A cloudy title (or cloud on a title) can stop a real estate sale dead in its tracks. Typically, a cloud on the title is discovered during the title search and is any document, claim, unreleased lien, or other encumbrance that could make the title doubtful or invalidate/impair the title to the property. Basically, if you have a cloudy title, you don’t fully own the property and will have problems selling it because you can’t convey a good title. In addition, banks won’t approve a mortgage for properties with a cloudy title. Let’s take a look then at what you can do to clear a title and so sell a house with cloudy title in Southern California.
Causes of Cloudy Title
Almost always lenders will require a title search and title insurance before giving a buyer a mortgage loan to buy a house. This is to protect them, according to mortgage experts, “from any third-party claims or clouds on title to property that is used as collateral.” Any unresolved issue concerning the property can cause a cloud on the title and will have to be confronted and dealt with for you to sell a house with cloudy title in Southern California. Some of the most common issues that can lead to cloudy title include:
Cloudy title can stem from foreclosure proceedings that have been initiated by a mortgage lender if you have defaulted on payment. Often, it is impossible to sell a house if you are delinquent on payments. The only recourse here, really, is to catch up the payments and halt the foreclosure proceedings.
Unresolved liens can also be a source of cloudy title. These liens can range from those for loans to contracted work or even use of the property as collateral to pay for other expenses. Typically, such liens are placed on a property when such debts remain unpaid.
A common type of lien that can cause you issues when trying to sell your house with cloudy title in Southern California is the mechanic’s lien. This is usually the result of a problem with payment for contracted construction or remodeling. A mechanic’s lien typically remains in place till materials and labor costs have either been paid or resolved by other means. Such a lien is against and stays with the property rather than the property owner and so can discourage buyers.
Probate problems, usually estate and inheritance issues, can also result in the cloudy title. Examples of such situations include:
- “Documents such as death certificates might be lost over time with older properties,” raising “questions about where the final legal ownership rests.”
- “If a property owner passed away without defining in a will who would gain control of their estate or become the owner of the property, heirs might challenge each other in court for the property title.”
Even fraud can contribute to title impediments in trying to sell a house with cloudy title in Southern California. It sometimes happens, for example, those false deeds have been recorded as actually legitimate. This, in turn, creates confusion as to true ownership of the property.
Clear Title to Sell a House With Cloudy Title
Your best bet in trying to sell a house with a cloudy title is to clear the title. Following are some of the viable ways to do that:
GET LIENS REMOVED
You can get any liens against your house removed by paying the debts the liens represent and then requesting whoever placed the liens to remove them. If by chance, you’ve paid a lien-related debt and lien holder refused to have it removed, you will likely have to take it to court to have the lien released.
EXECUTE DEED OF RECONVEYANCE
If a mortgage has been paid off and the lender still has mortgage or trust deeds recorded against your house, you can have that lender execute a deed of reconveyance. This deed “removes the lender’s right to the property and clears any cloud that the old loan causes.”
EXECUTE QUITCLAIM DEED
Another option to sell a house with cloudy title in Southern California involves a quitclaim deed executed by private parties still on the title, but who don’t actually have any rights to the property. Removing them by means of a quitclaim deed will clear the title.
FILE QUIET TITLE ACTION
Another possibility is to file a quiet title action. “A quiet title action,” according to professionals in this arena, “is a special type of lawsuit where you prove your right to the title to the property and have any clouds on the title removed by the court. If your proof is adequate, all clouds on the title will be removed.”
Use an Experienced Agent
So can you sell a house with cloudy title in Southern California? Yes, you can – if you take the right steps. But it is a complicated process often accompanied by a mountain of legal documents. Your best bet then is to engage an agent with knowledge of and experience in this area. And that’s where we can help.