When someone purchases a home, her legal proof of purchase is the deed to the house. Different deeds offer different levels of protection to a buyer, so having it handy in case questions arise about ownership is important.
If you lose the deed to your house, no problem. While it's an inconvenience, you can get a copy from several sources and do it online for quicker service. Understanding in advance where to go and how to get a copy of your deed will help you replace it quickly so you can address any issues you're facing.
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What is a Deed?
A house deed is a record that lays out the particulars of a house sale. It includes the buyer's and seller's names, the property address, a brief description of the property (e.g., a house vs. a barn) and the seller's signature.
Deeds contain three documents: the title plan, property register and registered documents. House deeds (also referred to as property deeds) are usually created by an attorney (typically a real estate attorney) representing the seller.
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A deed is different from a title in that a deed records the sale of property, with the acknowledgment of the seller, while a title just addresses ownership. For example, a title states that one or more people or businesses own a property, but provides no proof of sale.
Types of Deeds
When you purchase a house, you will receive one of four types of deeds: a general warranty deed, special warranty deed, quitclaim deed or special purpose deed, depending on the status of the seller's ownership. A general warranty tells the buyer that the seller states that there are no easements or other claims against the property (and that the buyer will pay for any claims).
A special warranty states that the seller owns the property and that, to his knowledge, there have been no problems with claims during his ownership. That doesn't mean that prior to his ownership there weren't any problems with previous owners. A quitclaim (or warranty) deed doesn't offer any guarantee that there are no problems with the ownership transfer, and if there are, the seller will not provide any remedy.
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If you are inheriting a property or buying a property from an heir, if the property is being sold as part of a tax seizure or if a sheriff's office has seized property and is selling it, you'll receive a special purpose deed. These deeds are similar to quitclaim deeds, with the seller providing no guarantees.
How to Replace Your Deed
If you lose your deed, you have several options for replacing it. If you've just purchased a house and your deeds haven't been scanned into electronic form yet, you might have to visit or call your county's land registrar (also referred to as County Recorder's Office). You'll receive the documents in the mail, usually in a week. There's often no charge to get a copy of your deed if you do the process yourself. If you're not sure you want to take a chance on not doing it correctly and want it fast, or if you want to make sure you have clear title, you can hire an attorney or other professional to get the deed and title for you.
Start by doing an online search for "property deed replacement" or "lost property deed" and your county and state name. Visit the website you're directed to and follow the directions. This usually requires navigating to the land registrar website's search function and starting with the owner's name and the address of the property.
Other options include contacting the attorney who did your closing. He might have received a copy of the deed and can send it to you. This won't be helpful if you need an original deed issued by the government agency that does that in your state. You can also contact the title company that verified the deed as part of your closing. Finally, you can contact the seller to see if he or she has a copy. If the deed is actually lost (no one has a copy), you will need to work with the seller to get a replacement grant, which confirms the sale.