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What happens if your title search reveals a problem?

Whether you decide to buy commercial or residential property, as part of the buying process, you will need to obtain a title search. This search looks back at all of the records relating to the property to determine whether any impediments to your future ownership exist.

If the search does turn up something that could keep you from having a clear title to the property, you will need to deal with it before you finalize your purchase. If not, someone could come back at a later time and make a claim to your property depending on the circumstances.

What kinds of errors could keep you from legal ownership?

Any number of issues could put a "cloud" on the title, which could jeopardize your ownership. The most common include the following: 

  • Mortgage and other liens
  • Inadequate quitclaim deeds
  • Unknown heirs

Even clerical, recording or typographical errors could cause you to have ownership issues with the property in the future. For instance, if the legal description of the property is inaccurate, you may think you own certain property, but you don't.

How do you fix title issues?

In most cases, fixing a title issue will not be as simple as making a few phone calls and filing some paperwork. More than likely, you will need to go to court in order to "quiet" the title. A quiet title action only addresses specific issues with the title. If you discover multiple problems with the title, each will need to be addressed individually with the court.

A quiet title action provides you with the opportunity to ensure that you own the title free and clear. However, it also provides anyone who may have an interest in the property with an opportunity to go before the court to substantiate the claim as long as they respond to the action within the 20-day response time, which begins after that person receives notice of the action by service.

There is a risk in filing such an action, however. It is possible that a person who may have a claim to the property will want to fight to get it. If this happens, you could end up needing to litigate the matter, which can be costly and time consuming. If you believe that this would be your best course of action, you may want to discuss the matter with an attorney with experience in quiet title actions first.

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