Phillips & Angley

Clouds and disputes: When a title search reveals trouble

You have found the property for which you've been looking. Whether you intend to purchase a new home or a building for your business, it is not easy to find the place that has everything on your wish list. When you do, you certainly want to act quickly to secure the property.

The transfer of real estate titles is complex. Proving the current owner has the legal right to sell the property is one of the most important aspects of a real estate sale. A comprehensive title search typically reveals any issues that may complicate the sale. When research into the history of the property reveals that someone else may have a claim to it, real estate law says there is a cloud on the title.

Title clouds are not unusual

One example of a cloud is a mechanic's lien. If a contractor did improvements or repairs on the property, he or she may have placed a lien on the title to assure payment for the job. The contractor should have filed to release the lien when he or she was paid for the work, and a mechanic's lien eventually expires. However, if the lien is still hanging over the title, it will certainly bog own your closing. Other factors that might cloud the title include the following:

  • Previous deeds
  • Wills or trusts
  • Divorce settlements
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax documents
  • Court judgements
  • Liens for delinquent child or spousal support

In some cases, a titleholder may forge a spouse's signature to add or remove the spouse from the title without his or her knowledge. These clouds must be handled before the title can pass to you. It may be simple to resolve, or it may involve tracking people down and settling a dispute.

Clearing the clouds and letting in the light

The last thing you want in your real estate transaction is to get to the closing table and learn there is an unresolved cloud on the title of the property you are purchasing. A title dispute is likely to delay the closing procedure, jeopardizing your financing and other elements of your ownership.

There may be dozens of reasons why someone may dispute the title of the property you want to purchase. If such a dispute arises, you will want to have solid representation to defend your interests in the property. A real estate attorney with years of success will carefully examine every aspect of your case and provide the appropriate counsel for resolving the dispute.

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