Frequently Asked Questions
When a property is financed, bought or sold, a record of that transaction is generally filed in public archives. Likewise, records of other events that may affect the ownership of a property, like liens or levies, are also archived.
When you buy title insurance for your property, a title company searches these records to find – and remedy, if possible – several types of ownership issues. First, the title company searches public records to determine the property’s ownership status. After this search, the underwriter will determine the insurability of the title.
Even the most skilled title professionals may not find all problems associated with a property, though. Some risks, such as title issues due to filing errors, forgeries, or undisclosed heirs, are difficult to identify. So after the title company finishes its searching, it also provides a title insurance policy that will help protect you from a variety of issues that might be uncovered later.
If you take out a mortgage loan when you buy your property, your lender will require a loan policy of title insurance. This protects the lender’s interest in your property until your loan is paid off or refinanced.
On the other hand, an owner’s policy of title insurance insures your ownership rights to the property. Even though you’ll pay for this policy only once, your coverage will last as long as you own your home.
A real estate purchase may be the largest financial investment you ever make. So, when you buy an owner’s policy of title insurance, just think of it as buying some peace of mind!
When you buy a home, or any property for that matter, you expect to enjoy certain benefits from ownership. For example, you expect to be able to occupy and use the property as you wish, to be free from debts or obligations not created or agreed to by you, and to be able to freely sell or pledge your property as security for a loan. Title insurance is designed to cover these rights you bargain for.
Not at all. At the mere hint of a claim adverse to your title, you should contact your title insurer or the agent who issued your policy. Title insurance includes coverage for legal expenses which may be necessary to investigate, litigate or settle an adverse claim.
The cost varies, depending mainly on the value of your property. The important thing to remember is that you only pay once, then the coverage continues in effect for so long as you have an interest in covered property. If you should die, the coverage automatically continues for the benefit of your heirs. If you sell your property, giving warranties of title to your buyer, your coverage continues. Likewise, if a buyer gives you a mortgage to finance a purchase of covered property from you, your coverage continues to protect your security interest in the property.
The lender’s policy covers only the amount of its loan, which is usually not the full property value. In the event of an adverse claim, the lender would ordinarily not be concerned unless its loan became non-performing and the claim threatened the lender’s ability to foreclose and recover its principal and interest. And, in the event of a claim there is no provision for payment of legal expenses for an uninsured party. When a loan policy is being issued, the small additional expense of an owner’s policy is a bargain.
As with any insurance contract, the insuring provisions express the coverage afforded by the title insurance policy and there are exceptions, exclusions and conditions to coverage that limit or narrow the coverage afforded by the policy. Also, some coverage may not be available in a particular area or transaction due to legal, regulatory or underwriting considerations.
Standard coverage handles risks such as:
- Forgery and impersonation
- Lack of competency, capacity or legal authority of a party
- Deed not joined in by a necessary party (co-owner, heir, spouse, corporate officer, or business partner)
- Undisclosed (but recorded) prior mortgage or lien
- Undisclosed (but recorded) easement or use restriction
- Erroneous or inadequate legal descriptions
- Lack of a right of access
- Deed not properly recorded
Extended policies, subject to locality changes, may protect you against such additional defects as:
- Off-record matters, such as claims for adverse possession or prescriptive easement
- Deed to land with buildings encroaching on land of another
- Incorrect survey
- Silent (off-record) liens (such as mechanics’ or estate tax liens)
- Pre-existing violations of subdivision laws, zoning ordinances or CC&R’s
- Post-policy forgery
- Forced removal of improvements due to lack of building permit (subject to deductible)
- Post-policy construction of improvements by a neighbor onto insured land
- Location and dimensions of insured land (survey not required)