Written by attorney Kevin James Griffith

Seeking Quiet Title in California

A major part of claims regarding mortgage and real estate claims in recent years has been causes of action for quiet title. This legal guide discusses some of the major issues that attorneys and litigants should be aware of when quiet title is an issue in California.

The first thing to understand is that the pleading rules for quiet title are slightly different. The most important difference between cases involving quiet title actions and other cases is that a complaint seeking quiet title must be verified (that is, the allegations are verified under penalty of perjury). California Code of Civil Procedure § 761.020 specifically states what must be pled for a quiet title claim. Because the complaint is verified, the answer must also be verified (attorneys take note: a verified answer can not contain a general denial, all allegations must be specifically admitted, denied, or denied for lack of information and belief). California Code of Civil Procedure § 761.030 specifically states what must be pled by a defendant in an answer.

A second, and also very important, issue is that even in the event of entry of default, before judgment can be entered, the Court must conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine if quiet title should be granted. Relatedly, a plaintiff is entitled to the recovery of fees and costs on a quiet title claim. However, if the defendant disclaims an interest, then the plaintiff is not entitled to fees or costs.

Finally, a plaintiff must allege and prove the particular facts that show an instrument is invalid or otherwise clouds their title.

Proving that an adverse interest is invalid is no small task. These are often fact intensive cases and can also involve arcane areas of the law. More so than most cases, discovery is critical for quiet title cases. Written discovery for plaintiffs should be focused on proving the invalidity of the defendant's interest.

Because of the difficult issues, proceeding in pro per, as either a plaintiff or a defendant, is not recommended.

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