The earlier post about squatter’s rights identifies the behavior that can give a squatter rights to property. But the legal right to property is only complete when the title is transferred. Usually, a title is transferred when a seller conveys property to a buyer.
A squatter attempting to get title is not buying from the seller; he or she is trying to get property for which no seller seems to exist. The process for obtaining the title without having the last owner sell it to the buyer is called an “action to quiet title.” Generally, there are three big steps involved in quieting a title:
- Searching for anyone who has a claim to all or part of the property, even if the claim is just a right to use the property for some purpose and not to own it. For example, there might be a neighbor who has an easement that allows him to drive his truck through the property every morning. This search is a big expensive investigation. Most state laws about quieting title will require claimants to prove that they have thoroughly hunted in public records (vital and property) and placed multiple ads in various newspapers as ways of searching for the current property owner.
- Filing documents in the appropriate court. In this step, you have to write and submit assorted documents according to all of the rules required in your jurisdiction. You might be able to find a sample of someone else’s action to quiet title by contacting or going to the court clerk’s office and paying for copies of the documents in that case. If the clerk’s office will not provide you with a full case file, they might at least give or direct you to a list of things that you have to include in your court filing. You can also look for sample forms in Justia. Here is an example from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania section in Justia Forms: “Fraudulent Conveyance- Quiet Title Packet.” If you cannot find online forms for your county, you will need to go to a law library and find a book of standard real estate forms. Any form from a book must be re-designed to match the requirements in your county court’s document rules.
- Making your claim. When you write the court documents in an action to quiet title, you will have to tell about and show the proof that you satisfied all of your state’s requirements for adverse possession and that you also satisfied your state and county requirements for taking action to quiet title. This is a detailed descriptive writing project, not merely the simple work of completing a form. If your documents are accepted by the court, you will be assigned a date to appear in court. In court, you will have to answer questions that the judge asks you. If the current property owner does not come to court that day, you might have to do an additional procedure asking the judge to give you a “default judgment.” If the judge decides that you have satisfactorily proved your claim, he or she will give you a document to file with the deeds office.