Property records are legal documents that contain information about real property or a plot of land. The term “property records” refers to the deed to the land. A deed indicates who has current legal ownership of the property.

Once a deed has been signed and transferred to the property’s new owner, the deed must be recorded. A deed is recorded by filing with the recorder of deeds or the county records department where the property is located.

This office is responsible for maintaining all records of transfers and other important notes related to the property, hence the phrase “property records.”

If the purchase and sale of a property or residence have occurred, this transaction must be recorded by the recorder of deeds. The same process occurs when a property is transferred as a gift or through a will.

These records must be properly maintained because they are used to alert buyers to other issues, such as liens or other encumbrances on the title to the property and any problems with payments involving property taxes.

When are Property Records Necessary?

Property records should always be updated as soon as a sale or transfer of property occurs. This is because the property records can be consulted or searched if another real estate issue arises, such as for:

  • Resolving boundary line disputes (e.g., the 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 any issues related to wills, inheritances, and property shares; and
  • Clearing up any concerns regarding mortgages and foreclosures on the property.

In most cases, property records will be reviewed when there is a dispute involving the chain of title (i.e., a timeline that demonstrates the history of ownership of a property).

For example, a person cannot sell their property if they are not the true owner. If a dispute arises over ownership during the selling process, the property records may be consulted, and a title search will likely be performed.

Title searches can help the parties determine who the current and previous owners of the property were. This, in turn, will tell them who has the right to sell the property.

What If a Property Record is Not Available?

If a property record is unavailable or does not exist, it can lead to serious delays or cancellations of a real estate transaction. In some cases, it may be necessary to bring an action to quiet title. An action to quiet title is simply a lawsuit where a court may intervene to establish who owns the title to a property, which will help prevent any similar future legal challenges from occurring.

In other instances, it can be useful to review other types of property documents (as opposed to a deed) to clear up any confusion over ownership. For example, information about a property can sometimes be found by looking at the property owner’s estate documents or tax information.

Another way to gain information about a property is by hiring a real estate lawyer to check the federal court systems. Sometimes, missing property details can be found in prior lawsuit documents involving a property dispute or in a bankruptcy matter. A qualified attorney will know which resources to check to see this type of information.

Finally, suppose a person discovers that their deed to a piece of property was not recorded. In that case, they should immediately contact an attorney, their title insurance company, and their mortgage lender to ensure that their deed then gets properly recorded.

Not only is it legally necessary to record property documents, but it also protects you from liability or consequences, such as losing your property.

What are Deeds?

Legal documents that transfer property ownership from one party to another are called deeds. Information contained in a public records search can reveal the name of the true property owner.

Deeds outline the grantor and the grantee of a piece of property, including the date the two parties transferred the real property interests. States have different requirements for deeds a party can use to convey real property interests. A real estate attorney may need to look up the deeds on a property to determine ownership.

The most common deeds are:

  • General warranty
  • Special warranty
  • Grant, and
  • Quitclaim deeds

A general warranty deed guarantees the grantor’s right to sell a piece of property to the grantee. General warranty deeds are a promise that a clear title came from the previous property owner. A grantor can use a special warranty deed to defend the title against their actions or omissions. Special warranty deeds do not offer buyers as much protection as general warranty deeds.

A grantor does not have to defend title claims in a grant deed. Grant deeds contain a covenant that the grantor has not sold the real property being given to the grantee and that the grantor gives the property to the grantee without liens. A quitclaim deed does not guarantee that the grantor’s title is valid.

A quitclaim deed transfers whatever type of ownership a grantor has on a property. It makes no promises about the extent of the interest on said property, so a buyer must accept the risk that the grantor may not have valid ownership.

What are Liens?

Real property information isn’t complete without lien information. Lien information contains facts about voluntary and involuntary liens entities have on a property. If a property has one or more liens, it can make the sale more difficult. Real estate agents need lien information before selling a home because it helps assess the property value. Liens change the way a real estate agent gets paid from a sale because the proceeds first must go to pay the lien holders.

Real property records are essential for people in many professions. Having a detailed, accurate account of a property’s history, ownership, liens, and other information gives people an understanding of where the property stands. Having access to cost-effective, easily obtainable public records online can help you access the information you need about a property.

What are Plats?

A plat is a map indicating the boundaries of an individual property. Plats are important documents to have. For landowners, real estate agents, and attorneys, plats provide an accurate picture of a property’s size, location, and real property. Plats can show if a property extends to include a lake or pond.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Property Records?

Property records are vital because they help to ensure that a person’s legal rights are recorded for future reference. They also make the sale or transfer of property rights a more accessible and more efficient process. If you have any questions or concerns about property records, you should contact a local real estate lawyer for assistance.

A lawyer with experience in property law will be able to help walk you through the process of recording your property records and managing any issues involving real estate matters.

Additionally, an attorney can also research property records to ensure they are intact and not fraudulent. They represent you in court if you need to file a lawsuit concerning a property dispute.