This is the next article in my series on how to be successful in an Oklahoma quiet title action.  My last article listed some issues essential to all quiet title action which we will be discussing in this series.  It also stated the importance of hiring a real estate attorney who can assess the facts, conduct a thorough title search, follow correct legal procedures, and build a strong case. The success of a quiet title action depends on the strength of the legal basis for your ownership claim.  This article will cover the basics of quiet title actions and the legal process involved.  If you are seeking a quiet title action in the Oklahoma City Area, it’s crucial to hire a real estate lawyer who can present a strong case to the judge and explain why you are the rightful owner.  If you require assistance, contact our Oklahoma Real Estate law firm to speak to an Oklahoma quiet title attorney.

Oklahoma quiet title action is simply a “lawsuit” for establishing real property ownership against all other claimants

Like any lawsuit, a quiet title action is a legal proceeding that must be filed by the plaintiff with a county court.  A person who wants to establish his rights to ownership of real property must file a lawsuit against one or more adverse claimants.  These claimants are the defendants in the case, and they can be known or unknown.  An Oklahoma quiet title action is governed by 12 O.S. § 1141 and is brought by a person who is in possession of the property by himself or through a tenant.

There are many situations that give rise to a quiet title action.  Some of them include adverse possession, boundary disputes, break in the chain of title, and cloud on the title.  Oklahoma recognizes a common law doctrine of adverse possession.  If your possession of real property is hostile, under a claim of right or color, actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and continuous for a period of 15 years, you may have a claim of ownership.  However, this isn’t automatic, you must file a quiet title action asking the court to judicially declare you as the owner.

Similarly, if there are conflicting property descriptions between adjoining lots, you may have to file a quiet title suit to resolve it.  In this situation, your task is to convince the judge that the description in your deed is the correct one, and therefore your claim is superior to the adjoining land.  A chain of title shows a continuous conveyance of land from the very first owner to the current one.  So if there is a break in this chain, a title insurance company may refuse to insure the title.  Quiet title action can help you explain the reasons for the break, and ask the court to “fix” the error causing such issues.  Similarly, if someone has a claim or a potential claim to your land, including an easement, it creates a cloud on the title – thereby reducing the value and marketability of the title.  A successful suit to quiet title against these parties will clear the cloud and help establish sole ownership of the land.

To file a quiet title suit, you need to file a petition with the court clerk in the county where the property is located.  Then, the petition and summons must be correctly served to the named defendants.  If the defendant is deceased or cannot be located, you may have to conduct notice by publication, one day a week for three consecutive weeks.  This is done by publishing the notice in a local newspaper that is allowed by law to publish legal notices.  This is where you let the world know that a lawsuit has been filed against the named defendants.  Lastly, you must appear at the hearing and convince the judge that your claim to the land is superior to that of the defendants.  If the judge agrees, he or she will sign a journal entry naming you the sole owner and thereby extinguishing any future adverse claims.

Oklahoma judges must be convinced that the legal basis for your ownership claim is stronger than that of all other adverse claimants

When you file a quiet title action you are asking the judge to declare you as the owner of the real property.  Merely making such a request does not mean you will prevail in the action.  You must clearly explain the legal basis on which your ownership claim is rooted in.  Failure to establish a strong legal argument describing why you are the true owner and not the defendant weakens the quiet title suit.   Adverse possession, recording error, and fraudulent conveyance are some of the legal explanations as to why you are the true owner.

For instance, your mother transferred her house to you by executing a deed.  You are the record title holder of this house and you’ve lived in it for over 15 years.  However, your deceased stepfather together with your mother owned the house as tenants in common.  And unbeknown to you, he died without a will and his estate was never probated.  This means that when he passed away, his one-half interest in the house possibly passed to his heirs.  When you try to sell this property, the title company will refuse to move forward since the deceased stepfather’s heirs may claim their interest in the future.  You can resolve this issue by filing a quiet title action, which is based on the doctrine of adverse possession.  If you convince the court that you have been in continued possession and that you satisfy all elements of adverse possession, you will be declared the true and only owner.  How the court rules in any situation depends on how strong your legal argument is.  This is why it’s important to consult with an experienced real estate attorney who can make a strong case and explain to the judge why your claim is far superior to the adverse claimants.

Looking for a reliable real estate attorney or quiet title attorney in the OKC area?  Look no further! Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced OKC real estate lawyer.  Our practice handles a variety of real estate issues, and we understand the significance of this moment in your life.  Rest assured that your case will receive the attention it deserved.  Schedule an appointment by contacting us online or by phone today.  We proudly serve Oklahoma County, Logan County, Cleveland County, Grady County, and the surrounding areas.