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Colorado Quiet Title Action

What is a Colorado quiet title action? In short, a quiet title suit is a legal tool used to fix problems with the title to real estate. Under Rule 105 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, an interested party can file a lawsuit to obtain a “complete adjudication of rights” with respect to “any real property.” In other words, a quiet title can fix title problems of all shapes and sizes. Usually, a quiet title action costs anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 without contested litigation. The quiet title process involves researching ownership, drafting pleadings, serving process, and requesting final judgment.

What is a Colorado quiet title action?

A quiet title action clarifies and confirms the ownership of real property by eliminating invalid claims of ownership and confirming the rightful owner. This is possible based on Colorado case law, statutes, and court rules. Under Colorado Court Rule 105, a quiet title action can be used to cure a variety of different title problems. Before resorting to a quiet title, a real estate attorney might first attempt to cure the title problem with a quitclaim deed, a disclaimer, an affidavit, or an opinion letter. However, when a title problem cannot be fixed with a simple document, it may be necessary to file a quiet title suit.

Interestingly, the term “quiet title” has nothing to do with an absence of noise. The term is based on the Latin phrase “quia timet”, meaning “because he fears.” Under old English common law, a property owner could file a lawsuit to clarify and confirm title to his property if he feared that certain recorded documents or certain people might threaten his ownership in the future. The basic purpose of a quiet title remains the same to this day.

Here are several situations where a quiet title might be used in Colorado:

  • The property was purchased from a county tax auction due to non-payment of taxes. In this situation, the property acquired under a tax deed may require a quiet title action under Colorado Statute Section 39-11-133.
  • An old lien or mortgage encumbers the property, and you cannot find the lien-holder to obtain a release of lien.
  • The previous owners of the property neglected to complete a probate at multiple generations, such that the property is still trapped in the name of deceased ancestors. This might be solved with either a probate or a quiet title action, depending on the circumstances.
  • Two people claim ownership of the same property through competing deeds or ownership instruments. A quiet title suit can be used to resolve the dispute by judicial decree.

These are only few examples of the endless situations where a quiet title suit can be used. As the “catchall” title solution under Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 105, a quiet title is a versatile and powerful legal tool.

Who can file a quiet title action?

Generally, anyone with possible ownership rights can file a quiet title action. More specifically, anyone with an “interest in the subject property” can file a quiet title. Used in a legal sense, the term “interest” does not mean that a person finds the property interesting. It means that a person has a legitimate stake in the ownership of the property. This normally refers to an actual or potential owner of the property.

What is the quiet title process in Colorado?

The quiet title process is partially explained in Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 105. The process begins with an attorney conducting thorough research on the ownership of the property. Normally, this is done based on an abstract, but it might also be done with the help of online title records. Next, the attorney drafts quiet title pleadings, including a complaint, summons, and ancillary pleadings. After filing the pleadings, the attorney must achieve service of process on all named defendants in order to extinguish their claims of ownership. Service of process, as outlined in Colorado Statute 13-1-125, can be achieved through a process server, certified mail, or by publication if necessary. Finally, after obtaining disclaimers or default judgment against each defendant, the attorney moves for a final judgment confirming the plaintiff’s ownership of the subject property.

For a more detailed description, see: The Quiet Title Process.

How much does a quiet title action cost?

In general, an uncontested quiet title action costs anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500. The term “uncontested” means that none of the defendants actively oppose or contest the claim of ownership being made by the plaintiff. Even if the quiet title remains uncontested, the cost can vary widely, because the situations requiring a quiet title also vary widely.

A simple quiet title to confirm ownership of a tax sale property, without any additional title defects, shouldn’t cost more than $2,000 in most cases (with some exceptions). In contrast, a complex quiet title for rural acreage, which cures multiple defects at multiple generations, could easily exceed $3,500 in costs even if it remains uncontested.

Contact our firm to obtain an estimate of quiet title cost for your particular situation.

Can I do a quiet title myself?

Yes, you can quiet title yourself, but doing so requires significant time, research abilities, detail orientation, and some level of legal and title knowledge. Generally, you can represent yourself in any legal proceeding. But obtaining an abstract of title, reviewing it, and identifying the appropriate defendants in the quiet title suit can be quite difficult.

If you have a background in title work, then you stand a better chance of naming the appropriate defendants. Otherwise, it would be very easy to miss a necessary defendant. If you miss a defendant or fail to serve process on each defendant in the proper manner, chances are high that the error will be discovered by a lender or a title company at a future closing or refinance. Even attorneys cannot always anticipate 100% of the title objections that might be made by title insurance companies.

In other words, you are allowed to file a quiet title action yourself, but you should only do so if you have a baseline level of legal knowledge or a background in title work.