Quiet Title Actions in Florida
An action to quiet title is a law suit to confirm the title of the plaintiff in a particular piece of real property. Anyone who might have an interest in the property should be joined as a party defendant in the suit. If it is possible that children might have some interest or if one of the interested defendants cannot be personally served, guardians ad litem should be appointed for such defendants. While there are many reasons for filing quiet title actions, some of the most common are: 1. Tax Titles. Title insurance underwriters in Florida will not insure titles obtained through sales of property for unpaid taxes until the tax deed has been of record for at least five years. Quiet title actions are often brought to shorten this time frame. If the defendants in such a quiet title action include the prior record title owner and all mortgagees claiming under the prior owner or predecessors of the prior owner, the title to the property can be insured as soon as the quiet title judgment becomes final. 2. Adverse Possession and Prescriptive Easements. The time required in Florida to obtain title by adverse possession is seven years. See F.S. 95.16; F.S. 95.18; Meyer v. Law, 287 So. 2d 37, 39 (Fla. 1973); Mullins v. Colbert, 898 So. 2d 1149, 1151 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005); Porter v. Lorene Investment Company, 297 So. 2d 622, 624 (Fla. 1st DCA 1974). The time required to obtain a prescriptive easement is twenty years. See Lake County v. Gatch, 168 So. 2d 81 (Fla. 2d DCA 1964), cert. denied, 174 So. 2d 30 (Fla. 1965); Dan v. BSJ Realty, LLC, 953 So. 2d 640, 642 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007); One Harbor Financial Ltd. v. Hynes Prop., 884 So. 2d 1039, 1046 (Fla. 5th DCA 2004); Hancock v. Tipton, 732 So. 2d 369, 373 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999); Supal v. Miller, 455 So. 2d 593 (Fla. 5th DCA 1984); Orange Blossom Hills, Inc. v. Kearsley, 299 So. 2d 75 (Fla. 1st DCA 1974). Neither of these timeframes is self-effectuating. An action to quiet title must be brought to establish either adverse possession or to establish a prescriptive easement. 3. Probate Substitute. Occasionally, a parcel of real property will have passed through several generations of ancestors who have died in multiple states. In such a situation, to probate all of the estates to establish a descendant's title to property would take several years and would be cost prohibitive. In such a situation, a quiet title action in the county in which the property is located may be an alternative. Such quiet title actions, however, do not bar the claims of creditors and should not be initiated until the time for filing claims against all of the estates of the various decedants has expired. 4. Additional Count in Other Real Property Litigation. Adding a count to quiet title is frequently a good idea in other suits relating to real estate. For example, in a suit to vacate an easement, the plaintiff may also want to add a count to quiet title so that the nature and extent of the plaintiff's title is clear at the end of the litigation. 5. Counterclaim in Real Estate Litigation. Frequently, defendants in quiet title actions will bring a counterclaim to quiet title in themselves. Such a counterclaim is a good idea so that, if the defendant wins the lawsuit, the defendant's title will be established without the necessity of additional litigation.