Quiet Title Actions: Clearing Clouds on Land Ownership


In the realm of real estate, a quiet title action is a powerful legal remedy that serves to eliminate any doubts or disputes surrounding the ownership of a property, ensuring that the title to land remains clear and marketable. This article will explore the diverse circumstances wherein a quiet title action may be required, the different forms of quiet title actions available under Georgia law, as well as the procedural and substantive distinctions between them.

When Do You Need a Quiet Title Action?

Clouds on the title to real property can arise from various sources, potentially hindering the sale or transfer of the property. One such cloud is created by the right of redemption following a property’s sale at a tax auction. According to Georgia law, after a property has been auctioned by the sheriff’s office and deeded to a buyer, the previous owner has a twelve-month redemption period to pay a redemption price determined by statute. Failure to redeem the property within this timeframe requires the purchaser to take affirmative action to bar the right of redemption, notifying the previous owner and granting them an additional 45 days to settle the redemption price. Even after the right of redemption has been legally barred, further action, such as a quiet title action, is necessary to obtain title insurance for the property.

Another increasingly common scenario involves the theft of real property through the execution and recording of forged deeds. These fraudulent acts create a cloud on the title that must be addressed through the quiet title process.

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In situations involving “heir property,” which refers to land that has been passed down through generations without a formal title conveyance, a quiet title action is also necessary. Many parcels of land in Georgia have remained in the same family for generations, with the property still registered under the name of a long-deceased ancestor. To sell the property, it becomes necessary to initiate a quiet title action to establish undisputed ownership.

Quiet title actions are also a recourse when addressing boundary disputes, encroachments, and trespass situations.

Choosing the Appropriate Form of Action

Georgia law offers two forms of quiet title actions: conventional and statutory. A conventional quiet title action targets specific instruments in the chain of title and involves specific defendants who may have a claim or interest in the property based on those deeds. This form of action is commonly employed to clear title to properties purchased at tax sales or to cancel forged deeds.

On the other hand, a statutory quiet title action, as per O.C.G.A. ยง 23-3-60, is necessary when there are unknown claimants, such as in cases involving heir property, or when there are clouded titles related to ownership issues, such as boundary line disputes or encroachments.

Jurisdiction, Venue, and Procedure

The jurisdiction for quiet title actions lies with the Superior Courts of Georgia. While both conventional and statutory actions must be filed in the Superior Court, there are differences in venue requirements. A conventional quiet title action, being an equity case, must be filed in the county of residence of one of the named defendants. Meanwhile, a statutory quiet title action is an in rem proceeding against the land itself and needs to be filed in the superior court of the county where the land is situated.

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The procedural paths for conventional and statutory quiet title actions also diverge. In a conventional quiet title action, defendants are served, and the case proceeds through discovery before eventually reaching the judge for a final hearing. Jury trials are not available in conventional quiet title cases.

Statutory quiet title actions, however, follow a more intricate procedure. After the appointment of a Special Master, the Master assumes control over the case, determining who should receive notice, including adjacent landowners and all adverse claimants. Known claimants are personally served, while service to “unknown claimants” is achieved through publication. The master has complete jurisdiction over the case, examining the validity and nature of the petitioner’s title and addressing any specific clouds on the title. Upon the completion of the Special Master’s report or a jury verdict, the court issues a decree that is recorded in the county’s real property records, binding the affected land and conclusively settling all claims.


When clouds hover over the title to real estate, a quiet title action serves as a crucial tool to eliminate doubt and ensure the land’s marketability. Whether it’s addressing issues surrounding tax sales, forged deeds, heir property, or resolving boundary disputes, encroachments, and trespass matters, a quiet title action can help property owners navigate the complex legal terrain and secure their ownership rights. By understanding the circumstances that necessitate a quiet title action, the available forms of action under Georgia law, and the corresponding procedures, individuals can confidently resolve title-related challenges and protect their property rights.

Land Ownership

About Burke Johnson

Burke Johnson has an extensive background in litigation, having tried approximately 100 cases to verdict in Georgia courts. As a mediator, Burke utilizes his trial experience and insights gained from interacting with numerous jurors to identify critical issues in cases and facilitate settlement discussions. He is also fluent in Spanish, facilitating the mediation process with non-English speaking Hispanic parties.

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