Declaratory Relief is a fairly broad legal term which essentially requests a Court to make a final determination regarding a parties interests and rights as it relates to other parties to the lawsuit. Although there are a number of areas where a Declaratory Relief Action may be appropriate (such as insurance coverage questions), it is frequently used in regard to ownership of real estate in California, or determination of some other contract term.
In a Real Estate Ownership Dispute, Declaratory Relief can be a useful tool to determine who is the true owner or who, among the litigants, owns what percentage of a property. Oftentimes a question can arise with a lender as well regarding legal rights and obligations. Property owners may sue their mortgage lender to seek a Court decision on what rights the lender has (such as foreclosure), and what rights or obligations the borrower may have. It is important to remember, Declaratory Relief may not be used for an “advisory opinion” from a Court, there must be a bona fide factual dispute at the time the case is filed.
Frequently a Declaratory Relief action which involves Real Estate will also contain a “Quiet Title” cause of action as well. Quiet Title refers to an action to legally establish ownership of real property with a Court Order. Oftentimes in real estate disputes, there are multiple parties with some claim to ownership. A Quiet Title action, similar to Declaratory Relief, seeks to permanently and finally determine who the true owner is. Any person or entity with a potential claim to the property should be named so their claim to ownership can be resolved. Declaratory Relief is also frequently used to eliminate a “cloud” from title or protect a property from future claimants.
Declaratory Relief and Quiet Title litigation are critical aspects of many Real Estate Litigation matters. Accordingly, it is very important to have these matters litigated property and professionally as it may literally be the difference between owning a property outright or having nothing. A complex statutory framework applies to both Declaratory Relief and Quiet Title and it is absolutely essential to have an experienced and aggressive Real Estate Attorney representing you in litigation.
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