Quieting Title - Basic Principles, Issue

Here's an article from Jesse Wong - Cantano on the issue of Quieting Title : 

Quieting title: Basic principles, issues

 

 

THE ACTION to quiet title, or remove clouds from title, to real estate, is a well-established remedy in American law. It has for its purpose the quieting of title or removal of a cloud therefrom when there is an apparently valid or effective instrument or other claim which in reality is void, ineffective, voidable or unenforceable (Tolentino, Civil Code of the Philippines, vol. II., 1999 Ed., p. 148, citing Commission Report, p. 55).

In the Philippines, Article 476 of the New Civil Code provides the substantive law on the matter, while Rule 63 of the Rules of Court provides for the procedure in bringing an action to quiet title, or to remove clouds, from title to real property.



Litigants, however, commonly ask: Is a quiet title suit the proper and speedy remedy to enforce one’s claim over a property? And, can one, in the same quiet title suit, ask for reconveyance of title, or, for settlement of a boundary?



QUIETING TITLE: ORIGIN AND BASIS

A quiet title action, or an action to remove cloud on title, is a remedy which originated in the courts of equity. Such proceedings have for their purpose an adjudication that a claim of title to or an interest in property, adverse to that of the claimant, is invalid, with the result that the claimant and those claiming under him may forever be free from danger of the hostile claim (65 Am Jur 2d, page 141. See also Tolentino, ibid, at p. 148, citing Sanders v. Saxton, 182 N.Y. 477).



The basis of equitable relief for removal of a cloud in title is the principle that, because of the inadequacy of the remedy at law, a deed or other instrument or proceedings constituting the cloud may not be used injuriously or vexatiously to embarrass or affect the title of a plaintiff in possession (Homewood Realty Corp. v. Safe Deposit & T. Co., 160 Md 457, 154 A 58, 78 ALR 8).



Stated differently, such remedy was developed by courts of equity, to prevent multiplicity of actions, and, against repeated or continued trespasses or continuing or recurring invasion of property rights. Suits to quiet or remove a cloud from title developed from what were anciently termed "bills quia timet" or "bills of peace," remedies which originated in and appertained to the jurisdiction of the courts of chancery (65 Am Jur 2d, page 143).



APPLICABLE PHILIPPINE LAWS, JURISPRUDENTIAl RULES ON QUIETING TITLE

Article 476 and 478 of the New Civil Code provide that, "whenever there is a cloud on title to real property or any interest therein, by reason of any instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but is in truth and in fact invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable," or "has been extinguished or has terminated, or has been barred by extinctive prescription", "and may be prejudicial to said title, an action may be brought to remove such cloud or to quiet the title."



Article 477 of the same Code provides that, the party who may bring an action to quiet title "must have legal or equitable title to, or interest in the real property which is the subject matter of the action."



Thus, for an action to quiet title to prosper, two indispensable requisites must concur, namely: the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of action; and the deed, claim, encumbrance or proceeding claimed to be casting cloud on his title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy.



QUIETING TITLE AS AN ACTION TO ENFORCE OWNERSHIP OVER ONE’S PROPERTY

To reiterate, the ground or reason for filing a complaint for quieting of title must be "an instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding." Thus, under recent laws and rules, and pursuant to the maxim expresio mius est exclusio alterius, these grounds are EXCLUSIVE so that other reasons outside of the purview of these reasons may not be considered valid for the same action (Titong v. Court of Appeals and Laurio, G.R. No. 111141, March 6, 1998).



At present, the rule is, a quieting title action cannot be availed of for settling boundary disputes (Vda. De Aviles, et al. v. Court of Appeals and Aviles, G.R. No. 95748, Nov. 21, 1996 citing Ashurst v. McKenzie (1890) 92 Ala. 484, 9 So. 262 and Kilgannon v. Jenkinson (1883) 51 Mich. 240, 16 N.W. 390). Thus, in a situation where a party files an action against current possessors of a property he is claiming, the proper action to be filed is not a quieting title action, but an action for ejectment. Indeed, there is no instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding the existence of which clouds the title of the landowner over the accretion or alluvion (Ibid). The subject matter in this situation is merely the physical or material possession or possession de facto over the property (Gutierrez v. Magat, G.R. No. L-39739 Oct. 3, 1975, citing 3 Moran’s Comments on the Rules of Court, 1970 Ed., pp. 303-304).



But, can the landowner seek a declaration of his ownership over the property in the same ejectment case? The answer, of course, is, he cannot, as, after all, in ejectment cases, the questions to be resolved simply are these: First, who had actual possession over the piece of real property? Second, was the possessor ousted therefrom within one year from the filing of the complaint by force, threat, strategy, or stealth? And lastly, does he ask for the restoration of his possession? Any controversy over ownership rights should be settled after the party who had the prior, peaceful and actual possession is returned to the property (Dizon v. Concina, G.R. No. L-23756, Dec. 27, 1969).



Now, if the situation is, the party wants to file an action against current possessors and/or registered owners of the property he is claiming, an ejectment case will of course not suffice. There must be a separate action for him to be able to enforce his legal title over the property.



But then again, is an action for reconveyance the proper remedy, and not a quieting title action? And, in a situation where the person already filed an action to quiet title, is there a need for him to subsequently file a separate action for reconveyance of title?



An action for reconveyance is one that seeks to transfer property, wrongfully registered by another, to its rightful and legal owner. Reconveyance is an action distinct from an action for quieting of title, which is filed whenever there is a cloud on title to real property or any interest therein, by reason of any instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding which is apparently valid or effective but is in truth and in fact, invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable, and may be prejudicial to said title for purposes of removing such cloud or to quiet title (Ney v. Quijano. G.R. No. 178609, August 4, 2010).



To be sure, in several cases, the Supreme Court has allowed the treatment or characterization of an action for reconveyance as an action to quiet title (Ibid. Also, Mendizabel v. Apao, G.R. No. 143185, Feb. 20, 2006; Lasquite v. Victory Hills, Inc, G.R. No. 175375, June 23, 2009; Heirs of Jose Olviga v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 104813, October 21, 1993, as cited in Heirs of Valientes v. Ramas, G.R. No. 157852, December 15, 2010; Brito, Sr. v. Dianala, et al., G.R. No. 171717, Dec. 15, 2010; Spouses Carpo v. Ayala Land, Inc., G.R. No. 166577, February 3, 2010). The question, however, is, in like manner, can an action to quiet title be treated or characterized as an action for reconveyance, or even an action to settle boundary disputes, so as to eliminate the need to file another action to enforce ownership or effect transfer of title over a property?



It is the considered view that, the higher and nobler purpose of avoiding multiplicity of suits and prevention of litigation must be taken into account in resolving this issue. After all, such purpose is, in fact, one of the reasons for which equity interferes to remove a cloud on title (Tolentino, supra, citing Gardener v. Buckeye Savings, etc., 108 W. Va. 673, 152 S.E. 530). Thus, it was held, "equity will interfere in actions to quiet title to prevent multiplicity of suits where ample and perfect justice can be done, or, as otherwise stated, it will interpose, in a proper case, to prevent a multiplicity of suits, excessive litigation or circuitry of action." (65 Am Jur 2d, page 167).



Verily, multiplicity of suits may be avoided when a court taking cognizance of a quieting title case will no longer be precluded from adjudicating the issue of transferring the title of the subject property to its rightful owner, or even settling boundary disputes.



As held under American jurisprudence, "if a multiplicity of suits is inherent in a reference of the parties to their legal remedies, a court of equity may take jurisdiction to determine confused boundaries." (12 Am Jur 2d, pages 628-629).



Indeed, for as long as it can be shown that, there is an "instrument, record, claim, encumbrance or proceeding" which constitutes a cloud on one’s title, the ancillary issue of disputed boundaries, which is necessarily produced as an offshoot of such existence of a cloud, the same court where the action to quiet title was instituted may likewise settle the issue of boundaries, or reconvey title to the rightful owner.



Thus, in a scenario where a party, for example, institutes a special civil action for quieting of title, because of the existence of another certificate of title over his property, which on its face is valid, but which is in truth and in fact, invalid and prejudicial to his legal or equitable title, he may seek the declaration of nullity of such title, and in the same case, seek settlement of the boundary dispute between him and the registered owner, and even the reconveyance of the title to his name.

The author is an associate of the Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz (Davao branch). She may contacted at 55.700/830.8000 and jgwong@accralaw.com.

 

 

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Robert G. Sarmiento Properties
Professional Affiliation :
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Member, City of Taguig Real Estate Board 2016 - 2019
Real Estate Broker’s Association of the Philippines 2000 - 2015
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San Juan Mandaluyong Chapter 1998, 1999
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Robert G. Sarmiento Properties
Professional Affiliation :
Philippine Association of Real Estate Boards
Member, City of Taguig Real Estate Board 2016 - 2019
Real Estate Broker’s Association of the Philippines 2000 - 2015
President, San Juan 2008, 2009
Philippine Association of Real Estate Boards
San Juan Mandaluyong Chapter 1998, 1999
PRC # 6569
PRC Lecturer’s License # 0294
+ 632 5536051 ( trunkline )
+ 632 4781316 ( telefax )
+ 632 8561365 ( line 3 )
+ 632 8041701 ( line 4 )
+ 6325148481 ( mobile landline )
+ 63 917 5364829 ( globe )
 

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+ 63 917 5364829 ( globe )
 

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