUNTY.
(6) ANY PERSON WHO CLAIMS AN ADVERSE INTEREST IN THE PROPERTY MAY JOIN IN THE LAWSUIT EVEN IF THEY WERE NOT NAMED AS A A DEFENDANT.
(7) A QUIET TITLE LAWSUIT REQUIRES PROPER USE OF THE LIS PENDENS PROCEDURE (NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF ACTION).
(8) IN A QUIET TITLE ACTION, THE OWNER OF LEGAL TITLE (CHECK THE TITLE REPORT) IS PRESUMED TO BE THE OWNER, AND THIS CAN ONLY BE REBUTTED BY A SHOWING OF CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY.
(9) GENERALLY SPEAKING, THERE ARE NO JURY TRIALS IN A QUIET TITLE ACTION AS THESE ACTIONS ARE “EQUITABLE” IN NATURE (NOT SEEKING MONEY DAMAGES) SO THE COURT WILL DECIDE PLAINTIFF’S CLAIM AND EQUITABLE DEFENSES MAY BE ASSERTED BY OPPOSING PARTIES. THE EXCEPTION WOULD BE IF PLAINTIFF IS OUT OF POSSESSION OF THE PROPERTY AND IS FILING THE QUIET TITLE ACTION TO REGAIN POSSESSION – IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES THE CLAIM MAY BE DEEMED “LEGAL” IN NATURE AND A JURY TRIAL MAY BE REQUESTED. SEE MEDEIROS V. MEDEIROS, 177 CAL APP. 2d 69, (1960). THE PRUDENT PRACTICE IS TO ALWAYS REQUEST A JURY TRIAL WHEN FILING A PLEADING IF THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT. RAISE IT OR WAIVE IT IS THE GENERAL RULE.
(10) GENERALLY SPEAKING, A JUDGMENT IN A QUIET TITLE LAWSUIT IS CONCLUSIVE AND BINDING ON ALL PARTIES TO THE LITIGATION, BUT MAY NOT BE BINDING ON PARTIES NOT INVOLVED IN THE QUIET TITLE LAWSUIT BUT WHOS CLAIMS WERE KNOWN OR REASONABLY APPARENT. THERE ARE NO DEFAULT JUDGMENTS – CLEAR EVIDENCE IS REQUIRED.
(11) IN A QUIET TITLE ACTION IN THE FORECLOSURE OF A RESIDENCE, THE COURT MAY REQUIRE THE PLAINTIFF TO “DO EQUITY” OR TENDER AMOUNTS OWED OR IN ARREARS OR PAY THE ENTIRE BALANCE. A PARTY CANNOT USUALLY “GET EQUITY” IF THEY DON’T “DO EQUITY”.