Last Update: 11/7/21
As the Florida real estate market moves along, title issues continue to cause problems for Florida home owners, those wanting to sell Florida property, as well as those who want to buy a Florida home or condo. Why? For one thing, the ForeclosureFraud mess from years ago disrespected and ignored longstanding Florida law designed to protect the chain of title to real estate – leaving quiet title actions the only way to clean up the mess.
The integrity of the system has been harmed. Everyone involved in Florida real estate should proceed with care in dealing with real estate title transactions (sales, purchases, leases, insurance, etc.).
Here are ten things that everyone needs to know about chain of title to Florida real estate and the process of quieting title:
1. What is “title”? When someone owns “title” to land in Florida, it means that they have some form of legal interest in that property. In Florida, the Florida Legislature and the Florida Courts are very, very careful to protect the recording of land ownership and the process for how real estate is transferred from one owner to another. This is the title process. For example, here is a law that was passed long ago – in 1828 – that is still effective today:
689.01 How real estate conveyed.
No estate or interest of freehold, or for a term of more than 1 year, or any uncertain interest of, in or out of any messuages, lands, tenements or hereditaments shall be created, made, granted, transferred or released in any other manner than by instrument in writing, signed in the presence of two subscribing witnesses by the party creating, making, granting, conveying, transferring or releasing such estate, interest, or term of more than 1 year, or by the party’s lawfully authorized agent, unless by will and testament, or other testamentary appointment, duly made according to law; and no estate or interest, either of freehold, or of term of more than 1 year, or any uncertain interest of, in, to, or out of any messuages, lands, tenements or hereditaments, shall be assigned or surrendered unless it be by instrument signed in the presence of two subscribing witnesses by the party so assigning or surrendering, or by the party’s lawfully authorized agent, or by the act and operation of law. No seal shall be necessary to give validity to any instrument executed in conformity with this section. Corporations may execute any and all conveyances in accordance with the provisions of this section or ss. 692.01 and 692.02.
History.–s. 1, Nov. 15, 1828; RS 1950; GS 2448; RGS 3787; CGL 5660; s. 4, ch. 20954, 1941; s. 751, ch. 97-102; s. 2, ch. 2008-35.
2. Different Ways to Take Title. In Florida, you can own real estate in several different ways. Under Florida law, you can “take title” to real estate through any of the following ways and which option you choose may depend upon several factors: estate planning may be a consideration, for example, and tax issues can be another.
Sole Ownership – here you take title to the real estate in your name alone.
In Trust – in Florida, land title can be held in the name of a trustee of a specific trust, for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries, including a Living Trust and a Florida Land Trust.
Shared Ownership — here, you take title to the property with one or more other people as joint owners. Two examples: land title held as “tenants in common” or “joint tenants with the right of survivorship.”
3. Who Can Hold Legal Title to Florida Real Estate? Floridians, of course: residents of the state own most of Florida real estate. Americans living in other states can also hold title to Florida real estate as well as citizens of other countries. In fact, buying pretty Florida vacation spots is very popular right now with people all over the world (Canada, Great Britian, Brazil, etc.).
However, you don’t have to be a real, living person to hold legal title to land here in the State of Florida. Corporations and partnerships can hold legal title to Florida real estate. So can the local, state, and federal governments.
4. What is the process of clearing title to Florida real estate? Making sure that you have clean and clear title to real estate can be accomplished by a “quiet title” action, which is a lawsuit that is filed in a Florida court. Obtaining a title insurance policy protects you against claims by others who are asserting a right to your property, but a title insurance policy does not clean up legal title. Title insurance just means the title to the real estate is insurable. It doesn’t mean the tile is free of any defects.
5. What is a quiet title action? A quiet title action is a lawsuit filed in a Florida circuit court. It is a civil action. The homeowner or property owner is often the party bringing the action, and they are asking the judge to issue a judgment cutting off the rights of those who may have an interest in the property or who have clouded title (i.e. heirs of a deceased prior owner, construction lien holders, leaseholders, etc.).
Read: Quitclaim Deed Lawsuits
6. How long do quiet title actions take? How long the lawsuit will take, from start to finish, depends upon the circumstances of your individual case. Just like with any litigation, there are many variables that determine how long a case will take to conclude, including the number of parties involved in the lawsuit, locating the parties, and addressing any possible defenses.
7. What Does a Quiet Title Action Accomplish? A quiet title lawsuit results in a judgment, signed by a Florida judge, that is filed in the real estate records to demonstrate that a judge has ruled and declared that all adverse legal interests to a specific piece of property have been removed. The chain of title is cleared of the encumbrance or lien in the real estate records. The title has been “quieted.”
8. What Is Left After a Quiet Title Action? A quiet title action will not erase legal claims to the real estate that are shown to be legitimate under the law. For example, if there is a Federal Tax Lien on the property, that may survive the quiet title action.
9. What is a Chain of Title? The chain of title to land is the historical record of who has owned that parcel, from the current day back in time as far as the records can go. Real estate records are kept at the county clerk’s office. There are counties in Florida where title searches can go back into handwritten land records on parchment (these have usually been scanned, microfiched, etc.).
10. What is a “Cloud on Title”? When the chain of title for a particular piece of real estate is not clear because there is either a gap in the records, or there is an adverse interest making a claim of ownership or asserting a lien against all or part of the property (e.g., joint tenancy, mortgages with no satisfaction of mortgage recorded, claims by probate heirs and/or creditors, mineral rights, air rights, water rights, etc.), then the chain is said to have a cloud on it. Most clouds on title must be removed in order for you to have “marketable” or “insurable” title (the terms used in most Florida Real Estate Contracts).
Quiet title actions can be complicated because of the procedures that must be followed, including locating and serving all of the proper parties that need to be brought into the lawsuit. Also, the issues caused by the problems of the past like deed forgeries, robosigning, Foreclosure Fraud, and the reselling of mortgages as mortgage securities, all add to the complexity of filing a quiet title lawsuit.
In the past, quiet title actions were usually brought because a deed had a typo in the legal description of the property, including a wrong block number or condo unit number in the deed. Those cases were not complicated, a judgment was entered to fix the typo. Problem solved.
Now, quiet title actions can be more adversarial because of the mess that has been created by so many institutions disrespecting real estate law.
If you believe a quiet title lawsuit is needed to clear title to Florida real estate, a good piece of advice is to speak with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to learn the steps involved in this type of lawsuit. Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
Quiet Title Actions in Florida: What Damages Can You Get? In a Quiet Title Lawsuit, What Do You Get When You Win?
Florida “Wild Deeds” – Just One More Florida Land Title Issue For Quiet Title Actions: What is a “Wild Deed”?
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I have been served with papers regarding a quiet title by property owner across the lake saying that they have deeds dating by to 1906 showing that they own the property in front of my lots facing the Lake. The State of Florida states that they do not own the lake. There was a platted blvd. around the lake at one, but was closed by my uncle many years ago. I purchased the land from my uncle in 1996 thinking that I owned all the land down to the lake. I just recently fenced up the property and the owners across the lake have brought the action against me saying that they own the land. Please help me. What am I to do. Thanks
My Grandfather has some land in Ocala that was given to him by his parents. If he passes what will happen to the land? Does it remain in the family or is it taken over by the bank?
We have a home and three acres with a clear deed. We spent 30 years to pay it off. It is on a dead-end street. A corporation bought a plot of land across the street from us and has summoned us and all the other residents of the street to court asking for “quiet deed” to the 15 foot easement on the front of our property and everyone else’s property (this includes both sides of street) We are told that we need an attorney, but my husband and I are unable to afford an attorney. We cannot get anyone to tell us why they need to have a quiet deed. All of us bought our land, built our homes and we continue to pay taxes on the property and we did not have to have any such thing when we moved here. Our road (north 8 Mile Creek Rd) is not maintained by the county. All residents here own the 15 foot easement and have paperwork to prove it. What will happen to our land in years to come if we allow them a quiet deed? This is all that I have left to give to my son when I am gone. I feel that there may be something bad about doing this but just can’t seem to understand. I have to send a response to their attorney within 20 days of receiving the summons. Is it possible for you tell me if I can just give them permission to use our road for entering and leaving and utilities but refuse them a quiet deed? Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.
Married,Divorced,re-engaged,and I made her 1/2 owner of my house ….; What are my chances in suing for a quiet title?
We were 4 weeks out from closing when I heard from my Chase Bank Mortgage Rep ….
Hello. I have 6 years and 4 months I not paid my mortgage, for 4 years ago we be in court for two time, the first time was canceled and the second was canceled because the bank’s lawyers did not attend now the case is dismiss. I want to know if we can apply for Quiet Title Action tahnks.
I would like to chat with you in private. When would you ba able to do this?
Hi, I bought a property in Panama City beach…how can I clean the title ? is it possible to get rid of the mortgage? ….
Hello Larry, I am in the process of buying a house ….
Hello I purchased a home at Tax deed sale threw the clerk of courts almost a year ago, I am wanting to know how I can go about getting the title. As far as I know there are no liens on the property. I know I would have to file a quiet title how much would that cost me or what are my other options? Thank you
hi i bought a lot thru a taxe sale am trying to file a quiet action but the proprity had a code enforcement lien is this will made my action rejected?
Have a emergency, and looking for pro bono help….
If a company that filed a mortgage with the court sold the Note but never filed the sale or assignment of the transaction with the court at the time of the sale and the original has gone bankrupt can that original mortgage be removed?
Is a quiet title still required for property that was purchased ….
It looks like me question may have been truncated. I’m not asking a personal question, so hopefully it can be answered through the blog. I was wondering if I’m interpreting Florida Statute 197.552 correctly. If you pay taxes on a property acquired through a tax deed sale for 4 years, then a quiet title is no longer necessary.