Title disputes are a common issue that can cost a great deal of time and money. They can also disrupt the landowner’s ability to use the land as he or she wishes.
An action to quiet title is a legal action intended to settle ownership of a piece of property, thereby “quieting” any disputes surrounding the title. A quiet title action is useful in many situations.
Most suits arise because multiple parties claim ownership of the property. One common example is adverse possession.
If a person possesses a piece of land that he or she does not own, the person possessing the property may be able to file an action to quiet title. Pennsylvania law requires that the person must adversely possess the land for a set number of years before filing a suit to quiet title. The standard period is 21 years; however, for certain residential properties, it is only 10 years.
Claims by Multiple Owners
Sometimes errors occur in the title record, or in a deed, which leads multiple people to believe that they own the same piece of land. This can occur if there is a missing deed in a chain of title, or if a property description contains an error and more, or less, land is actually conveyed by the deed. If two or more owners have a dispute as to who owns a piece of land, one of the owners can file an action to quiet title to resolve the dispute.
Oil and gas rights
Natural resources are often at the center of land disputes. Generally, mineral, oil and gas rights are separate from surface rights. Owning a title to a piece of land does not guarantee the owner rights to natural resources below the surface. A quiet title action can help determine oil or gas rights when ownership is in dispute.
Determining land ownership is not always straightforward. Assistance from a lawyer who specializes in land disputes can help resolve these issues.