To resolve certain disputes which can arise over title to real estate, the New Jersey legislature has provided a process by which a party in possession of the real estate can protect or clear up the title to his property. If another person or entity raises a claim, or disputes the title to the property in some way, then the party in possession of the property may wish to commence a lawsuit to “quiet title” and thus resolve any outstanding issues relating to the title.
While quiet title actions have historical roots, the remedy available today in New Jersey is a statutory one pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:62-1 et seq.. It is a remedy which permits a person who is in peaceable possession of lands in New Jersey to settle disputes over the title to his land. A person in “peaceable possession” may, when title to his lands or any part of them is denied or disputed, or when a lien or encumbrance is asserted against his lands, use this process “to settle the title to such lands and to clear up all doubts or disputes” concerning the land. N.J.S.A. 2A:62-1.
Such an action would be commenced in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division. In order to commence such an action, the party seeking relief must allege that he is in “peaceable possession” and that no action is pending to enforce or test the validity of the defendant’s claim to title or an encumbrance. After proving this, the burden then falls on the defendant to prove his claims.
Sometimes a plaintiff is not able to be in “peaceable possession”. If the lands involved are “wild, wood, waste, uninclosed or unimproved,” and if no other person is in actual possession of the lands, there will be a presumption that plaintiff is in “peaceable possession” if the plaintiff can claim ownership pursuant to a duly recorded deed in New Jersey and that, as owner under the deed, he (or his grantors) has been assessed and paid taxes for the five (5) years preceding the commencement of the quiet title action. N.J.S.A. 2A:62-2.
Actions to quiet title may be tried by a jury, upon the application of either party. N.J.S.A. 2A:62-4.
A plaintiff may use a quiet title action to remove any claims created through adverse possession. Other examples of quiet title actions include removing claims of any heirs, devisees and personal representatives of a long deceased past owner of an interest in the property; or claims of those alleging a lien or encumbrance against the property.