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What is a Quiet Title Action in Michigan Property Law?

Written by Lawrence Opalewski on April 30, 2019 Category: Easements and Riparian Rights, Michigan Land Use and Zoning, Water Access

Every Michigan property owner should have an understanding of the legal concept known as “quiet title.” This can be especially true for owners of Michigan lakefront and other waterfront property, but could apply to any property owner.

Property ownership has many benefits. But sometimes complications and disputes can arise with surrounding property owners or with co-owners. Or perhaps another party claims that it owns your property and goes so far as to record a “cloud” on your title. If discussing the problem fails, what options do Michiganders have to secure their property rights? Perhaps the most common method of resolving property disputes is through a quiet title action.

What happens in a Michigan quiet title action?

A quiet title action is equitable in nature, which means it isn’t primarily about money. Rather, it asks the court to prevent or order a certain action. Therefore, it must be decided by a circuit court even though there may not be money damages sought in the case. In a quiet title action, the judge will examine all the evidence relating to the title and rights associated with the property. Then the judge will issue an order declaring the extent of the parties’ ownership and rights to the property in question.

When bringing a quiet title action, the plaintiff must be able to produce evidence establishing that he or she has the best claim to the property. This will typically include the legal description of the property, deeds, wills, trusts, mortgages, or any other document the plaintiff relies on. Once the plaintiff makes a prima facie case of superior title, the defendant(s) can present a competing claim to title.

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How do you bring a quiet title action?

When considering whether to bring a quiet title action, the plaintiff should first perform a title search. A title search can be done by going to the county register of deeds office and looking through the records. However, most title searches are now done by title companies. In most cases, using a title company for the title search is recommended. This search may reveal previously unknown claims to the property. Any persons or entities revealed by the title search should usually be added as parties to the quiet title action.

How are quiet title actions decided?

After all the evidence is presented to the judge, a decision will be made considering the entire factual record. The judge will issue an order “quieting” title in the winning party. A court order from a quiet title case should usually be recorded with the register of deeds. Furthermore, when drafting an order for the court to sign, a successful plaintiff should be sure to use language that addresses the exact issue(s) and parties involved in the case.

How do quiet title actions relate to water rights?

Some of the most common issues involving waterfront property and riparian rights can be resolved by a quiet title action. For example, if there is a question of who owns access to the water, a quiet title action could potentially be used to determine who owns the access rights. Or, if there is an issue concerning docks or piers, quiet title could be used to establish the extent to which docks can be built or maintained.

What’s the first step to bringing a quiet title action?

As with most legal issues, an attorney should be consulted prior to bringing a quiet title action. The attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC specialize in property and riparian rights law, and have experience in bringing and winning Michigan quiet title actions. We can evaluate your claim to title and serve as your guide through the litigation process.

If you are experiencing a property issue in the state of Michigan, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to speak with you.

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