What constitutes a Property Title?
The group of rights a party may own as either an equitable or legal interest in a piece of property is called the Property Title. Not all the rights need be held by a single party, but may be split between several parties. The term “Property Title” also serves as the proper term for a document that serves as evidence of ownership, such as a deed. Conveying that document, the Property
Title, is what is required to transfer property ownership from one party to another.
Often possession of a property implies ownership, but such possession is not enough to legally prove such ownership. Most times it takes both possession and title to claim ownership and both of those may be transferred independently. When it comes to real property ownership, recording the title provides public notice of who owns the property.
The Title Search
In this country, evidence of a Property Title is usually established through the title reports created by title insurance companies. The title agents conduct an extensive search of public records (municipal, county and information stored in a data warehouse called a “title plant”) showing the history of the property (called a “chain of title”).
The title agent will strive to discover any faults with the titles such as liens, easements, judgments and any other encumbrances affecting the title. Only when such defects are cleared up can a clean title be issued and title insurance written. Such title insurance protects the buyer in the present and future from any defects that may rise from the property’s
past history. The title insurance covers the buyer against loss and affords them the title company’s assistance in any court case required to defend the title. Mortgage lenders may insist on such title insurance before agreeing to extend a mortgage for the property.
What Rights Does A Property Title Protect?
The main rights afforded in a Property Title are exclusive use, enclosure and possession, acquisition, conveyance (including to one’s heirs after death) and access easement. Other real property title rights may include mineral or water rights, timber, farming and grazing rights and easement to neighboring properties (for utility use) and
development rights to erect improvements (taking into account various restrictions and zoning rights.)
The Property Title passes to the buyer when a contract for the sale is executed. When the sales contract conditions have been met, a closing is held and legal title passes to the buyer.
For more information on Property Title, visit www.alta.org.