April 14, 2023


In this article, you will learn about title insurance, its importance, and the process involved in obtaining it. You’ll also discover the common title defects and liens that title insurance covers, as well as the exceptions and exclusions that may apply. Furthermore, you will gain insight on how to select a title insurance company, work with a title agent or attorney, and understand the costs and premiums associated with title insurance.

Lastly, the article will guide you through the claims process and dispute resolution options in case of disagreements or legal actions.

Understanding Title Insurance

Title insurance is a unique form of indemnity insurance that protects property owners and lenders from financial loss due to defects in the title of real estate. In this article, we will discuss the definition of title insurance, its purpose, the different types of title insurance policies, and the components of a title insurance policy.

Definition of Title Insurance

Title insurance is a type of insurance policy that protects the insured party against financial losses that may result from defects in the title to a property. A title is the legal document that establishes ownership of a piece of real estate. Title defects can include liens, encumbrances, or errors in the public record that may impact the validity or enforceability of the property owner’s claim to the property.

Title insurance policies are typically issued during real estate transactions, such as the sale or refinancing of a property. The policy remains in place for as long as the insured party or their heirs hold an interest in the property.

Why Title Insurance Is Essential

The purpose of title insurance is to protect the property owner and lender from financial loss due to defects or problems with the title. When purchasing a property, a title search is conducted to ensure that the seller has the legal right to transfer the property and that there are no outstanding claims against the property.

However, even the most comprehensive title search may not be able to uncover all potential issues, such as errors in public records, undisclosed heirs, or illegal actions of previous owners. Title insurance provides financial protection if any of these defects in the title appear after the transaction is completed.

Title insurance also serves to protect the lender’s interests. Lenders require title insurance as a condition for providing a mortgage, as it protects their investment in the property should a title defect arise.

Types of Title Insurance Policies

There are two primary types of title insurance policies: owner’s title insurance and lender’s title insurance.

Owner’s Title Insurance

An owner’s title insurance policy protects the property owner against financial loss due to title defects discovered after the transaction is completed. This type of policy is optional but highly recommended, as it gives the property owner peace of mind knowing that their ownership rights to the property are protected.

Owner’s title insurance policies typically cover the full purchase price of the property and last for as long as the insured party or their heirs maintain an interest in the property. The one-time premium for owner’s title insurance is usually paid during the closing process of the real estate transaction.

Lender’s Title Insurance

Lender’s title insurance, on the other hand, protects the lender’s investment in the property. This type of policy is required by most lenders as a condition for providing a mortgage. Lender’s title insurance policies cover the amount of the outstanding loan balance and decrease as the loan is paid off over time. The premium for lender’s title insurance is also paid during the closing process.

Components of a Title Insurance Policy

A title insurance policy typically consists of several components, including:

  1. Coverage: The policy outlines the specific types of title defects that are covered, such as liens, encumbrances, judgment claims, fraud, or errors in the public record.
  2. Exclusions: The policy may also list specific situations or conditions that are not covered by the insurance. Common exclusions include defects known to the insured party at the time of the policy’s issuance, as well as zoning or building code violations.
  3. Policy Term: The policy term refers to the length of time during which the insured party is protected. As mentioned earlier, owner’s title insurance policies typically last for as long as the insured party or their heirs maintain interest in the property, while lender’s title insurance policies decrease over time as the loan is paid off.
  4. Premium: The premium is the one-time payment required for the title insurance policy. This amount is typically paid during the closing process of the real estate transaction.
  5. Claims Process: If a title defect arises, the insured party must follow the claims process outlined by the title insurance company. This usually involves providing documentation and evidence of the defect and allowing the insurer to assess the claim for financial compensation.

Title Search and Examination Process

A title search and examination process is an essential step when purchasing or dealing with real estate property. It ensures that the property’s title is clear of any encumbrances, defects, or liens that might impede the property’s transfer or affect its value. This article will explore the importance of conducting a title search, the steps involved in conducting a title search, title examination, and identifying title defects and liens.

Importance of Title Search

A title search is crucial for various reasons. First, it ensures that the property’s title is clear and marketable. A marketable title means that it is free from significant defects and liens that would make it difficult or impossible for a buyer to acquire clear title insurance. Also, having a marketable title ensures that the property’s value is maintained, and the buyer can easily sell or transfer it in the future.

Second, a title search helps protect the buyer from potential legal issues that may arise from defects in the property’s title. These legal issues can be costly and time-consuming to resolve. By conducting a title search, any issues can be identified and addressed before the completion of the property’s sale, preventing future legal disputes and headaches.

Lastly, a title search is necessary for obtaining title insurance. Title insurance protects both the buyer and the lender against potential losses or expenses incurred due to title defects or liens. Without a title search, title insurers would not have sufficient information to issue a policy, leaving both the buyer and the lender exposed to potential losses.

Conducting a Title Search

To conduct a title search, a title company or attorney typically searches the public records for information related to the property’s history. This process can involve examining land records, deeds, mortgages, liens, and judgments to ensure a clear and marketable title. The search usually goes back several decades to uncover any potential issues or claims on the property.

Once the search is completed, a preliminary title report, also known as a title commitment or binder, is prepared. This report outlines the property’s legal description, current ownership, and any encumbrances, defects, or liens that affect the title. The buyer and their attorney should thoroughly review this report to ensure all issues are addressed before closing.

Title Examination

The title examination is the process of analyzing the preliminary title report and verifying the information it contains. This process helps confirm that the property’s title is clear, marketable, and free from issues that could arise later. A title examination may involve verifying ownership, reviewing legal descriptions and plats, confirming the accuracy of record indexes, and identifying any discrepancies in the public records.

A title examiner will review any encumbrances or defects on the title and determine their potential impact on the property’s ownership and value. If issues are found, they can be addressed before the closing process, ensuring a smooth transfer of ownership.

Identifying Title Defects and Liens

During the title examination process, title defects and liens can be identified that could affect the property’s marketability and value. Title defects might include errors in the public records, such as incorrect legal descriptions, improperly recorded documents, or gaps in the chain of ownership. Liens, which are claims against the property to secure a debt, can also present challenges as the new owner could become responsible for paying off the lien.

Common types of liens encountered during a title search include mortgage liens, tax liens, and mechanic’s liens. The title examiner will identify these liens in the preliminary title report, and they must be addressed before closing.

In conclusion, the title search and examination process is a critical component of any real estate transaction. It helps ensure a clear and marketable title, protects the buyer from potential legal issues, and allows for the issuance of title insurance. By understanding the importance of this process and the various steps involved, buyers and real estate professionals can better navigate the complex world of property ownership.

Common Title Defects and Liens Covered by Title Insurance

Title insurance is essential for homebuyers because it protects them from financial loss related to any defects or liens on the property’s title. When you buy a home, you are not just purchasing the physical structure; you are also buying rights to the property (the title). There are many possible title defects and liens that can impact your ownership of the property, which is why title insurance helps protect your investment. In this article, we will discuss five common title defects and liens that are covered by title insurance.

Errors in Public Records

Public records are essential when it comes to property transactions. They contain information on the property’s ownership history and any liens or encumbrances against it. However, these records are not always accurate, and errors can occur due to human mistakes, data-entry errors, or misrecorded information. Some common errors in public records include incorrect names, property boundaries, or transfer dates. Title insurance protects against financial loss caused by errors in public records, ensuring you don’t have to rectify them using your own resources.

Fraud and Forgery

Another common title defect that title insurance covers is fraud and forgery. Fraudulent activity can occur when a person claims to be the legal property owner and sells the property or takes out a mortgage without the real owner’s knowledge. Forgery might happen when someone falsifies documents, such as a deed or mortgage, to gain ownership of the property. In both cases, the property’s legal ownership can be jeopardized for the new owner. Title insurance would provide financial protection if an issue related to fraud or forgery arises after the property’s purchase.

Unknown Heirs or Missing Spouses

When a property’s owner dies, their ownership rights may pass to their heirs automatically. However, it is possible that not all heirs are known, or a missing spouse might come forward after the property is sold. In some cases, the unknown heir or missing spouse may claim their ownership rights, creating a potential legal dispute. Title insurance can cover these potential risks and protect your right to the property.

Easements and Encroachments

Easements are the right of access granted to a third party over a property owner’s land, such as a utility company or a neighbor. They may not be apparent in the property’s title and can come to light only later. Encroachments are similar in that they involve a third party making unauthorized use of your property, such as a neighbor building a fence on your land. Both easements and encroachments can affect your property’s value and limit your use of the property. Title insurance covers these potential issues, ensuring your ability to fully enjoy and utilize your property.

Unpaid Taxes and Liens

When unpaid property taxes or liens like judgment liens, mechanic’s liens, or mortgage liens are attached to the property, these become the responsibility of the new owner. These unpaid taxes and liens can result in financial losses or, in extreme cases, the loss of the property. Title insurance helps protect against this situation by providing coverage against any unpaid taxes and liens that were not identified during the title search process, ensuring your property rights remain secure and your financial investment is protected.

In summary, title insurance protects homebuyers from financial losses related to various title defects and liens. Key issues covered by title insurance include errors in public records, fraud and forgery, unknown heirs or missing spouses, easements and encroachments, and unpaid taxes and liens. By investing in title insurance, you can secure your property ownership rights and protect your financial investment in case any of these title defects or liens arise.

Title Insurance Exceptions and Exclusions

Title insurance is a crucial element in real estate transactions, as it offers protection to buyers and lenders from potential issues with the property’s title. However, it is important to understand that title insurance policies often come with specific exceptions and exclusions. These situations can limit the protection offered by the policy, and it’s vital for all parties involved to be aware of these limitations in order to make informed decisions.

Standard Exclusions

Standard exclusions are typically found in most title insurance policies, and they comprise situations where the title insurance company will not provide coverage to the insured party. Some common standard exclusions include:

  1. Governmental regulations: Title insurance does not cover any loss or damage resulting from governmental regulations, such as zoning restrictions or environmental protection laws.
  2. Rights of eminent domain: The policy will not cover losses arising from property seizure or condemnation by a government entity.
  3. Mineral and water rights: Title insurance generally excludes coverage for disputes or issues related to mineral and water rights.
  4. Defects known to the insured: If the buyer or lender is aware of a title defect but does not disclose it to the title company, the policy will not protect against that specific defect.
  5. Unrecorded liens and encumbrances: The policy does not cover unrecorded liens, encroachments, or easements that were not listed in the title search report.

Owner’s Policy Exceptions

An owner’s title insurance policy provides protection to the property owner in case of title defects or disputes. However, there are certain exceptions that may apply specific to owner’s policies, such as:

  1. Property disputes with adjoining owners: If there is a boundary dispute involving an adjacent property owner, the title insurance policy might not cover the legal costs and potential loss.
  2. Any lease, grant, or exception made by the previous owner of the property.
  3. Restrictions, covenants, or conditions imposed by the developer or governing body.
  4. Unrecorded easements, such as a utility or access easement that is not recorded in the public records.

Lender’s Policy Exceptions

A lender’s title insurance policy protects the lender against any title defects that may arise during the life of the mortgage loan. While similar to the owner’s policy exceptions, the lender’s policy may have additional exceptions, including:

  1. Existing liens on the property that the lender has agreed to subordinate to their mortgage lien.
  2. Advances made by the lender after the policy is issued, such as construction draws or additional financing.
  3. The borrower’s bankruptcy: In case of a borrower’s bankruptcy, the lender’s title insurance policy may not provide coverage for any loss caused by the automatic stay or other bankruptcy-related restrictions.

Reviewing and Negotiating Exceptions

It is crucial for all parties involved in a real estate transaction to understand the exceptions and exclusions in their respective title insurance policies. Here are a few tips to help you review and negotiate exceptions:

  1. Read the policy carefully: Make sure you understand all the terms, conditions, and exceptions included in the policy.
  2. Ask questions: If you have any questions or concerns about the exceptions, discuss them with your title agent or attorney.
  3. Request a copy of the title search report: Review the title search report to ensure that all recorded liens, easements, and other encumbrances are disclosed in the policy.
  4. Negotiate with the title company: If you believe that an exception should be removed or modified, discuss the matter with your title agent and attempt to negotiate a change in the policy.

In conclusion, being aware of title insurance exceptions and exclusions is key to understanding the level of protection provided by the policy. Review the policy thoroughly, ask questions, and be prepared to negotiate if necessary to ensure you are adequately protected during your real estate transaction.

Obtaining Title Insurance Coverage

Title insurance is a form of indemnity insurance that protects property owners and lenders against financial losses resulting from title defects or other issues related to the chain of title. Title insurance is important for property buyers and mortgage lenders, as it ensures that the title of the property is free from any encumbrances or defects that might affect its ownership or value. Obtaining title insurance coverage involves working with a title insurance company, a title agent, or an attorney and understanding the costs and premiums associated with it. This article will discuss those aspects in detail.

Selecting a Title Insurance Company

When selecting a title insurance company, it is essential to consider factors such as the company’s experience, reputation, financial stability, and service quality. You can start by asking for recommendations from friends, family members, or colleagues who have purchased title insurance policies in the past. Real estate agents, mortgage brokers, and attorneys can also provide valuable insight and recommend reputable title companies.

Next, conduct your research on each company, looking at online reviews, testimonials, and information about their underwriting process. The financial stability of the insurer is crucial; you can check an insurance company’s financial ratings on websites like A.M. Best, Standard & Poor’s, or Fitch Ratings.

Before making a final decision, compare the pricing, services, and coverage options offered by different title insurers. It’s important to remember that the cheapest option may not always be the best choice, so weigh the pros and cons of each company based on your unique needs and preferences.

Working with a Title Agent or Attorney

A title agent or attorney is a professional who will help you navigate the title insurance process, manage your transaction, and provide support throughout the process. The agent or attorney will conduct a comprehensive title search on the property you intend to purchase, which involves examining the public records to identify any defects or issues that might affect the property’s ownership.

The title agent or attorney will prepare a preliminary title report or commitment, which highlights any potential risks, issues, or requirements that need to be addressed before closing. They will work closely with you, the sellers, and other parties involved to address the identified title defects and clear the title.

Moreover, a title agent or attorney will help you understand your title insurance policy’s terms, conditions, and coverage limitations. They can also explain the difference between the standard owner’s title insurance and extended coverage policies and assist you in deciding which policy best suits your situation.

Costs and Premiums

Title insurance premiums vary depending on factors such as the property’s location, purchase price, and loan amount, as well as the insurer’s rating structure. Generally, title insurance premiums are paid as a one-time fee at the time of closing, including the issuance of both lender’s and owner’s policies.

When obtaining title insurance, you may also need to pay for costs associated with the title search, title examination, and closing or settlement services. Keep in mind that some of these costs might be negotiable, so it’s important to discuss the fees with your title agent or attorney and make sure you understand all the charges involved in your transaction.

Issuance of Title Insurance Policy

Once the title defects have been cleared and the requirements outlined in the preliminary title report have been met, the title insurance policy can be issued. The policy details the terms, conditions, and coverage limitations tied to your property’s title.

The title insurance policy will provide coverage for various risks, such as forged documents, property ownership disputes, liens, and encroachments. It’s important to review the policy carefully, as certain issues may be excluded from coverage or subject to conditions and limitations. If you require additional coverage, discuss your options with your title agent or attorney.

In conclusion, obtaining title insurance coverage is a crucial component of the property buying process. To ensure a smooth and successful experience, it’s essential to carefully select a reputable title insurance company, work closely with a qualified title agent or attorney, and understand the costs and premiums involved. Finally, review the title insurance policy carefully and address any questions or concerns with your title agent or attorney.

Claims Process and Dispute Resolution

The claims process and dispute resolution are essential components in resolving conflicts and disagreements between parties. This article discusses the steps for filing a claim, the claims process, dispute resolution options, and legal actions or litigation in civil courts.

When to File a Claim

Filing a claim is the first step a party should take when seeking compensation or resolution for disputes with another party. Claims are typically filed with insurance companies, government agencies, or court systems to resolve matters related to property damage, personal injury, or contractual disagreements. Some common scenarios when a person might consider filing a claim include:

  1. Motor vehicle accidents: This entails filing a claim with an insurance company to cover expenses related to medical treatment, vehicle repairs, or lost wages.
  2. Property damage: This could involve filing a claim with a homeowner’s insurance company for losses caused by natural disasters, theft, or vandalism.
  3. Personal injury: If someone suffers an injury due to another party’s negligence or carelessness, they may file a claim for compensation to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
  4. Breach of contract: When a party fails to fulfill the terms of a contract, the wronged party may file a claim for damages or specific performance, which is the completion of the contractual terms.
  5. Product liability: Consumers may file claims against manufacturers or sellers of defective products that caused them harm or injury.

Claims Process

The claims process generally involves the following steps:

  1. Submit a claim: The first step is to notify the appropriate party of the intent to file a claim. This could be an insurance company, a government agency, or the other party involved in the dispute.
  2. Investigation: The responsible party, typically an insurance adjuster or a government investigator, will evaluate the evidence and determine the validity of the claim. They may request further documentation or contact witnesses to verify the claim.
  3. Negotiation: Once the investigation is complete, the responsible party may offer a settlement to resolve the claim. The claimant may accept or reject this settlement offer. If the offer is not satisfactory, the claimant may propose a counter-offer.
  4. Dispute resolution: If negotiations fail to yield a satisfactory outcome, the parties may engage in dispute resolution techniques such as mediation or arbitration to reach an agreement.
  5. Legal action: If negotiations and dispute resolution prove unsuccessful, the claimant can file a lawsuit in civil court to seek resolution through litigation.

Dispute Resolution Options

If negotiations do not result in an agreement, there are several dispute resolution options available to the parties, including:

  1. Mediation: This involves a neutral third party, the mediator, who helps the disputing parties find a mutually acceptable agreement.
  2. Arbitration: A private, more formal process where the disputing parties present their case to one or more impartial arbitrators, who render a decision. This decision may be binding or non-binding, depending on the parties’ agreement.
  3. Settlement conferences: A facilitated negotiation in which a judge or neutral third party aids the parties in reaching a voluntary agreement.
  4. Appraisal: For insurance claims, if both parties fail to agree on the value of the property or the amount of the loss, they may hire a neutral appraiser to determine the value.

Legal Actions and Litigation

If all attempts at negotiation and dispute resolution fail, the claimant may choose to take legal action in civil court by filing a complaint. The litigation process includes:

  1. Pleadings: Both the plaintiff and the defendant submit documents outlining their claims and defenses.
  2. Discovery: Both parties exchange evidence, documents, and other relevant information to prepare their respective cases.
  3. Pretrial motions: Both sides can request the court to rule on certain issues before the trial.
  4. Trial: The case is presented before a judge or jury, who will hear testimony, review evidence, and render a verdict.
  5. Judgment: The court issues a final ruling on the case, which may include a financial award or injunctions compelling a party to take specific actions.
  6. Appeals: Either party may challenge the court’s decision in a higher court if they believe there was a legal error in the trial.

Claims process and dispute resolution have their foundation in the principle of fairness, enabling all parties to bring their disputes and grievances to a just conclusion. Understanding the various steps and dispute resolution options can empower individuals and organizations to navigate conflicts effectively and reach a satisfactory resolution.

Title Insurance Coverage FAQs

What is the primary purpose of title insurance coverage?

Title insurance coverage primarily protects homebuyers and lenders from potential ownership disputes, liens, or defects in the title when purchasing or refinancing a property. It helps ensure a smooth transfer of property ownership and secures the buyers’ or lenders’ financial interests.

How does title insurance differ from other forms of insurance?

Unlike most insurance types, title insurance protects against potential past events rather than future occurrences. It covers risks stemming from errors, omissions, or fraud relating to the property’s title history, offering a one-time premium paid at closing instead of periodic premium payments.

What are the two types of title insurance policies available?

The two primary policy types are the Owner’s Policy and the Lender’s Policy. The Owner’s Policy protects the buyer’s equity in the property, while the Lender’s Policy safeguards the lender’s financial interest in the property. Both policies provide coverage for the duration of ownership or until the loan is paid off.

Do I need both an Owner’s Policy and a Lender’s Policy?

It is highly recommended to obtain both policies during a property transaction. The Lender’s Policy is typically required by most lenders to protect their investment, while the Owner’s Policy provides critical protection for the buyer’s equity and peace of mind throughout ownership.

What is the process for obtaining title insurance coverage?

The process involves a title search, where a title agent examines public records and other documents related to the property’s history. If the title search finds any issues, they are resolved before the policy issuance. Once complete, the buyer or lender pays a one-time premium to secure the coverage.

When should I purchase title insurance?

Title insurance should be purchased during the closing process of a property transaction. Your closing agent or attorney will guide you through the process to ensure you obtain the appropriate coverage, safeguarding your interests as either a homebuyer or lender.

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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