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Understanding Real Property Title Defects

Title defects are issues that can arise in real property transactions, casting doubt on the ownership or validity of a property's title. These defects can create significant challenges for both buyers and sellers, potentially resulting in legal disputes and financial losses. Understanding the types of title defects that can occur is crucial for all parties involved in real estate transactions.

1. Clerical and Recording Errors:

One common type of title defect arises from clerical or recording errors during the preparation and filing of legal documents. These errors can include misspelled names, incorrect property descriptions, or errors in the recording of deeds, mortgages, or liens. Such mistakes can cloud the title and raise doubts about the accuracy and completeness of the recorded information.

2. Unknown Liens and Encumbrances:

Liens and encumbrances are legal claims or restrictions on a property that can affect its ownership or use. Examples include mortgages, unpaid taxes, mechanics' liens, and easements. If a property has undisclosed liens or encumbrances, a buyer may unknowingly assume responsibility for someone else's debt or face limitations on property use.

3. Missing Heirs and Unknown Ownership Claims:

In cases where property has been passed down through generations or has changed hands multiple times, tracing the chain of ownership can be challenging. Missing heirs, disputed estates, or conflicting claims of ownership can create title defects. These issues can lead to prolonged legal battles, delaying or even preventing the sale or transfer of the property.

4. Boundary and Survey Disputes:

Boundary disputes can arise when there is a disagreement regarding the exact location of property lines. These disputes may involve neighboring property owners or conflicting survey records. If a property's boundaries are unclear or disputed, it can cast doubt on the validity of the title and create legal uncertainties.

5. Unreleased or Improperly Released Liens:

When a mortgage or lien is paid off, it is essential to obtain a proper release or satisfaction document from the lender or lienholder. Failure to record the release or to ensure its accuracy can result in a title defect. Unreleased liens can give the impression that there are outstanding debts against the property even if they have been settled.

6. Undisclosed or Incorrectly Resolved Easements:

Easements grant specific rights to use or access a property for designated purposes. If an easement is not properly disclosed or resolved during a real estate transaction, it can create complications for both the buyer and seller. For example, an undisclosed easement may give someone else the right to access or use a portion of the property, limiting the buyer's enjoyment or potential development options.

Addressing Title Defects:

To mitigate the risks associated with title defects, it is crucial to conduct a thorough title search and obtain title insurance. Title insurance provides protection against financial losses resulting from title defects. Additionally, working with experienced real estate professionals, such as attorneys and title companies, can help identify and address potential issues before completing a transaction.

In conclusion, real property title defects can pose significant challenges during real estate transactions. Buyers and sellers must be aware of the potential issues that can arise and take time and legal action to resolve. Wood Kull is an experienced real estate firm, representing real estate agents, home buyers and home sellers across the state.

If you find that your property has title defects, you should contact Wood Kull as soon as possible to resolve the flaws in your title!

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Wood, Kull, Herschfus, Obee & Kull, P.C.

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