Quiet Title Actions
A party filing a quiet title action allows the court to determine proper ownership. By filing an action to quiet title, the owner is seeking to "quiet" everyone else's claim to his property by having the court establish ownership once and for all. Quiet title lawsuits are also effective against purported adverse possession tenants claiming ownership through adverse possession. By filing a quiet title action, the landowner is effectively ending the open and continuous use of his property by the adverse possession tenant.
In Washington, adverse possession tenants can claim ownership to property by using it exclusively for at least 10 years. The tenant's use must be open, hostile, notorious and uninterrupted. By trespassing, an adverse possession tenant allows the tenant to claim ownership without purchasing land. State legislatures enacted these prescriptive statutes to encourage landowners from wasting their land by actively using it. An example of adverse possession is when an individual maintains his adjoining neighbor's lawn by mowing it weekly for 10 years. The neighbor mowing the lawn could claim ownership of the land he mowed for 10 years through adverse possession. However, his neighbor, the actual property owner, would challenge his claim by filing an action to quiet title.
Once a landowner obtains a judgment in his favor after filing an action or lawsuit to quiet title, the adverse possession owner's claim to ownership is nullified. Any subsequent use without the owner's permission is considered legal trespass.
Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.