NMTPA Timeframes Strictly Construed

Dale Astle

By Dale Astle

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kinslow Family Limited Partnership v. GBR Cattle Company, LLC

2015 OK CIV APP 47

A recent case deals with the right to recover attorney’s fees pursuant to the Nonjudicial Marketable Title Procedures Act (NMTPA) appearing in Title 12 O.S. § 1141.1 et. seq. This statute outlines a procedure by which a notice of demand can be sent to a designated respondent regarding a specific title defect requesting execution of a curative document or for corrective action to be completed. The statute authorizes an award of attorney’s fees if each step of the process outlined in the statute is followed prior to initiation of a quiet title action to cure the title defect in the event the requested document or corrective action is not provided or completed by the respondent.

 In this case, a quiet title action had been filed to eliminate a cloud on the title arising by reason of the recording of two stray deeds. The trial court quieted the title and decreed that the stray deeds are sham deeds and of no legal effect. The court cancelled the deeds of record.

The plaintiff in the quiet title action sought attorney’s fees and expenses under the NMTPA.

Based on the notice sent by the owner of the property to the respondent pursuant to the NMTPA and the related response, the trial court granted the motion for attorney’s fees in the amount of $52,812.81 and $2,122.09 in costs. The issue on appeal was the sufficiency of compliance with the requirements of the NMTPA.

The court noted that the NMTPA requires that, following the initial notice under Title 12 O.S. § 1141.3 by which the requesting party seeks a curative document or a corrective action regarding a specific title defect, the respondent, pursuant to Title 12 O.S. § 1141.4, shall have thirty days from receipt of the notice in which to respond to the request for the curative document or corrective action.

In this instance, pursuant to § 1141.4, the respondent sent a letter to the requestor’s counsel asking for clarification of the initial request for curative action.  Pursuant to the statute, following such request for clarification, the initial requestor shall then have twenty days in which to provide the clarification or additional information to respondent.

Respondent shall then have an additional twenty days from the date the clarification or additional information is received in which to provide a final response to the requestor.

The court noted that the attorneys for the requestor had filed the quiet title action on July 8, 2010, which was less than the required twenty days following the receipt by respondent of the requested clarification or additional information.   

 As a result, the appellate court found that the plaintiff had not complied with the NMTPA and reversed the trial court’s order which had awarded attorney’s fees and costs to the plaintiff.

 

The Take Away –

It is critically important to strictly adhere to the notice and specific timeline requirements outlined in the Nonjudicial Marketable Title Procedures Act in order to recover attorney’s fees for a curative action involving real property.

 

*Content by Dale L. Astle, Commercial Real Estate Counsel

The information set out herein is informational only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice