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Proving a Claim for Disputed Title – Trespass to Try Title

San Antonio Real Estate LawyerWHAT IS TRESPASS TO TRY TITLE LAWSUIT?

A suit to quiet title is a statutory cause of action grounded in Chapter 22 of the Texas Property Code.

Generally speaking, a quiet title lawsuit is the exclusivemethod to adjudicate rival claims of title to real property. See TEX.PROP. CODE ANN. § 22.001 (West 2000)(“A trespass to try title action is the method of determining title to lands, tenements, or other real property.”); Martin v. Amerman,133 S.W.3d 262, 267 (Tex.2004);  Ramsey v. Grizzle, 313 S.W.3d 498, 503 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 2010, no pet.). In a trespass to try title action the prevailing party’s remedy is title to, and possession of, the real property interest at issue. Teon Management, LLC v. Turquoise Bay Corporation, 357 S.W.3d 719, 723 (Tex.App.-Eastland 2012, no pet. h.).

WHO CAN BRING A TRESPASS TO TRY TITLE LAWSUIT?

To maintain an action of trespass to try title, the person bringing the suit must have title to the land sought to be recovered. Ramsey, 313 S.W.3d at 505.  A plaintiff’s right to recover depends on the strength of his or her own title, not the weaknesses of the title of his or her adversary. Id.

The plaintiff bears the burden of supplying the proof necessary to establish his superior equity and right to relief.

ELEMENTS OF TRESPASS TO TRY TITLE ACTION

In a trespass-to-try-title action, the plaintiff is required to prove its title by proving (1) a regular chain of title of conveyances from the sovereign to the plaintiff; (2) a superior title to that of the defendant out of a common source; (3) title by limitations; or (4) prior possession which has not been abandoned. Teon Management, 357 S.W.3d at 728.

To prevail on a claim to quiet title, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant: (1) created a hindrance to the plaintiff‘s title, having the appearance of a better right to title than his own, that (2) appears to be valid on its face, and that (3) for reasons not apparent on its face, is not valid. Ellis, 2012 WL 35280009 at * 3.

WHAT IS THE COURT ASKED TO DETERMINE IN A TRESPASS TO TRY TITLE SUIT?

Under Texas law, the principal issue in a suit to quiet title is as to the existence of a cloud that equity will remove. Wright v. Matthews, 26 S.W.3d 575, 578 (Tex. App.—Beaumont 2000, pet. denied).

A cloud on title exists when an outstanding claim or encumbrance is shown, which on its face, if valid, would affect or impair the title of the owner of the property.Angell v. Bailey, 225 S.W.3d 834, 838 n.6 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2007, no pet.).

Any deed, contract, judgment or other instrument not void on its face that purports to convey an interest in or make any charge upon the land of a true owner, the invalidity of which would require proof, is a cloud upon the legal title of the owner. Hahn v. Love, 321 S.W.3d 517, 531 (Tex. App.— Houston [1st Dist.] 2009, pet. denied).

WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF A COURT’s RULING IN A TRESPASS TO TRY TITLE LAWSUIT?

The effect of a suit to quiet title is to declare invalid or ineffective the defendant‘s claim to title. Gordon v. W. Houston Trees, Ltd., 352 S.W.3d 32, 42 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2011, no pet.).  In other words, the purpose of a suit to quiet title is to invalidate the defendant‘s claim to title. Ellis v. Buentello, No. 01-12-00098-CV, 2012 WL 3528009, at *3 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Aug. 16, 2012, no pet.).