By: Sara Tussey and Teola Hawes, Rosenberg & Associates, LLC
Earlier this year, the Maryland legislature passed House Bill 920/Senate Bill 509 in order to establish rules of practice and procedure for quiet title actions. After recognizing a lack of direction under Maryland common law, the Maryland Land Title Association (MLTA) proposed and lobbied for the legislation, with the support of other related organizations. The MLTA recognized that the undefined process, or lack thereof, caused major problems in how quiet title actions were being litigated and issues with the resulting judgments. The new rules, codified in Title 14, Subtitle 6 of the Maryland Real Property Code, took effect on October 1, 2016, and establish a uniform process for quiet title actions and result in stronger, reliable judgments.
The new rules set forth numerous requirements for the pleadings. First, the new rules require that the Complaint be verified, include both the address and legal description of the property at issue, and describe the plaintiff’s claim to title. Md. Real Property Code § 14-606. A Defendant’s Answer must also be verified, and must include any claims, defenses, or new matters. A Defendant is also allowed to disclaim any interest in the property. Md. Real Property Code § 14-607.
The rules also establish a procedure for naming unknown defendants and for service by publication in accordance with Md. Rule 2-122, to ensure that all possible interests are represented in the suit. Md. Real Property Code § 14-609, 14-616. The rules also allow a plaintiff to proceed against a deceased defendant by serving the personal representative, or, where there is no personal representative, filing an affidavit with the court stating that the defendant is deceased and there is no known personal representative. Md. Real Property Code § 14-610.
Another change, which is very important to note, is that all cases require an evidentiary hearing establishing plaintiff’s title and courts can no longer enter judgment by default. Md. Real Property Code § 14-617. However, once judgment is granted, it is very strong. A judgment is binding against all persons, known or unknown, with a claim to the property who were parties to the action, or whose claims were not of record or reasonably knowable at the time the action was commenced. Md. Real Property Code § 14-618, 14-619. Also, any purchaser or lienholder may rely on the judgment and is protected from any and all collateral attacks. Md. Real Property Code § 14-620.
While the new rules may create some additional steps for quiet title actions, the rules are clear and result in a strong, enforceable judgment which can be relied upon by all future purchasers and lienholders.
SARA TUSSEY is an Associate Attorney with the firm. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the Pennsylvania State University and a Juris Doctor from the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law. She practices in the areas of foreclosure and evictions and she is admitted to practice in Virginia, Maryland, New York, and the District of Columbia. Tussey is a member of the American Bar Association, Virginia State Bar, the New York Bar, and the District of Columbia Bar. Sara may be contacted via email: Sara_Tussey@Rosenberg-Assoc.com.
TEOLA HAWES is an Associate Attorney with the firm. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Clark Atlanta University and Juris Doctorate from John Marshall Law School. She is admitted to practice in Maryland, District of Columbia, and Georgia. Hawes practices in the area of foreclosure and is a member of the Maryland Bar Association, District of Columbia Bar, and Georgia Bar. Hawes may be contacted via email: Teola.Hawes@Rosenberg- Assoc.com.