10 Common Title Issues
Have you ever wondered why you need title insurance? Your home may be new to you, but every property has a history. A thorough title search can help uncover any title defects tied to your property. And, subject to the terms of the policy, your title insurance provides protection for you from title problems that may become known after you close your transaction. Some of these common title issues are:
Errors in public records: To err is human, but when it affects your home ownership rights, those mistakes can be devastating. Clerical or filing errors could affect the deed or survey of your property and cause undo financial strain in order to resolve them.
Unknown liens: Prior owners of your property may not have been meticulous bookkeepers – or bill payers. And even though the former debt is not your own, banks or other financing companies can place liens on your property for unpaid debts even after you have closed on the sale. This is an especially worrisome issue with distressed properties.
Illegal deeds: While the chain of title on your property may appear perfectly sound, it’s possible that a prior deed was made by an 4. undocumented immigrant, a minor, a person of unsound mind, or one who is reported single but in actuality married. These instances may affect the enforceability of prior deeds, affecting prior (and possibly present) ownership.
Missing heirs: When a person dies, the ownership of their home may fall to their heirs, or those named within their will. However, those heirs are sometimes missing or unknown at the time of death. Other times, family members may contest the will for their own property rights. These scenarios – which can happen long after you have purchased the property – may affect your rights to the property.
Forgeries: Unfortunately, we don’t live in a completely honest world. Sometimes forged or fabricated documents that affect property ownership are filed within public records, obscuring the rightful ownership of the property. Once these forgeries come to light, your rights to your home may be in jeopardy.
Undiscovered encumbrances: When it comes to owning a home, three can be a crowd. At the time of purchase, you may not know that a third party holds a claim to all or part of your property – due to a former mortgage or lien, or non-financial claims, like restrictions or covenants limiting the use of your property.
Unknown easements: You may own your new home and its surrounding land, but an unknown easement may prohibit you from using it as you’d like, or could allow government agencies, businesses, or other parties to access all or portions of your property. While usually non-financial issues, easements can still affect your right to enjoy your property.
Boundary/survey disputes: You may have seen several surveys of your property prior to purchasing, however, other surveys may exist that show differing boundaries. Therefore, a neighbor or other party may be able to claim ownership to a portion of your property.
Undiscovered will: When a property owner dies with no apparent will or heir, the state may sell his or her assets, including the home. When you purchase such a home, you assume your rights as owner. However, even years later, the deceased owner’s will may come to light and your rights to the property may be seriously jeopardized.
False impersonation of previous owner: Common and similar names can make it possible to falsely “impersonate” a property owner. If you purchase a home that was once sold by a false owner, you can risk losing your legal claim to the property.
All About Title Insurance
Shopping For Title Insurance
In most states, consumers are free to shop for title insurance and to select a title company, settlement company, or attorney to conduct their closing. (Ask a local title company if consumers are able to shop for title insurance in your state.) Many consumers rely on their real estate agent or lender for a recommendation for a title company since they are in a position to know which companies provide good service. However, you are not required to use the title company they recommend. If you decide to choose your own title company, we encourage you to shop for title insurance. There are some things to keep in mind, however, which vary from state to state. And there are some terms you will want to know when speaking with title companies asking for a rate quote.
Types of Title Insurance
Knowing what you are asking for is your first step in shopping for title insurance rates. There are two kinds of title insurance: the Loan Policy, which protects the lender's investment, and the Owner's Policy of Title Insurance, which protects the buyer's interests. If you are obtaining a loan to purchase your house, the lender will usually require that you purchase a Loan Policy to protect their investment. We strongly encourage consumers to obtain an Owner's Policy for a one-time fee paid at closing to protect their interests. Who pays for the Owner's Policy varies from state to state and sometimes even within a state. For instance, on much of the West Coast, the seller would purchase the Owner's Policy for the buyer. On the East Coast, however, the buyer usually pays for the Owner's Policy. An Owner's Policy is not automatically issued in every state. Be sure to ask your local title company or real estate agent how it's handled in your area and whether the Loan and Owner's policies come together or are sold separately.
How Title Insurance Rates are Set
How title insurance rates are set varies from state to state. Some rates are set by the companies themselves and some are set by the State Department of Insurance. For those states that set the rates (Florida, New Mexico, and Texas), each title company is required to charge the same for title insurance for each different type of policy and for each different type of rate. Some other states, including but not limited to, NY, PA, NJ, OH, and DE, which have rating bureaus authorized under state law, may have uniform rates as well. When shopping in the states listed above, you will receive similar rates for title insurance from each company. While title insurance rates may not be as "shoppable" in these states, the cost of other services provided by the title company may or may not be included in the rate so you can shop for those services. Talk to your local title company for how rates are determined where you live.
As mentioned above, some rates may or may not include other services provided by the title company such as conducting the closing, preparing and notarizing documents, adding endorsements to the policy which may be required (usually by the lender or buyer), and other services. When comparing one rate to another, be sure to get detailed information on what is included in that rate, so you are comparing equally.
Here are some terms that would be helpful to know when talking to a title company. Ask your title company which of these you may qualify for:
Basic Rate: The rate charged to a consumer who does not qualify for a reduced rate such as, but not limited to, the reissue rate or simultaneous issue rate. (see below).
Reissue Rate: The reduced rate for an Owner's Policy issued on a property which was previously insured within some period of years. In some states, the term is also used for a refinance rate (see below).
Simultaneous Issue Rate: The reduced rate for a Loan or Owner's Policy issued on the same property or loan at the same time as another policy. The term usually refers to a Loan Policy issued at the same time as an Owner's Policy when a property is purchased.
Refinance Rate: The reduced rate for a Loan Policy issued on the new loan in a refinance transaction, in which the original loan was previously insured within some period of years.
Risk Rate: A rate that does not include the cost of researching the title or the cost of conducting the closing.
All-Inclusive Rate: A rate that includes at least some part of the cost of researching the title or the cost of conducting the closing.