QUIET TITLE: A CAUSE OF ACTION WITH STRICT REQUIREMENTS
An action to Quiet Title is a useful tool to yield clear and marketable title. But it is more than an action for a Declaratory Judgment that asks the court to remove a cloud on title. A Quiet Title count has strict pleading requirements.
The elements of a claim to Quiet Title are that 1) the party bringing the action possesses true title to the property, and 2) the title must be superior to other claimants. Dudley v. Neteler, 392 Ill.App.3d 140, 143 (4th Dist. 2009). In other words, a Quiet Title action may be maintained only when one holds a legal or equitable interest in property that is superior to the alleged title defect. Antoniou v. Heartland Bank and Trust Co., 2015 IL App (1st) 150015-U at ⁋ 18. One reprieve is that a party need not establish a perfect title to prevail. Id.
There is a final, sometimes overlooked, element for a claim to Quiet Title. The party must plead, and ultimately prove in order to prevail, that it is in possession of the subject property. Dodge v. Nieman, 150 Ill.App.3d 857, 860 (1st Dist. 1986). While possession by an agent or tenant of the party is sufficient, failure to plead actual possession leaves a Quiet Title complaint subject to dismissal. Id. at 860-63.
A Quiet Title claim can similarly fail at the summary judgment stage. See Floyd v. Hill Funding, LLC, 2020 IL App (1st) 192353-U. In Floyd, plaintiff entered into an installment contract to purchase certain property in Chicago, Illinois. Id. at ⁋ 3. Upon payment of all installments, plaintiff would be entitled to conveyance of the property. Id.
Plaintiff failed to make all payments under the installment contract. Id. at ⁋ 5. Plaintiff’s claim to quiet title against the property’s owner ultimately failed and defendant was awarded summary judgment. Id. The court ruled that plaintiff’s interest in the property via the installment contract, was not superior to that of the property’s owner of record. Id.
On the other hand, a property pled Quiet Title claim can result in clear and marketable title. See North Community Bank v. Aetna Bank, 200 Ill.App.3d 350 (1st Dist. 1990). In North Community Bank, defendant was given a mortgage by the successful bidder at a foreclosure sale. Id. at 351. However, the deed to the successfully bidder contained significant defects in the property’s legal description. Id.
Defendant then gave a mortgage to plaintiff. Id. at 352. When defendant defaulted under the terms of that mortgage, plaintiff filed an action to foreclose its mortgage and quiet title as to any interest of the successful bidder at the foreclosure sale. Id. The court ruled that the successful bidder’s claim to the property was not superior to plaintiff’s claim. Id. at 353-54. As a result, plaintiff was granted summary judgment. Id.
Case law indicates that Illinois courts are strict when it comes to pleading a cause of action to Quiet Title. However, if a party pleads the necessary elements, and has a claim to the property that is superior to others, that party can successfully clear a property’s title.
For additional reading on Quieting Title see:
Jody D. v. Bank of America, N.A., 2018 IL App (3d) 170558-U;
Chicago Title Land Trust Co. v. Iverson, 2016 IL App (1st) 150986-U;
McElmeel v. Shedelbower, 2013 IL App (5th) 130042-U.
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