What should I do if a title search reveals a ‘dirty’ title?

The residential real estate market is hot right now in Nashville and across the U.S. with potential homeowners bidding for choice properties, often paying well above the asking price. With so much at stake, those looking to buy or sell a home may want to get to closing as quick as possible. There are some steps in the homebuying process that should not be skipped, however, including a title search. Some title searches turn up competing claims on the title that must be cleared up through a type of real estate litigation known as a quiet title action.

What is a title search?

Title — that is, ownership — of a piece of property must be clean before the property can be sold. This means that no other person or entity has a lien on or claim to the property. To determine if any competing claims exist, the buyer’s attorney, lender or a title company will perform a title search. Whomever is performing the title search will comb through public records and legal documents to determine who has an ownership claim to the property, if there are tax liens or other liens on the property or if there are any other judgments that would prevent the property from being sold. If the title comes back “dirty” the issue must be cleared up through a quiet title action.

What is a quiet title action?

A quiet title action is essentially a lawsuit that is filed to clarify ownership of a piece of property. The seller will challenge whomever else has an ownership interest in the property to determine who the legal owner of the property is. A quiet title action gets rid of any ambiguities in the title, thereby making it “clean.” If successful in the quiet title action, the plaintiff has full rights to use the property or to sell it if they wish. Moreover, the plaintiff cannot be subject to any further ownership disputes that may arise in the future.

Learn more about buying or selling a home

Title searches are important, as a person needs a clean title to sell a home. Quiet title actions are sometimes necessary, but they can lengthen the real estate sales process. It is important that both buyers and sellers understand their rights so they can make choices that are in their best interests.


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