How to Overcome a Clouded Title

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Title, in real estate terms, is the chain of ownership history of a piece of real estate. Clouded title means the ownership history is unclear or has a significant problem. For example, an unfiled or "missing" deed to a prior owner who later sold the property clouds the title, as he did not have the legal right to sell without a recorded deed in his name proving ownership. A property owner cannot get title insurance, required by most lenders for mortgages, without settling significant title issues. You can sometimes settle a clouded title by getting corrected or lost documents filed, but you may need to have the title cleared by a court.

List the problems with the home's title. Write down a possible solution for each. For example, if the issue involves an improperly executed deed from the prior owner, try contacting him. Ask if he will sign a correcting deed, as filing the corrected deed in the county land records should take care of the problem. Contact lenders for unrecorded old mortgage discharges. The lender may still have the discharge on record. Try to resolve all issues by filing correcting or missing documents, if possible.

Go to the official website of the county or municipality. View laws on quiet title actions, found under real estate laws. Print or write down the laws for reference.

Visit the local court with jurisdiction over the real estate's location. Ask for the forms for a quiet title action, a copy of the court rules and any available instructions.

Complete the forms. The plaintiff is the current owner, while the defendant is the party that is the cause of the clouded title. For example, for a missing mortgage discharge, the defendant is the last mortgage holder of record. State all facts on the petition, including what is clouding the title and why the court should clear the matter. For example, for a missing discharge for an old loan, you can state the loan is no longer legally enforceable because too much time has passed for legal collection under state laws. Cite any laws you refer to.

Gather evidence that supports your claim and relates to the case. For example, get a certified copy of an old mortgage without a discharge from the county clerk or recorder's office. Get the current deed to the property or a certified copy to prove the plaintiff's ownership.

File the forms in the local court. Follow all notice instructions from the court. You will have to serve notice of the action on the defendant by manner the court requires. You may need to file a lis pendens, or notice of the lawsuit, in the county land records. Ask the court about the notice and recording requirements and follow all directions.

Wait for notice of the court date. Bring any evidence or related documents with you. Be clear, concise and stick the the facts. Be prepared to answer questions.

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