Share This Post
How a Real Estate Lawyer Can Assist with Obtaining Title Searches and Clearing Title Issues
A title search is often required when the property is bought or sold as it involves reviewing county or city records to learn the ownership history of that particular property. One of the main reasons for a title search is to be sure that the person selling the property is the actual owner as well as to make sure there is not some sort of defect in the title that would subject the buyer to legal liability or devalue the property in some way. Conducting a title search can be difficult, complicated, and time-consuming which is why you need the services of a real estate attorney.
Types of Title Defects
A title defect is something connected to the property that may either lower the value or bring the actual ownership of the property into question. Some of the more common title defects include:
- Documents that make the title questionable
- Errors in the title chain
- Foreclosure activity
- Fraudulent or forged title
- Pending probate issues
- Unreleased liens
A real estate law firm can help you determine if the title of the property you are buying is free of any encumbrances that could put ownership in question.
There are many reasons why a title may have defects upon a thorough search. One of the most common is clerical errors. A county clerk could enter the wrong information in the title or neglect to note a change to the title which could put ownership in question.
Another common reason that a title issue may appear is an unknown lien. The person you are purchasing from may not realize that a creditor placed a lien on the property. That lien must be paid in full before the title is declared clear. If you have already purchased the property, this could mean you are required to pay off the lien to clear the title. The most common type of lien placed on a property is a mechanic’s lien. These are placed by a general contractor or other company that performs services designed to improve the property. If the home is being built, many construction companies place mechanics liens on the project before they start working. The lien is supposed to be released when the work is completed. However, a contractor may fail to file the satisfaction documents, leaving the lien on the property. Most mechanic’s liens expire if not acted upon after a certain date and they can be resolved but it can be time-consuming, especially if the contractor is no longer in business or has left the area.
Real estate attorneys say that another common problem with titles on the property is when probate is involved. When someone dies, the ownership of their property falls to those named in their will or based on the succession rules of the state. If an heir is missing or unknown to the rest of the family, this can cause title issues. Family members may also contest a will even after the property has been sold. If any of these scenarios occur, you may have title issues. There have also been cases when it appears someone has died without a will only to have one surface years later that could change ownership of a property.
Encumbrances and Easements
There may be an encumbrance on the property as well. There may be a third party that holds claim to the property, such as the sibling of the seller or a restriction on what can be done on the property. There may also be an unknown easement that allows someone else to access portions of the property.
Property Sold Illegally
In the past few years, there have been instances where the property has been sold illegally. Documents can be forged and filed with public records, making it difficult to determine who is the rightful owner of the property. Someone with a similar name may impersonate the property owner, selling you the property that they had no right to sell. According to a real estate lawyer, there have been instances of illegal deeds. If a previous deed was issued to an undocumented immigrant, a minor, someone whose mental faculties were not sound, or someone who claimed to be single but was actually married, it may be difficult to enforce the current owner of the property.
Clearing Title Issues
The best way to avoid title issues on the property is for a real estate attorney to conduct a title search. There are reports that say one-third of all property transactions involve additional work to address title issues. The search may go back as far as 50 years, searching for old deeds, wills, divorce decrees, court judgments, tax records, trusts, and even bankruptcy filings to confirm the title is clear. It can be difficult to research the title on a property, especially if the property is older.
If you have purchased the property and are concerned about the title chain or are considering a property that may have title issues, contact GoLawOffices today to see how they can help. They have been offering real estate services for decades, including obtaining title searches and clearing title issues. We can also issue title insurance to protect you from future title problems. You can arrange for a no-obligation consultation by calling 617-969-1111, Extension 5, or by filling out the easy online form.