To avoid title issues ruining your real estate closing, the title must be ‘clear’ when transferred from seller to buyer.
A clear title means the property has no claims, liens or outstanding debts. It is free from causing the buyer any issues, lawsuits, or disputes once they take ownership of the property. If the title is not clear, the property should not be sold until it is resolved.
Title issues are problems attached to the title that have not yet been resolved.
What is a Title in Real Estate?
A title is a legal right to ownership of property. It isn’t a physical document but comes with the purchase of a property. It’s also used in the ownership of vehicles and valuable items. In real estate, it is the term given to the legal right to own the real estate property, including the right to sell.
When buying a house, the buyer gets the house title along with the deed. A deed is a legal document that transfers the property and includes a description of the property.
Read Related: Title Search, Title Report, & Title Insurance in Florida Explained
Should I Perform a Title Search?
Performing a title search is an essential step in any real estate closing. The title search will comprehensively review the public record to reveal any title issues that could lead to costly legal battles in the future.
A title search can be performed by a Florida real estate attorney or title company.
Common Title Issues in Florida
Our Florida real estate attorneys have often seen the following title issues by people who have not performed title searches, or who have but needed the problems resolved:
1. Public Record Errors
Title issues such as public record errors occur when the title records for a property have mistakes or inaccurate or incomplete information. Any clerical error or missing information must be resolved before closing can be completed.
Public record errors can have serious consequences if not resolved properly, jeopardizing your entire real estate closing.
If your document has any public record errors, please contact our Florida real estate attorneys for assistance with a swift resolution.
Liens are placed on properties with outstanding debts or taxes owed to banks, government entities, businesses and other parties.
Liens must be paid off before the property can be transferred to the buyer, as the party owed money could put a legal claim of ownership on the real estate title.
3. Boundary Issues
Another type of title issue is a boundary issue. Boundary issues occur when the property’s boundary lines are not clearly defined or are disputed. In these cases, neighbors and public entities could claim ownership of part of the property, causing legal disputes if the new owners start to encroach or work on the disputed land.
Boundary issues are common in property that has never been surveyed or through inaccurate surveys.
To get a reliable property survey, you should use a Florida real estate attorney or title company.
4. Illegal Deeds, Forgery and Fraud
Illegal deeds fail to meet the rules of property law. For example, a previous owner may have documented the title illegally, through forgery, undocumented immigrants, a minor, a person of unsound mind or fraud.
In cases of fraud, the buyer can be tricked by someone unexpectedly arriving at the closing, claiming to be someone else. Or, they may forge or fake legal documents.
In any of these cases, the buyer could be paying for something that didn’t belong to the ‘seller’, or is laced with legal issues that could come back to bite them hard.
If your real estate purchase has involved any signs of fraud, forgery or foul play then please contact our Florida real estate lawyers immediately to resolve your title issue.
5. Unknown or Missing Heirs
Another title issue that could ruin your real estate closing is an ownership dispute from a surviving family member.
For example, if the property owner died before closing was complete, a family member might come forward to claim their inheritance or cite the owner’s will as their right to ownership.
Different versions of these stories have been seen over the years in Florida, in the days and weeks after a proposed seller passes away.
6. Unknown Easements
Easements are rights held by people and entities to use a property’s land in a certain way. For example, a government agency may have the right to cross your land, put up billboards, and electricity pylons or make use of any number of benefits.
Usually, these easements should be made clear to the buyer. But sometimes they can be unknown or unannounced, which can leave the new property owner restricted on land use or with surprise visits from people.
How to Fix Title Issues in Florida
If you have a title issue in Florida, you can contact a Florida real estate attorney for a quick resolution.
You can also use a title company, but it’s important to note that a real estate attorney can do the same as a title company, but a title company cannot do the same as an attorney.
Real estate attorneys have the legal expertise to settle title issues, including ownership or boundary disputes, will contests or any outstanding liens.
An attorney can also perform title searches and file public documents to correct errors and reveal any title issues that could ruin your real estate closing. This requires a lot of paperwork and exhaustive searching of public records, scanning for errors in countless documents.
Read Related: Florida Title Company or Real Estate Lawyer: Who Should Handle Your Closing?
What is Title Insurance?
Title insurance protects home buyers and lenders from potential title issues that could arise during the purchase of real estate property. The insurance will provide coverage against loss.
Do I Need Title Insurance?
Title insurance is optional in Florida but highly advised to avoid facing significant financial losses due to an unexpected title issue that could ruin your real estate closing. Some lenders may also request you to have title insurance prior to approval.
Our Florida real estate title insurance attorneys can assist you through this process.
Hire a Real Estate Closing Attorney in Riverview and St. Petersburg, Florida
If you’re buying or selling a property in Florida, our real estate closing attorneys can assist you and prevent costly legal battles arising from unexpected title issues.
We’ll perform the relevant title searches, fixing errors, re-filing documents and resolve any legal disputes as swiftly as possible.
If you’re purchasing property or land in St Petersburg, Florida or Riverview, Florida, contact us today for legal advice.
Our St Petersburg & Riverview real estate attorneys have extensive experience that can help you through these tricky moments, reviewing your real estate contract, advising you on the next steps to secure your transaction, and successfully finalizing the purchase of your new home or commercial property.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.