Section 24-9-8

Quiet title and foreclosure action.

(a) The authority may initiate a quiet title action under this section to quiet title to real property held by the authority or interests in tax delinquent property held by the authority by recording with the office of the judge of probate in the county in which the property subject to quiet title action is located a notice of pending quiet title action. The notice shall include the name of the taxpayer whose interest was affected by the tax sale; the name of any other party as revealed by a search and examination of the title to the property who may claim an interest in the property; a legal description of the property; the street address of the property if available; the name, address, and telephone number of the authority; a statement that the property is subject to the quiet title proceedings under Act 2013-249; and a statement that any legal interests in the property may be extinguished by a circuit court order vesting title to the property in the authority. Notwithstanding anything in this chapter to the contrary, no quiet title action and nothing in this chapter shall affect any right, title, or interest, whether recorded or unrecorded, in the subject property which was held at the time of the tax sale by any person or entity engaged in the generation, transmission, or distribution of electric power, natural gas, or telecommunications.

(b) After the notice required under subsection (a) has been recorded, the record title to the property shall be examined and an opinion of title rendered by an attorney at law, who is licensed to practice law in this state, or a certificate of title shall be prepared by a title agent or title insurer duly licensed under the Alabama Title Insurance Act as set out in Section 27-25-1, et seq., for the benefit of the authority in order to identify all owners of an interest in the property.

(c) Once the authority has identified the owners of interest in the property, the authority shall file a single petition with the clerk of the circuit court for the judicial district in which the property subject to foreclosure under this section is located listing all property subject to foreclosure by the authority and for which the authority seeks to quiet title. No such action shall be subject to the payment of filing fees. The list of properties shall include a legal description of, a tax parcel identification number for, and the street address of each parcel or property. The petition shall seek a judgment in favor of the authority against each property listed and shall include a date, within 90 days, on which the authority requests a hearing on the petition. The petition shall request that a judgment be entered vesting absolute title in the authority, without right of redemption for each parcel of property listed, as provided in this section. At any time during the pendency of this action, the authority may file a motion to release or dismiss a certain parcel or parcels of land from the petition, which release will not affect the remaining parcels of land subject to the petition.

(d) The case shall be docketed in the circuit court by the clerk, and shall be a preferred case therein. The circuit court in which a petition is filed under subsection (c) shall immediately set the date, time, and place for a hearing on the petition for quiet title. In no event may the clerk schedule the hearing later than 90 days after the filing of a petition by the authority under subsection (c). The court, on the request of a party or as needed to allow completion of service of process on all interested persons, and to allow those persons 30 days after service of process to file an answer or other responsive pleadings to the petition, may extend the 90-day period for good cause shown.

(e) The authority shall serve all persons having record title or interest in or lien upon the property with a notice of the hearing on the petition to quiet title. Such service shall be attempted by personal service and by certified mail; provided if service is perfected by either method, the service will be sufficient to provide service of process upon all persons having record title or interest in or lien upon the property. If the persons entitled to service are located outside the county, they may be served by certified mail.

(f) The notice required under subsection (e) shall include:

(1) The date on which the authority recorded, under subsection (a), the notice of the pending quiet title and foreclosure action.

(2) A statement that a person with a property interest in the property may lose such interest, if any, as a result of the quiet title and foreclosure hearing.

(3) A legal description, tax parcel identification number of the property, and the street address of the property.

(4) The date and time of the hearing on the petition for quiet title and a statement that the judgment of the court may result in title to the property vesting in the authority.

(5) An explanation of any rights of redemption and notice that the judgment of the court may extinguish any ownership interest in or right to redeem the property.

(6) The name, address, and telephone number of the authority.

(g) In the event the sheriff is unable to perfect service or certified mail attempts are returned unclaimed, the authority shall conduct a search for the person with an interest in the property conveyed to the authority.

(1) The search, at a minimum, shall include the following:

a. An examination of the addresses given on the face of the instrument vesting interest or the addresses given to the clerk of the probate court by the transfer declaration form.

b. A search of the current telephone directory for the municipality and the county in which the property is located.

c. A letter of inquiry to the person who sold the property to the owner whose interest was sold in the tax sale at the address shown in the transfer tax declaration or in the telephone directory.

d. A letter of inquiry to the attorney handling the closing prior to the tax sale if such information is provided on the deed forms.

(2) A sign being no less than four feet by four feet shall be erected on the property and maintained by the authority for a minimum of 30 days reading as follows:

THIS PROPERTY HAS BEEN CONVEYED TO THE ________ LAND BANK AUTHORITY AND IS SUBJECT TO A QUIET TITLE ACTION. PERSONS WITH INFORMATION REGARDING THE PRIOR OWNERSHIP OF OR INTEREST IN THE PROPERTY ARE REQUESTED TO CONTACT THE LAND BANK AUTHORITY AT _________.

(3) Any additional parties who are identified as having an interest in the property shall be provided notice in accordance with this section.

(h) If the interested party is an individual, the authority shall examine voter registration lists, available municipal archives for records of deaths, and the probate court records of estates opened in the county in which the property is located.

(i) If the interested party is a business entity, the authority shall search the records of the Secretary of State for the name and address of a registered agent.

(j) If an interested party appears at the hearing and asserts a right to redeem the property, that party may redeem in accordance with Chapter 10 and Chapter 29 of Title 40.

(k)(1) If the authority has made the search as required by this section and been unable to locate those persons required to be served under subsection (e), and has located additional addresses of those persons through the search and attempted without success to serve those persons in either manner provided by subsection (e), the authority shall provide notice by publication. Prior to the hearing, a notice shall be published once each week for three successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the property is located. If no paper is published in that county, publication shall be made in a newspaper of general circulation in an adjoining county. This publication shall substitute for notice under this subsection or subsection (g). The published notice shall include the information required in subsection (f). Should the identity of some or all of the persons who may have an interest in the property be unknown, or should such persons be infants or persons of unsound mind, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent and defend the interests of such unknown, infant, or incompetent parties in the action.

(2) A person claiming an interest in a parcel of property set forth in the quiet title action who desires to contest that petition shall file an answer containing written objections with the clerk of the circuit court and serve those objections on the authority before the date of the hearing. The circuit court may appoint and utilize as the court considers necessary a special master for assistance with the resolution of any objections to the quiet title action or questions regarding the title to property subject thereto. Within 30 days following the hearing, the circuit court shall enter judgment on a petition to quiet title. The circuit court's judgment shall specify all of the following:

a. The legal description, tax parcel identification number, and, if known, the street address of the subject property.

b. That fee simple title to the property by the judgment is vested absolutely in the authority, except as otherwise provided in paragraph e., without any further rights of redemption.

c. That all liens against the property, including any lien for unpaid taxes or special assessments, are extinguished.

d. That, except as otherwise provided in paragraph e., the authority has good and marketable fee simple title to the property.

e. That all existing recorded and unrecorded interests in the property are extinguished, except a recorded easement or right-of-way, restrictive covenant, prior reservation or severance of all mineral, mining, oil and gas rights within and underlying the property, such state of facts as shown on recorded plats, or restrictions or covenants imposed under the Alabama Land Recycling and Economic Development Act or any other environmental law in effect in the state, severed oil, gas, and mineral rights and mineral leases and agreements are excepted from Act 2013-249 and any quiet title action authorized herein.

f. A finding that all persons entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard have been provided that notice and opportunity and that the authority provided notice to all interested parties or that the authority complied with the notice procedures in subdivision (1), which compliance shall create a rebuttable presumption that all interested parties received notice and an opportunity to be heard.

(l) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph e. of subdivision (2) of subsection (k), fee simple title to property set forth in a petition for quiet title filed under subsection (c) shall vest absolutely in the authority upon the effective date of the judgment by the circuit court and the authority shall have absolute title to the property. The authority's title is not subject to any recorded or unrecorded lien, except as provided in paragraph e. of subdivision (2) of subsection (k) and shall not be stayed except as provided in subsection (m). A judgment entered under this section is a final order with respect to the property affected by the judgment.

(m) The authority or a person claiming to have an interest in property under this section may within 42 days following the effective date of the judgment under subsection (k) appeal the circuit court's judgment quieting title to the property to the court of appeals. An appeal under this subsection is limited to the record of the proceedings in the circuit court under this section. In the event of a timely appeal, the circuit court's judgment quieting title to the property shall be stayed until the court of appeals has reversed, modified, or affirmed that judgment. If an appeal under this subsection stays the circuit court's judgment, the circuit court's judgment is stayed only as to the property that is the subject of that appeal and the circuit court's judgment quieting title to other property that is not the subject of that appeal is not stayed.

(n) The authority shall record an order of judgment for each parcel of property in the office of the judge of probate for the county in which the subject property is located.

(o) Notwithstanding the requirements for adverse possession under Section 40-10-82, or any other law, the authority may initiate a quiet title action under this section at any time after acquiring an interest in the property which is subject to the action. A final decree of an action properly filed in compliance with this section shall extinguish all outstanding rights of redemption.

(Act 2009-738, p. 2203, §8; Act 2010-727, p. 1827, §1; Act 2013-249, p. 610, §1; Act 2018-192, §1.)