May 2, 2023


In this article, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of title insurance, its definition, purpose, and types of policies available. You will learn how title insurance protects property owners and the process of obtaining it.

The article delves into the title insurance claims process, from identifying possible issues to payment and settlements. It also outlines common title insurance claims such as error in public records, unknown liens, illegal deeds, and forgery and fraud.

The article provides guidance on preventing title insurance claims and explores the limitations and exclusions of title insurance. Finally, it answers some frequently asked questions related to title insurance claims.

Understanding Title Insurance

Definition and Purpose

Title insurance is a type of indemnity insurance that protects both property owners and mortgage lenders against financial loss resulting from defects in a property’s title. A title represents the legal right of a person to own, possess, use, control, and sell a property, and title insurance ensures that this right is protected against challenges or claims made on the property.

The purpose of title insurance is to safeguard the property owner and lender’s investment in the property by identifying and resolving any issues with the property’s title before they close the transaction.

Title insurance is uniquely different from traditional types of insurance, such as home, auto, or life insurance. While most insurance policies protect against future events or risks, title insurance provides coverage for past events and title defects that may become known later, after the property has been purchased.

As a result, the primary focus of title insurance is to eliminate potential risks and claims on the title by thoroughly reviewing and resolving title defects before concluding the property transaction.

Types of Title Insurance Policies

There are two main types of title insurance policies: owner’s title insurance and lender’s title insurance. Each policy serves a specific purpose and offers protection to the respective parties involved in a property transaction.

  1. Owner’s Title Insurance: This policy protects the property owner against title defects, liens, or encumbrances that may affect their ownership rights. An owner’s policy is usually purchased by the buyer during the property transaction, and it covers up to the purchase price of the property. The coverage of an owner’s title insurance policy lasts as long as the policyholder or their heirs have an interest in the property.

  2. Lender’s Title Insurance: This policy protects the mortgage lender against title defects that may affect their security interest in the property. A lender’s policy is typically required when obtaining a mortgage, and it is usually paid for by the buyer. The coverage amount of a lender’s title insurance policy is equal to the outstanding loan balance and decreases over time as the loan is paid off. The policy remains active until the mortgage loan is fully repaid.

How Title Insurance Protects Property Owners

Title insurance protects property owners by providing assurance that they have a valid and marketable title to the property. The coverage provided by title insurance typically includes protection against title defects, such as:
– Errors in public records
– Fraud or forgery of title documents
– Undisclosed heirs claiming an interest in the property
– Liens, encumbrances, or easements that were not discovered during the title search

If a defect in the title is discovered after the property has been purchased, the title insurer is responsible for defending the property owner’s rights in court and covering the costs associated with resolving the issue (including compensation for loss of property value).

In this sense, title insurance serves as a vital safeguard of the property owner’s financial investment and ensures that their ownership rights are protected against unexpected claims or liabilities arising from past events.

The Process of Obtaining Title Insurance

The process of obtaining title insurance typically involves the following steps:

  1. Selection of a Title Insurer: The buyer (or their real estate agent) chooses a title insurance company to underwrite the policy. The cost of title insurance varies depending on the state and the value of the property, but it is usually a small percentage of the property’s purchase price.

  2. Title Search: The title insurer performs a thorough search of public records to identify any defects, liens, encumbrances, or other issues that may affect the property’s title. This search typically includes a review of county land records, court documents, tax records, and other relevant sources.

  3. Title Examination: After the title search is completed, the title insurer examines the findings and determines if there are any title defects that need to be resolved before the property transaction can proceed.

  4. Resolution of Title Defects: If title defects are identified, the title insurer works with the parties involved in the property transaction to resolve the issues. This may involve obtaining releases for liens, addressing boundary disputes, or clearing any other encumbrances that could impact the property’s title.

  5. Issuance of Title Insurance Policy: Once all title defects have been resolved, the title insurance company issues the owner’s and/or lender’s title insurance policy. The policy takes effect on the property closing date and provides coverage for the policyholder against potential financial losses resulting from defects in the property’s title.

In summary, title insurance is an essential element of the property transaction process, offering valuable protection to property owners and mortgage lenders against potential financial losses stemming from title defects. By carrying out a thorough title search and examination, title insurers work to proactively identify and resolve any issues with the title, ensuring a smooth and secure transaction for all parties involved.

Title Insurance Claims Process

Title insurance is a policy that provides coverage against financial loss resulting from defects or disagreements about a property’s title. It is designed to protect the policyholder against issues arising from previously undiscovered claims and frauds related to the property’s ownership.

This section provides an in-depth look at the title insurance claims process, which includes identifying potential issues, filing a claim, the investigation by the title insurance company, understanding the resolution process, and payment and settlements.

Identifying Possible Issues

The first step in the title insurance claims process is identifying the potential issues that could lead to a claim. These could include various factors, such as a previously undiscovered lien against the property, an outstanding mortgage, unpaid taxes, or an issue with the legal description of the property.

Identifying possible issues generally involves a thorough examination of the existing public records and any title defects that might have been missed in the initial search conducted before the issuance of the policy.

Another method of identifying potential title insurance issues is through a title search, which involves going through the public records system to find any claims, liens, or restrictions on the title. By identifying any potential issues upfront, you can work with the title insurance company to address them before they escalate into a claim.

Filing a Title Insurance Claim

Once you have identified a potential issue with the title, the next step is to file a claim with your title insurance company. It is important to notify the company as soon as you become aware of the problem, as there may be specific deadlines for filing a claim.

You will typically need to provide a written notice of the claim, along with any supporting documentation, such as a copy of the original title report or closing documents, and evidence of the lien, encumbrance, or defect that you discovered.

The title insurance company may also require you to provide information on the mortgage lender and any other parties involved in the transaction, as well as a description of the loss or damage that you believe you have suffered. Be sure to document all communications with the company, including the date the claim was submitted, and keep copies of all correspondence.

Title Insurance Company Investigation

Upon receiving a claim, the title insurance company will conduct an investigation to determine the validity of the issue and the potential loss it poses. This may involve obtaining additional records, interviewing witnesses, or hiring an attorney to provide legal advice or representation. The company may also work directly with the previous property owner or any other parties involved in the issue to attempt to resolve it.

During this investigation process, it is crucial to cooperate with the title insurance company to ensure they have all the necessary information to make an informed decision about your claim. Timely and comprehensive communication can minimize delays and help avoid disputes about the claim itself.

Understanding the Resolution Process

Once the investigation is complete, the title insurance company will determine if the claim is valid and what steps should be taken to resolve the issue. This may involve filing a lawsuit against the party responsible for the defect or negotiating a settlement with them. In some cases, the title insurance company may decide to indemnify the policyholder, covering their financial loss resulting from the defect.

During the resolution process, it is important to be patient and understand that it may take time for the issue to be fully resolved. The title insurance company will keep you informed of the progress of your claim and any additional actions that may be required on your end.

Payment and Settlements

If the title insurance company determines that the claim is valid and a settlement has been reached, they will issue payment to the policyholder. The payment amount will vary depending on the specifics of the claim, and may include reimbursement for legal fees, coverage of the outstanding lien, or other associated costs.

In some cases, the title insurance company may directly pay the party responsible for the defect to clear the title, allowing the policyholder to continue with their property ownership free from any encumbrances.

It is important to keep in mind that the title insurance claims process can be time-consuming and complex, as each claim involves unique circumstances and legal considerations. The best approach is to be prepared, maintain clear communication with the title insurance company, and educate yourself on the process to ensure that your interests are protected in the event of a title-related issue.

Common Title Insurance Claims

Title insurance is a type of policy that protects property owners and lenders against financial losses due to defects or issues with the title of a property. The purpose of title insurance is to provide coverage for issues that may not have been discovered during the title search process. Some of these issues may include errors in public records, unknown liens, illegal deeds, missing or undisclosed heirs, and instances of forgery or fraud. In this article, we will discuss these common title insurance claims in more detail.

Error in Public Records

Errors in public records can present significant challenges for property owners. These errors can include things like inaccurate information regarding the property’s boundaries, incorrect legal descriptions, or mistakes in recording the deeds or other documents. Title insurance will help cover the costs of resolving errors in public records that affect the title of the property.

When an error in public records is discovered, it can result in financial loss and legal disputes involving ownership and rights to the property. Title insurance can provide protection against these issues by covering the legal costs associated with correcting the error, minimizing the financial burden on the property owner.

Unknown Liens

An unknown lien can come as a surprise to a property owner when it is discovered after purchase. These liens may arise from unpaid debts, taxes, or other obligations that have been attached to the property by a previous owner. Title insurance can provide protection against these unknown liens, ensuring that the property owner is not held responsible for the previous owner’s debts.

When the lien is discovered, title insurance can cover the legal costs associated with removing the lien, as well as providing compensation for any financial loss suffered as a result of the unknown lien. This coverage can help alleviate the financial burden of resolving issues with unknown liens and help the property owner maintain a clear and marketable title.

Illegal Deeds

Illegal deeds can invalidate the ownership of a property. These deeds may be the result of a previous owner transferring the property without the proper authority or in violation of legal requirements, such as an owner selling the property while under the constraint of a legal judgment or under the influence of a fiduciary relationship, such as a trustee or guardian.

When an illegal or improperly executed deed is discovered, title insurance can provide protection against the financial losses associated with resolving the issue. This may include the legal costs of establishing the rightful owner of the property or compensating the insured for any financial loss resulting from the invalid deed.

Missing Heirs and Undisclosed Heirs

Missing or undisclosed heirs can create challenges for property owners. When a property is sold or transferred, any undisclosed or unknown heirs of the previous owner may have a claim to the property. This situation can result in legal disputes and delays in the transfer of the title.

Title insurance can help protect against claims made by missing or undisclosed heirs, covering the legal costs associated with resolving the issue and compensating the insured for any financial loss resulting from these claims. This coverage can provide peace of mind for the property owner when dealing with potential heirship disputes.

Forgery and Fraud

Forgery and fraud can have a significant impact on the ownership of a property. Fake deeds, fraudulent documents, or other instances of forgery or fraud can result in a legitimate owner losing rights to their property. Title insurance can provide protection against these instances of forgery and fraud, ensuring that the property owner’s rights are protected.

When an instance of forgery or fraud is discovered, title insurance can cover the legal costs associated with resolving the issue and compensating the insured for any financial loss suffered as a result of the fraud. This coverage can help provide security and peace of mind for property owners facing risks associated with fraudulent activity in the title process.

Preventing Title Insurance Claims

Title insurance is a crucial component in the real estate buying process, as it protects the buyer and lender from potential losses associated with disputes or errors in the property’s title or ownership history. The primary goal is to minimize the likelihood of title insurance claims, which can be costly and time-consuming.

To prevent these claims, several essential steps must be taken, including thorough title searches, addressing potential issues before closing, understanding policy exclusions and endorsements, and seeking legal advice when necessary.

Conducting a Thorough Title Search

The cornerstone of any title insurance policy lies in conducting a comprehensive title search. A title search involves examining public records, including deeds, court records, property and name indexes, and other documents, to trace the history of property ownership and identify potential issues. Title searchers work on behalf of title insurance companies, resulting in a title commitment. This document summarizes the findings and details any defects or issues discovered during the examination process.

To improve the accuracy and reliability of the title search, consider using multiple sources of information, including historical maps, county recorder’s office documents, and online property databases. Additionally, engaging title search experts can help uncover hidden problems or misinterpretations that could leave the buyer or lender exposed to risk.

A thorough title search is imperative for the protection of all parties involved in a real estate transaction and ensures a good foundation for title insurance.

Addressing Potential Issues Before Closing

Once a title search is complete, the buyer, seller, and lender should work together to resolve any title issues or defects discovered. The title commitment will typically list these issues as exceptions. Examples of common title issues include outstanding liens or judgments, errors in public records, undisclosed heirs, forgery, and boundary disputes.

Repairing title defects before closing requires negotiations among all involved parties, and it may involve obtaining releases, waivers, or corrective documents to address the problem. Additionally, some title defects could necessitate legal action to resolve, such as quiet title actions in the case of unknown or conflicting claims to the property.

Resolving title issues before closing is crucial, as it prevents the future emergence of problems that could result in a title insurance claim. Taking a proactive approach to address potential issues can save all parties involved from costly and time-consuming legal disputes down the line.

Understanding Policy Exclusions and Endorsements

When obtaining a title insurance policy, it’s crucial to understand the coverage provided, as well as any exclusions and available endorsements. Exclusions are specific items or conditions the policy does not cover, while endorsements are additional provisions that can be added to the policy, often for an extra fee, to cover specific risks or circumstances.

Carefully reviewing and understanding the standard exclusions in a title insurance policy can help prevent claims arising from excluded items. If necessary, discuss potential endorsements with the title insurance provider to customize coverage based on identified risks, closing requirements, and the unique circumstances of the transaction. This process ensures that both the buyer and lender are fully protected and informed about the limitations of their title insurance coverage.

Seeking Legal Advice

Real estate transactions can sometimes become complex, and unforeseen issues may arise that require expert legal guidance. A real estate attorney can provide valuable advice on resolving title defects, addressing legal concerns, and ensuring that all parties’ interests are protected.

In cases where disputes arise or title defects are contentious, an attorney may be necessary to help negotiate settlements, litigate disputes, or file quiet title actions. Seeking legal advice can help both the buyer and lender be more confident in their decisions, reduce their exposure to title insurance claims, and ultimately ensure a smoother transaction.

In summary, preventing title insurance claims involves conducting a thorough title search, proactively addressing potential issues before closing, understanding policy exclusions and endorsements, and seeking legal advice as needed. By taking these steps, buyers and lenders can minimize the likelihood of encountering costly and time-consuming title disputes and maximize the protection offered by their title insurance policies.

Limitations and Exclusions of Title Insurance

Title insurance is an essential component of any real estate transaction, as it provides protection for both the buyer and seller by insuring against defects in the title to the property. However, it is essential to be aware of the limitations and exclusions of a title insurance policy before making a claim.

Standard Policy Exclusions

Standard policy exclusions refer to circumstances that are typically not covered by title insurance policies. These include:

  1. Defects, liens, or encumbrances created or agreed upon by the insured party.
  2. Defects known to the insured party but not disclosed to the title insurance company.
  3. Property taxes or assessments not yet due or payable.
  4. Restrictions, easements, or other encumbrances not listed in the policy.
  5. Claims arising from the insured’s negligence or intentional acts causing a defect in the title.
  6. Issues related to water or mineral rights, or the use of the property for environmental purposes.
  7. Losses due to zoning or land-use regulations.

It is essential to review your title insurance policy and understand these standard exclusions and any other exclusionary provisions that may apply.

Exceptions Listed on the Policy

Title insurance policies often list specific exceptions to coverage in a “Schedule B” section. These exceptions are unique to the property and may include items such as:

  1. Existing liens or encumbrances on the property.
  2. Easements, rights-of-way, or other agreements affecting property usage.
  3. Covenants, conditions, or restrictions that limit the insured’s use of the property.
  4. Boundary, survey, or encroachments issues.

It is vital to review your title insurance policy carefully for any listed exceptions and understand how they may impact your rights and interests in the property.

Specific Risks Not Covered

Title insurance policies generally do not cover specific risks, such as:

  1. Defects in the property’s physical condition, including structural or environmental issues.
  2. Losses due to fraud or forgery perpetuated by the insured party.
  3. Claims related to rent control, eviction, or other landlord-tenant disputes.
  4. Losses resulting from the insured party’s failure to pay the mortgage or abide by loan terms.

It is crucial to understand these and other risks not covered by title insurance and to take steps to mitigate such risks through additional insurance coverage or preventative measures.

FAQs About Title Insurance Claims

Is a Title Insurance Claim Necessary?

Whether a title insurance claim is necessary depends on the specific circumstances of your case. If you discover a defect in your title or experience a loss related to your property, your first step should be to contact your title insurance company or agent. They can help you determine whether a claim is warranted and guide you through the process if necessary.

What if I Disagree with the Title Insurance Company’s Decision?

If you disagree with the title company’s claim decision, you may have the right to appeal the decision, initiate litigation, or engage in alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration. Consult with an attorney specializing in property and title law for guidance on your rights and options.

What is the Role of Title Agents in the Claims Process?

Title agents play a vital role in the claims process, as they often serve as the primary point of contact between the insured party and the title insurance company. An agent can help gather relevant documentation, facilitate communication, and navigate the often complex claims process with the insurer.

Can Title Insurance Claims be Avoided?

While title insurance claims cannot always be avoided, there are steps property owners can take to reduce the likelihood of a claim:

  1. Perform a thorough title search during the purchase process to identify and resolve any existing issues.
  2. Make sure to read and understand your title insurance policy, including exclusions and exceptions.
  3. Maintain relevant property records and keep your title insurance policy in a safe and accessible location.

By being proactive and understanding the limitations and exclusions of title insurance, property owners can reduce the risk of claims and ensure a smoother, less stressful ownership experience.

Title Insurance Claims Process FAQs

1. What is a title insurance claim?

A title insurance claim is a formal request made by an insured party to their title insurance company, seeking coverage or assistance for losses resulting from defects or issues with the property’s title not discovered during the initial title search.

2. How do I file a title insurance claim?

Filing a title insurance claim begins by notifying your title insurance company in writing, providing detailed information about the issue—such as the defect’s nature, supporting documents, and contact information. The company then reviews the claim and decides on the appropriate course of action.

3. How long does it take to resolve title insurance claims?

The time it takes to resolve title insurance claims may vary greatly depending on the complexity and seriousness of the issue. Most claims are resolved within a few months; however, more complex disputes or litigation can extend the process to a year or more.

4. What are common types of covered defects in a title insurance policy?

Covered defects in a title insurance policy typically include errors or omissions in the public records, fraudulent acts affecting the title, undisclosed heirs, unpaid taxes or liens, easements, and zoning restrictions not identified during the title search.

5. Can the title insurance company deny my claim?

Yes, a title insurance company can deny a claim if the issue is not covered under the policy, was known or disclosed at the time of the policy issuance, or the insured party’s actions have worsened the situation. Communication with the insurer is vital to avoid misunderstandings regarding coverage and exclusions.

6. What options are available if my title insurance claim is denied?

If a title insurance claim is denied, the insured party can first attempt to resolve the issue through negotiation or mediation with the company. If unsuccessful, filing a complaint with the state insurance department or pursuing legal action may become necessary to advocate for the valid claim.

About the Author

As a native Washingtonian, Carlos Reyes’ journey in the real estate industry began more than 15 years ago when he started an online real estate company. Since then, he’s helped more than 700 individuals and families as a real estate broker achieve their real estate goals across Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Carlos now helps real estate agents grow their business by teaching business fundamentals, execution, and leadership.

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