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Quieting Title: Basic Principles and Issues

Jessa G. Wong-Cantano
March 06, 2014

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.[1]
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 ones claim over a property? And, can one, in the same quiet title suit, ask for
reconveyance of title, or, for settlement of a boundary?
A. QUIETING TITLE: ITS 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.[2]
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.[3] 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.[4]
B. THE APPLICABLE PHILIPPINE LAWS AND 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 (2) indispensable requisites must
concur, namely: (1) the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or
interest in the real property subject of action, and (2) 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.
C. QUIETING TITLE AS AN ACTION TO ENFORCE OWNERSHIP OVER ONES 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.[5]
At present, the rule is, a quieting title action cannot be availed of for settling boundary
disputes.[6] 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.[7] The subject matter in this situation is merely the physical or
material possession or possession de facto over the property.[8]
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.[9]
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.[10]
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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]
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.[14]
Indeed, for as long as it can be shown that, there is an instrument, record, claim,
encumbrance or proceeding which constitutes a cloud on ones 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.