Real estate records, which are also known as property records, are real estate documents that pertain to the ownership rights of a piece of real estate. This may include:

  • A home;
  • A plot of land;
  • Commercial property; and
  • Other types of property.

Property records contain information regarding the transfer of ownership rights of property from one party to another party.

A deed is a common example of a property record. A deed is a written legal document that states the individual who is the rightful owner of the property.

Typically, deeds and other property records are submitted to and are held at the county recorder of deeds office, or a similar department. These records are generally available to the public so that any individual can research the records for a particular item of real estate.

This same office is also responsible for maintaining all of the records of transfers and other important notes that are related to the property in that specific area. This is where the phrase property records comes from.

For example, if the purchase and sale of a property or residence occurs, the transaction needs to be recorded in the office of the recorder of deeds. This same process also occurs when property is transferred through a will or as a gift.

In addition, it is important for property records to be properly maintained because they are used to alert buyers to other issues, which may include liens or encumbrances on the title to the property as well as if there are any problems with payments involving property taxes.

When are Property Records Useful?

Individuals often research property records in connection with the purchase and sale of a residence. In these cases, the buyer or the seller may consult a local property record database to learn more about the property that is being transferred. During this process, they may discover new information regarding the history of the property, which may include:

  • Property tax issues;
  • Outstanding debt or liens that apply to the property;
  • Encumbrances on the title, such as an easement or other issues; and
  • Special instructions regarding boundary lines;
  • Special instructions regarding zoning issues.

Additionally, property records are especially useful in situations where a property is being transferred without a sale. Examples of these types of cases are when a property is transferred through a will, such as inheriting property, or when the property is transferred as a gift.

In these cases, it is important that the recipient of the property record the deed and update 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, including for:

  • Resolving boundary line disputes. The property records can serve as a marker for the boundary lines because they generally include a description of the property;
  • Clarifying the rights provided by an easement;
  • Settling any outstanding lien disputes;
  • Solving issues related to:
    • wills;
    • inheritances; and
    • property shares; and
  • 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 ownership of the property. For example, an individual cannot sell their property if they are not the true owner.

If a dispute arises regarding ownership during the selling process, 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 were. This will determine which individual actually has the right to sell the property.

What if I Have a Dispute Involving Property Records?

Disputes involving property records may cause delays and can even hinder sales or transfers of property. Often, a chain of title dispute is involved.

A chain of title dispute 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 property that is inherited.

In these types of cases, a legal proceeding may be required in order to clarify the property record dispute. This may involve other pieces of evidence, including other documents which have been kept in relation to the property.

In addition, an award of 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 in order to reach a resolution.

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 transaction. In certain cases, it may be necessary to bring an action to quiet title.

An action to quiet title is a lawsuit in which a court may intervene to determine who actually owns the title to a property. This will help prevent any similar legal challenges from occurring in the future.

In other cases, it may be useful to review other types of property documents, as opposed to the deed, in order to clear up confusion regarding ownership of the property. 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 in which to gain information regarding a property is to hire a real estate lawyer to check the federal court systems. 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 in order to find this type of information.

If an individual discovers that their own deed to a piece of property was not recorded, then they should contact an attorney immediately. They should also contact their title insurance company as well as their mortgage lender to ensure that their deed gets recorded properly. Not only is it legally necessary to record property documents, 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 assist in reducing confusion and conflict when you are selling or transferring 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 ensure your property purchase is a happy and successful one.