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Slander of title is a civil wrong where someone makes untrue statements about another person's property with malicious intent. In order to take a case to court, someone must be able to demonstrate that statements were known to be false, were made with malicious intent in mind, and caused actual damages. Thus, someone who loses out on a real estate deal because a third party falsely claimed that the house had termites to drive the price down could sue that party for slander of title.
This concept most commonly comes up in real estate law, and can involve making disparaging comments about the condition of a property or the clarity of the title itself. It can come up in other areas of the law as well; essentially, in any situation where there is property involved, making false claims about or against that property could be considered slander of title. Much like slander in the sense of a tort against an individual, this civil wrong involves disparaging the reputation.
There are a number of ways people can commit slander of title. One method is to cast doubts on the rightful ownership of the title by personally claiming the title, filing a lien on the title, or otherwise suggesting that the ownership of the property is unclear. People can also make disparaging comments or publish aspersions about the property with the goal of making people lose interest in a sale or take other actions that might cause damages to the owner, such as moving out of a rental home for fear that there is something dangerous in the house.
There is a distinction between comments made in good faith with no malicious intent and comments clearly intended to cause damage. There may be cases, for instance, where people make claims against a property's title because they genuinely believe they have a right to it or there is a matter that needs to be cleared up. Likewise, if a person does not know a statement to be false when it is made, it is not considered slander of title.
As a general rule, people can avoid being accused of this civil wrong by sticking to factual information, and only filing claims or questioning clarity of title when there is good reason to do so. If someone has reason to believe there is a problem with the property, independent confirmation should be sought to determine if the belief is true, or the person should make the dubious nature of any expressed concerns or doubts very clear. For example, a neighbor who says “I recently treated my house for termites and it is possible the house next door may have them as well, although I do not know for certain,” is not committing slander of title, but only providing factual information.
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