Real estate records, also known as property records, are documents pertaining to the ownership rights to a piece of real estate, such as a home, a plot of land, commercial property, or any other type of real estate. A deed is a common example of a property record. A deed is a signed legal document that transfers ownership of a property to a new owner.
Deeds and other property records are typically held at the county recorder of deeds office. These records are generally available to the public so that any individual can research the records for their property or any other property, such as one they are considering purchasing. This is where the phrase “property records” comes from.
If someone sells their home and someone else buys it, the transaction needs to be recorded in the recorder of the deeds office. This process also occurs when property is transferred through a will or as a gift.
Property records need to be properly maintained. Deeds may indicate liens or encumbrances on a piece of property that is up for sale, and the records in the property office can alert potential buyers to these issues. The property records will also show if there are any problems due to failure to pay the property taxes.
When are Real Estate Records Useful?
Individuals often research property records concerning the purchase and sale of a residence. In these cases, the buyer may consult a local property record database to learn more about the property they want. During this process, they may discover new information regarding the history of the property, which may include:
- Outstanding property tax issues
- Outstanding debt or liens that apply to the property
- Encumbrances on the title, such as an easement or other issues
- Special instructions regarding boundary lines
- Special instructions regarding zoning issues
Property records are especially useful when a property is transferred without a sale. Examples of these cases are when a property is transferred through a will or gift. In these cases, it is important that the recipient of the property records the deed and updates the records to reflect that they are, in fact, the new property owner.
This update should be completed as soon as any type of sale or transfer of property occurs. This is because property records may be consulted or searched if another real estate issue arises, such as:
- Resolving boundary line disputes. The property records can serve as a marker for the boundary lines because they include the technical, complete, legal description of the property
- Clarifying the rights provided by an easement. An easement is a right to cross or use someone else’s land for a specified purpose. Utility easements are the most common, such as when a telephone or power company runs lines through a property for which they’ve been granted an easement
- Settling any outstanding lien dispute. A lien is a right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is paid
- Solving issues related to:
- Clearing up concerns regarding mortgages and foreclosures that may apply to the property.
In many cases, property records will be reviewed if there is a dispute involving the chain of title, which is a timeline that demonstrates the history of property ownership. Individuals cannot sell their property if they are not the true owner. Only the chain of title will let the person determine if they are the sole rightful owner or if someone else has rights to the property.
If a dispute arises regarding ownership during the purchase and sale of a house, the property records may be consulted, and a title search will most likely be performed. This can assist the parties in determining who the current and previous owners of the property are and were. This will determine which individual has the right to sell the property.
What if I Have a Dispute Involving Real Estate Records?
Disputes involving property records may cause delays and can even hinder sales or transfers of property.
Often, a chain of title disputes is involved. A chain of title disputes occurs when there is a conflict regarding the record of how the property was passed from owner to owner over time.
It is common for a title search to become complicated if the property was transferred, but the deed was not recorded. When this occurs, it may lead to multiple individuals claiming that they are the rightful owners of the property. This is common when dealing with inherited property. In these cases, a legal proceeding may be required to clarify the property record dispute.
An award of monetary damages may be rendered if a party suffers economic losses due to the dispute. These disputes are often complex and typically require the assistance of an attorney to resolve.
What if a Property Record Is Not Available?
If a property record is not available or does not exist, it may lead to serious delays or even a cancellation of the real estate deal. In certain cases, bringing an action to quiet title may even be necessary. An action to quiet title is a lawsuit in which a court is asked to determine who owns the title to a piece of property.
In other cases, reviewing other types of property documents, as opposed to the deed, may be useful to clear up confusion regarding property ownership. For example, information regarding a property may sometimes be found by reviewing the owner of the property’s estate documents or tax information.
Another manner to gain information about a piece of property is to hire a real estate lawyer to check the federal court system. In some instances, missing property details can be found in the documents from a prior lawsuit or, in the alternative, in a bankruptcy matter. A qualified real estate lawyer will know what resources to check to find this type of information.
If an individual discovers that their deed to a piece of property was not recorded, they should contact an attorney immediately. They should also contact their title insurance company and mortgage lender to ensure that their deed gets recorded properly. Not only is it legally necessary to record property documents, but it also protects the individual from liability or consequences, which may include losing the property.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help With Property Record Issues?
Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of a real estate lawyer for any property record issues you may have. Property records are extremely important, and you don’t want any confusion or conflict when selling or buying property.
Your attorney can assist you with legal and records searches, help complete any necessary paperwork, and represent you in court if you have to file a lawsuit or are otherwise involved in a legal proceeding. Homes and property are often the largest investments in an individual’s life, so having a lawyer on your side will help ensure your property purchase or sale is successful.