Clients often ask about the need for a title search in two circumstances: When the present owners acquired the property sometime within the past three years or when the property has been owned by the same person or family for many years. Unfortunately, neither of these facts reduce the necessity of a title search.
In fact, homes that have been conveyed less often may have title defects that have existed for years without being discovered, because the title hasn’t been searched for an extended period of time. At the same time, it is still possible to find errors with titles that have been reviewed multiple times in the past.
As one example, Attorney Nilson completed a title abstract for a client that revealed a set of neighbors had owned each other’s houses for more than 40 years.
Attorney Nilson’s title search determined that his clients were buying a house and lot that was once part of a larger parcel. Which is shown on the image above as Parcel A and Parcel B along Virginia Avenue, and a Northern lot facing Barbel Place.
Mary Ondrejcak acquired this larger parcel in 1970 and divided it into the three separate lots shown by the map image. She sold Parcel A to a couple named Hynes in 1972 and Parcel B to a couple named Schmidt three months later.
Mary then used the deed recorded in deed book volume 945, page 361 to convey Parcel A to the Hynes and deed book volume 948, page 281 to convey Parcel B to the Schmidts.
By closely reading the legal description in the Hynes deed in comparison with the property map, Attorney Nilson discovered that it references a parcel lying at “the northeasterly side of Virginia Avenue” with “Delaware Avenue on the southeast”, which can only be the corner parcel.
Although they were buying the house shown as Parcel A, Hynes acquired title to and owned the house identified as Parcel B. Similarly, the Schmidts bought Parcel B, but were given ownership of Parcel A.
Even more interesting is that the Schmidts’ deed describes a parcel “with land owned by “Regis F. Hynes, Jr., et ex., on the southeast”, meaning that the legal description for Parcel B was prepared after the Hynes had already been given the incorrect parcel.
Over the course of more than 40 years every purchaser owned the neighbor’s house, while living in or renting out a house that was owned by someone else. Multiple banks had also loaned money and taken mortgages on property wasn’t owned by the borrowers.
These parcels had been through nearly 30 transactions that typically require a title search and the error was not discovered before Attorney Nilson’s work.