Let’s face it, no one involved in a real estate or business dispute really wants to settle the matter in court. For large and small companies alike, litigation can be extremely time consuming and costly. Just the prospect of litigation is enough to terrify many small business owners. Even so, more than 22,600 complaints and petitions (including some pertaining to real property matters and business disputes) were filed in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, which encompasses Broward County, in FY 2016-2017. While that may seem like a huge number of lawsuits in a single county, less than 1 percent of those cases were actually litigated all the way to a trial and jury verdict. In other words, most lawsuits in Florida are resolved prior to or without the need for a trial.
One common type of real estate-related lawsuit typically filed in Florida Courts is known as a Quiet Title action. In this sort of case, the person or business that initiates the lawsuit does so to establish clear & valid ownership of real property. Specifically, the plaintiff asks the judge to eliminate any encumbrances or “clouds” associated with the title.
Quiet Title actions are used in Florida to remedy a number of issues related to property ownership. These issues can range from liens & judgments recorded against a property, to disputes over ownership itself or the “chain of title.” For example, quiet title actions are often filed when an individual purchases property from the estate of a deceased owner, however it is not mandatory to do so in Florida. In other situations, the filing of a Quiet Title action is actually mandatory in order to establish clear title to a property. For example, in Florida, a Quiet Title action must be filed to establish “marketable title” following a tax deed purchase at auction.
In our experience here at Eskander Loshak LLP, these cases are generally uncontested and can be finalized in as few as 90 days. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for certain complications. This is because Florida law stipulates that to proceed, you must meet certain pleading requirements, as well as notify “all interested parties” about the lawsuit by serving them with the complaint. Needless to say, these things can be very difficult and confusing without a knowledgeable attorney to handle the process for you.
If a quiet title action becomes contested (i.e. one of the Defendants asserts valid defenses to the case), the parties may need to engage in discovery and even trial. Ultimately, the Court will decide whether to quiet title in the name of the plaintiff or not. If the Court enters judgment in favor of the plaintiff, it effectively ends or “cuts off” the rights of any other party contesting the title. A favorable finding for the plaintiff also means that he or she gets clear, marketable and insurable title. Without this, the property you own may be difficult or even impossible to sell, since no title insurance company will agree to insure title to the property. Once marketable title is established through a quiet title action, you can go ahead and sell the property like you would any other on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service).
If you’re interested in acquiring property, or you have acquired property, in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, or anywhere in South Florida, and you want to learn more about filing a Quiet Title Action, turn to the real estate lawyers you can trust. Contact Eskander Loshak LLP today.