When it comes to quitclaimed land, as in this reader’s case, you won’t have legal ownership of the title if your relative didn’t have legal ownership to begin with.

Q: My husband’s mother inherited land from a family member and isn’t allowed to sell it. We moved onto an acre of it with a mobile home because we were told we couldn’t build a home on it. His parents then realized they had to pay taxes on the land we lived on and had a quitclaim deed written up giving my husband the acre of land. Can we build our house on the quitclaimed land now? Would his mother have any rights to our home? Can she take back the acre of land she quitclaimed to my husband? We’ve lived on the land for over three years.

A: You’ve packed quite a bit of information in a short question. So we’ll start with your ownership of the land. Your mother-in-law quitclaimed the land to your husband. If she had legal ownership to the land, you’d become the legal owner to the land upon receipt of the quitclaim deed and the subsequent recording of the deed at your local recorder of deed’s office or other office responsible for filing real estate documents.

But, and this is a big but, if your mother-in-law didn’t have the full legal right to the land or didn’t have any right to convey the land to your husband, the quitclaim deed may be worthless as you only get as much title from your relatives as they had to give you. So the first issue to figure out is whether the deed that conveyed title to you was done right, whether your in-laws received good title when they inherited the land and whether you and your husband have become legal owners of the land.

If you find out that the land is yours, then the next issue is to determine what you can do on the land. Your local building department or zoning department will have information for you to determine the minimum lot size requirements in your area and what you can build on the land.

You might need the services of an architect to help you navigate the rules to figure out what you can build on the land, but given how much land you mentioned, we suspect that the land you have might be in a more rural or suburban area. Sometimes the rules for constructing in suburban and rural areas require a larger land area: sometimes you need 5 acres as a minimum for example. In other words, you have to make sure that you know the building codes and zoning requirements.

In fact, in some areas, your mobile home might be prohibited and may only be allowed in certain zoned areas. So before you go spending a lot of money on your land, future home and improvements, make sure that you have all the information needed on both your ownership of the land and what you can do with the land.

Once you have all this information, you can move forward with your plans to build the house of your dreams. Good luck.