It happens sometimes that people think they own their home when they actually don’t (or don’t clearly own it). The problem in such a case is that usually what is known as cloudy title – a situation in which a title search reveals that the actual property owner is unclear. In the case of cloudy title, a property can’t be sold and the title can’t be transferred to a buyer, so it is a concern for both buyers and sellers. Let’s see, then, how to handle cloudy title in Los Angeles.
What Is Cloudy Title in Los Angeles and What Causes It?
A cloud on title (which results in cloudy title) is any claim, encumbrance, lien, or document that could impair or invalidate a title to real property. This makes the title doubtful and sale of the property difficult or impossible until the problem is resolved. Cloudy title in Los Angeles is usually discovered during the title search, which is required by lenders. Lenders don’t want to put up money till they know the title to the property is clear.
Cloudy title is usually the result of unresolved property issues. Such issues could include foreclosure proceedings initiated in response to a borrower being in default. In this case, the delinquent borrower can’t sell the property because the title isn’t clear. Even if that borrower could sell the property, it would be unattractive to buyers while there is a cloud on the title.
Besides liens from lenders, another common cause of cloudy title is a mechanics lien. These liens are placed on a property when some kind of construction work was contracted and then performed, but payment (or full payment) wasn’t made. A mechanic’s lien will stay in place till all the labor and material costs have been paid. The lien is tied to the property, not the owner, which means that a buyer would assume responsibility for it.
Probate and related inheritance and estate issues can also result in cloudy title in Los Angeles. Ownership of a probate property may be uncertain when a decedent failed to clearly define who would control the estate or own the property.
And sometimes, the cloudy title is a result of fraud. It does happen occasionally that false deeds are recorded as actually legitimate, and this later creates confusion about property ownership.
Possible Steps to Handle Cloudy Title in Los Angeles
The first thing to do is to review the report of cloudy title. A cloud on title can be anything from additional owners to doubtful ownership. After reviewing the report, contact a title officer and/or an attorney. Then you have the following options, depending on the particular cloud on title, to handle cloudy title in Los Angeles:
EXECUTE QUITCLAIM DEED
Contact any private parties listed on the title who don’t actually have rights to the property and request that they execute a quitclaim deed. This will remove them from the chain of title and clear the cloud.
EXECUTE DEED OF RECONVEYANCE
Sometimes even after a mortgage has been paid off, the lender still has a claim to the property because it was just never removed. In a case like this, you can contact the lender and have them execute a deed of reconveyance. This deed lifts the lender’s right to the property and clears any cloud on title from the old, paid-off loan.
Meet Obligations to Remove Liens
Sellers who discover a cloud on title resulting from liens for unpaid debts can pay off the debts and request that the liens be removed. If, however, you pay the debt and the lien holder refuses to remove the lien, you may have to go to court to have the lien released.
FILE QUIET TITLE ACTION
If everything else fails, you may have to file a quiet title action. This is a specialized kind of lawsuit in which you prove your right to the property’s title and so have clouds removed by the court. If you can adequately prove your right to the title, this tactic should work, and the court will remove clouds.
Handling cloudy title in Los Angeles can be a complicated and legally complex undertaking. Without any experience, you should hire an attorney and go through a title company. A qualified real estate agent also has experience in this area and can provide some guidance. You don’t have to go it alone.