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Appreciating Home Owner’s Title Insurance

Matters Covered and Not Covered by Title Insurance

By Staff Reporters

During the current housing market implosion it is prudent to understand that home owner’s title insurance enables the buyer of real property to take clear title of the purchased property. That means there are no outstanding liens in existence and no one has a prior claim to said property.

Covered Items

In general, items that are covered by title insurance can be determined solely from review of the property records and court records:

  • Judgments
  • Liens (Except to the extent that they have superiority, i.e., once recorded, they gain a priority ahead of things recorded prior to the lien, for example, mechanic’s liens.)
  • Deeds of trust, mortgages, and real estate contracts
  • Easements
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Rights granted in real property by divorce degree (right to half proceeds of sale of property)
  • Mineral rights reserved by prior owner or granted to a third party
  • Recorded leases
  • Latecomer’s agreements
  • Recorded no-contest agreements (agreement not to contest future imposition of taxes or assessments, usually for things like traffic, water, and sewer mitigation)
  • Deeds transferring ownership of any interests in the property
  • Whether the property has access to a public road
  • Taxes and recorded assessments
  • Condemnation actions filed with the court or property records.

Not-Covered Items

Generally, items that are not covered by title insurance cannot be determined by reviewing the property records and court records:

  • Zoning laws, restrictions on the use of property
  • Building codes, setbacks, lot coverage, construction standards
  • Wetlands regulations
  • Storm water drainage permits
  • Flood plain, location of property in relation to flood plain
  • Unrecorded leases
  • Use permits
  • Hazardous materials, environmental contaminants
  • Subdivision regulations
  • Shoreline Management Act
  • State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)
  • Persons claiming an interest in the property, through adverse possession (both ownership of the property and easement rights)
  • Compliance of the property with recorded restrictive covenants.

Additional Extended Coverage Policy Items

Coverage extends beyond basic coverage. This covers items that show up during an inspection of the property:

  • Additional matters include those that the title company can determine from either an inspection of the property or a review of a survey showing all improvements to the property and the location of all easements.
  • Mechanic’s liens filed after the date of the policy, but that take priority prior to the date of the policy
  • Encroachments (the buildings on the property that overlap the property lines or buildings on adjacent property that overlap onto the client’s property)
  • Persons claiming an interest in the property through adverse possession (both ownership of the property and easement rights).

Additional Matters Covered by Endorsement

  • Compliance with subdivision laws (Guarantees that the property constitutes one or more legal lots)
  • Zoning laws.


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2 Responses

  1. Nice info in this post and overall blog; very comprehensive.

    As an insurance agent, I visit frequently and will participate more often.
    Title insurance is more important than most people think; especially with the recent mortgage industry implosion.



  2. Another important insurance element of which the property owner should be familiar is the appraisal clause, also known as the appraisal provision.

    This clause was developed to help the insured resolve a dispute with the insurance company regarding the amount of loss in an efficient and cost-effective manner, while avoiding the court system.

    The clause calls for each party to select an appraiser. The two appraisers must then get together and agree to the selection of a third party, the umpire, who serves as an arbitrator. These three individuals make up the appraisal panel. The appraisers work independently to determine the amount of loss.

    In the event of disagreement between the two parties, the umpire is asked to give an opinion regarding the dollar amount of the loss. Once any two of the three members of the appraisal panel come to an agreement on the issue, it is considered to be resolved. At this time the decision is binding upon both parties.

    The insured party should consider use of the appraisal clause if there is a significant difference between their estimate of the replacement cost of the damaged property and the offer from the insurance company. The appraisal process often costs $5,000 to $10,000, depending upon the complexity of the damage to the property and the length of the appraisal process. If the difference being disputed is significantly greater than this amount, it can be worthwhile to proceed. The insured party most often “wins” the dispute, meaning that they gain by going through this process.

    Brian J. Knabe; MD, CFP®


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