Quiet Title Actions in Clatsop County and Tillamook County
For people or entities which claim an interest in real estate, quiet title actions can provide a mechanism for determining whose claims are valid and have priority. On the north coast, quiet title actions are lawsuits filed in state court and may be heard in either Clatsop County Circuit Court or Tillamook County Circuit Court, depending on the location of the real property in dispute.
Typically, quiet title actions come up in two contexts. First, there are two or more people and/or entities which disagree on the nature and/or scope of property rights. Second, there may be a cloud on title, and a buyer or title company may raise concerns about the status of property rights due to unique facts and circumstances; e.g., there may be so-called “exceptions” noted on the title report which a title officer may not be willing to remove without further research and documentation.
Quiet title actions are governed by ORS 105, and are a type of lawsuit heard in state courts. Quiet title actions are typically a good tool to have a judge officially determine the nature and scope of a party’s legal or equitable interests and rights in real property, especially when there are two or more parties who disagree. Additionally, quiet title actions can help clear up a cloud on title and other potential issues which may create ambiguity regarding property rights in real property.
In a quiet title action, the person or entity who files the lawsuit must be in actual possession of the real property at issue, or at least another person or entity must not be in actual possession, and the quiet title action is filed against any other person or entity who may claim an adverse interest or estate. A quiet title action is a means to seek “equitable relief,” which means that a judge, not a jury, will decide the case.
If a person or entity needs a judicial determination of competing property rights, but another person or entity is in actual possession of the real estate at issue, then a different type of lawsuit, an ejectment action, may be the proper type of lawsuit to file.
Sometimes there is confusion over whether a party may simply use the residential forcible entry and detainer (“FED”) process to deal with a situation where there is a property dispute. However, quiet title and ejectment lawsuits would not be appropriate in a traditional residential landlord-tenant situation. On the other hand, if there is an occupant who claims some kind of legal or equitable interest in a property, an ejectment action may well be the proper mechanism to deal with the situation.
A party preparing to file a quiet title action should make every reasonable effort to identify the necessary parties to the lawsuit; otherwise, a failure to join necessary parties may result in delay or even dismissal of a quiet title action.
A party bringing a quiet title action may assert legal or equitable interests in a variety of situations, including: a will; a mortgage; a delinquent tax sale; an easement; a prescriptive easement; an equitable servitude; a deed; a plat dedication; and a prescriptive easement. Parties may assert their legal or equitable interests in real estate through a variety of arguments, including adverse possession.
Careful research may be necessary to ensure that the party bringing a quiet title lawsuit has sufficient evidence to prove their property interest, and that all necessary parties have been joined to the lawsuit. Additionally, a party being sued may also need to perform careful research to ensure that can not only prove out their property interest, but can also defeat any opposing parties.
Generally, a quiet title action may take at least six months to a year, depending on the nature of the legal issues, the parties involved, and the court docket.
Sometimes, merely filing a quiet title action can be a productive negotiation tactic, to bring all parties to the table and pursue a reasonable resolution of any potential competing property interests and clear up title to property.
There are situations where a party may have unwritten legal rights which are not formally documented. A quiet title action is a means to take such unwritten legal rights and formally establish them through a judicial decision. Claims involving unwritten legal rights in property include adverse possession and prescriptive easements.
Where unwritten rights may be involved, or there is a long history which impacts a property, it may be critical to identify, organize, and be prepared to present admissible evidence in court, including witnesses, legal documents, journals, pictures, and anything else which can help a judge connect the dots and understand why basis for a party’s claims. Whether historical conversations are admissible may depend on evidentiary rules and whether witnesses are available to verify what happened.
Before filing a quiet title action, a party should work with an attorney to develop their case and decide how and when to file their case.
A quiet title action can involve a variety of other claims, depending on the property involved, the rights asserted, and the parties. Under Oregon Rule of Civil Procedure 24 A and Oregon Rule of Civil Procedure 28 A it is generally fairly easy to join related claims and parties, to ensure a thorough resolution of all matters which can be resolved at that time of filing.
A party or entity filing a quiet title action may be able to obtain a variety of equitable relief from the court, including: a mandatory injunction requiring or prohibiting proscribed conduct; damages for trespass; reasonable financial compensation for expenses or other financial obligations incurred. However, attorney fees are generally not recoverable in a quiet title action, though costs and disbursements may be recovered by a prevailing party.
If you would like help with real estate issues which have come up with your desired north coast property, please contact Coast Land Law for a consultation about how you can best protect your property rights. We can explore whether a quiet title action, ejectment action, or other civil lawsuits can help resolve any real estate issues related to your property.