In the world of real estate, there are dozens of terms that homeowners, landowners, potential property owners, agents, brokers, and a slew of other people need to know. If a term is used wrongly, it could mean the difference between a landlord holding interest in a property (leased fee) and accidentally handing interest over to their tenants (leasehold), or the difference between a person buying an actual piece of property (condominium) versus investing in a share of a corporation that owns a building (cooperative). There are dozens of terms that sound the same in real estate but that mean two entirely different things. Two of those terms are “Quit Claim Deed” and “Quiet Title Action.” At Cloud Willis & Ellis, we often get inquiries about one or the other, and more often than not, what a client seeks is actually not what they ask for. To clear up all confusion, this post will briefly explain the differences between the two, how to tell which applies to your situation, and why you do not want to confuse the two.
The Difference Between a Quit Claim Deed and a Quiet Title Action
A quit claim deed is a tool that allows a property owner to transfer interest in real property to someone else. You can use this tool to transfer interest in your own property to a family member, loved one, or friend, or they can use the tool to transfer interest into your name. The process is fairly easy, quick, and does not require a lot of legalities. There is generally no opposition that comes with a quit claim deed.
A quiet title action is a tool used to remove a person’s interest from a property. Generally speaking, no one wants to be forcibly removed from their property, making a quiet title action a bit more complicated. A formal lawsuit is involved with this process, thereby requiring more resources—time, money, and knowledge. You can learn more about a quiet title action and how the process works in Section 24-9-8 in the Alabama Housing Code.
How to Know Which Applies to Your Situation
Every situation is different so it is always best to consult with a Mobile real estate lawyer regarding your needs. That said, there is one fairly straight forward way to determine which tool applies to your situation: answer the question, Is the transfer of property contested? If the answer is no, a quit claim deed may suffice; if the answer is yes, you may have a legal battle on your hands, in which case you would need to file a quiet title action.
One example that illustrates the differences between the two is as follows:
Jason and Amber get a divorce. Amber “won” their beach front property in the divorce, but the judge’s decision does not mean that Jason’s interest in the property has been removed. In order to remove his ownership interest, one of two things must happen:
- Jason must sign over his ownership interest in a quit claim deed; or
- Jason refuses, or disappears, or otherwise makes it difficult for Amber to obtain full ownership interest in the property. Amber must then hire a real estate lawyer, who would likely file a quiet title action to help his client remove Jason’s ownership interest in the property. The process will require adhering to many different statutes and notices and can take up to five months or even longer, depending on the circumstances of the case.
The end result is the same—one person ends up with ownership interest in a property and one without—however, the two processes are very different. Depending on who you are in the situation—“Jason” or “Amber”—it could be detrimental to your interests to confuse the two.
Ready to Transfer Ownership?
Whether you want to transfer ownership interest to someone else, allow someone to transfer ownership interest to you, or would like to remove someone’s ownership interest from one of your properties, it would be wise to retain the help of a knowledgeable real estate attorney. At Cloud Willis & Ellis, our team is ready to help you find the best option given your unique circumstances. Contact our team today for immediate legal assistance.