How to Contest a Warranty Deed
If someone else holds legal title to property that you believe is rightfully yours, your position is not necessarily hopeless. Legal procedures are available to invalidate a defective warranty deed and have you recorded as the legal owner.
In many cases, these procedures are relatively speedy and inexpensive.
5 Steps to to Contest a Warranty Deed
1. Perform a title search on the Website of your local property records office in order to make sure that you will own the property if the warranty deed is successfully contested.
This information should be publicly available. If the grantor is dead, you may also have to research the grantor’s will or your state’s intestacy laws to make this determination. Otherwise, even if the warranty deed is declared invalid, you will not own the property.
2. Look for a legal defect in the warranty deed to serve as possible grounds to contest it.
Typical defect situations include if the grantor did not legally own the property at the time the deed was executed; the grantee is not clearly identified; the property is insufficiently described (a street address is not enough); the deed was forged or not properly notarized or witnessed; the grantor was not legally competent to execute the deed due to minority, unsound mind or coercion; or the warranty deed was delivered to the grantee without the grantor’s express authorization.
3. File a “quiet title action” (or its statutory equivalent in your state) with your local county court based on any defects that you have discovered in the warranty deed.
Question witnesses under oath at a deposition in order to further investigate any possible defects in the warranty deed.
4. Present records of the depositions along with any other documentary evidence in your possession as evidence to establish both that (i) the warranty deed is invalid, and (ii) that you are the rightful owner of the property.
If you are successful, the court will declare the warranty deed invalid and order the county clerk (or equivalent local authority) to record the property in your name and issue a new deed in your favor.
5. File an ejectment action in your local county court if the grantee (or the grantee’s tenant) refuses to vacate the property after you win a quiet title action.
Winning an action of ejectment causes the local authorities to forcibly evict whoever is occupying the property you now hold title to within a certain period of time (typically 48 hours).
Tips and Warnings
- If you suspect that the warranty deed is forged, consider hiring a handwriting expert to compare the signature on the deed with a sample of the grantor’s handwriting. Although handwriting analysis is not necessarily conclusive evidence in your favor, it can be quite persuasive.
- Carefully check the laws of your state. In many states, quiet title and ejectment actions should be filed simultaneously. Furthermore, even if you win a quiet title action, a tenant of the defendant may in some circumstances have the right to remain in possession of your property for the duration of his/her lease, although you will be entitled to receive rent.
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