Quitclaim deeds versus quiet title: what’s the difference?

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2022 | Real Estate Law |

Real estate transactions are important events, usually involving large sums of money for those involved. Getting it right is important, for both the buyer and the seller. One of the keys to a successful transaction is ensuring title to the property is unencumbered. Quitclaim deeds and quiet title actions are two ways of achieving this outcome.

Quitclaim deeds

One way to think about the difference between a quitclaim deed and quiet title is whether the action is done voluntarily. Both seek to achieve a similar result – property which is unencumbered and may be transferred – but one involves the assent of the individual giving up title while one does not.

Imagine a scenario where a couple goes through a divorce and the family home is awarded to the wife. Both spouses have an ownership interest in the home, which means the husband’s interest will have to be removed so that the wife owns it by herself, unencumbered by the husband’s interest.

A quitclaim deed is the simplest way to effect the desired outcome. The husband need only execute a quitclaim deed, voluntarily giving up his interest. Once it’s recorded, the wife is free to do with property as she chooses.

How is a quiet title action different?

Let’s say that, after the divorce is final, the husband cuts all contact and disappears without executing a quitclaim deed. His ownership interest may still exist on the property’s records. The wife has decided to sell the home but is running into problems because the title is not yet clear.

To rectify the situation, she files a quiet title action, asking a court to order the removal of the husband’s interest, without his permission. Once the court makes such an order, the order itself is recorded, rather than the quitclaim deed, achieving the same result of clear title on the property.