Quiet Title and Adverse Possession
The Florida real estate market is currently thriving, but it is also rife with complications related to title. Concepts such as adverse possession may call property claims into question, even when such cases initially seem straightforward. Depending on the situation, a quiet title action may be necessary for securing a clean title.
What Is a Quiet Title Action?
To hold title in Florida means to maintain some sort of legal interest in a given piece of property. The process of taking title can take many forms, including sole ownership, shared ownership, and securing property in trust. Regardless of how title is obtained, however, it is critical that it is clean and clear — free of liens and levies, along with other circumstances that could bring ownership into question.
In some cases, the process of obtaining clean title is best undertaken via a civil procedure known as a quiet title action. Typically brought about by the property owner, this action may involve requests to cease any rights held by those who maintain an interest in the real estate in question. These actions commonly occur during disputes with mortgage lenders or following the death of the title owner. They may also occur if the property has been unoccupied for a significant period of time.
If successful, a quiet title action may lead to a judgment declaring the removal of all adverse legal interests. This decision is approved and signed by a Florida judge. At this point, the title is deemed “quieted.” That being said, select legal claims may remain under specific circumstances, such as the presence of a federal tax lien.
What Is Adverse Possession?
Quiet title proceedings may initially seem simple, but adverse possession can quickly add complications to seemingly straightforward cases. At its most basic level, adverse possession means gaining claim to property without actually purchasing it.
In Florida, it is occasionally possible for neighbors or even trespassers to eventually gain legal title to a particular home or piece of land, even if a property owner is believed to already hold claim to the real estate in question. The trespasser holds the burden of proof in such cases, but those who can meet local requirements may be able to claim adverse possession.
For adverse possession attempts to prove successful, the trespasser must be physically present on the property and exert control over it. The possession of the property must also be exclusive — the trespasser cannot share it with anybody else. This possession must occur on a continuous basis for at least seven years. In order for the possession to be adverse, the trespasser must pay all outstanding taxes on the property. Additional restrictions may apply, with public land most notably immune.
Adverse possession laws can vary significantly from one state to the next. While the intent of the trespasser plays a role in some regions, it is irrelevant for adverse possession claims in Florida.
The Role of Quiet Title in Florida Adverse Possession Cases
Because long-term trespassers hold the potential to gain title to land, it is imperative that legitimate property owners take swift action to ensure that the title to their property remains clean and clear. Often, this means bringing an action to quiet title. This process should be undertaken alongside a skilled Florida real estate attorney.
The right lawyer can seamlessly navigate this complicated process to ensure that property owners understand their rights — and that they are able to maintain title to real estate they already own. In such situations, there is no substitute for proactive legal representation. Contact the Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm in Jacksonville today at (904) 733-9080, or contact us online.