Saturday, January 29, 2011

We just finished our annual CPA audit and in the process heard an interesting title insurance claim story.

Yes, we pay to have our books audited annually by an independent CPA.  I wish it was a mandatory audit, but it's not.  I'm not a big government fan, in fact I'm an advocate for limited government - highly bent in the libertarian direction, BUT when a licensed entity has access to millions of dollars of other people's money, I think there ought to be some sort of formal audit standards which include 3rd party oversight.  That's not the purpose of this post, though, so let me switch gears.

The auditor sent out by our accountant this year is a nice young man who while asking some questions, mentioned that he was near the end of a multi-year title insurance claim.  I asked him to tell me the story because I always want to know how a consumer feels when faced with a title insurance claim and whether or not they are happy with the results.

In this case, he and his wife hired an attorney to handle the purchase of 20 acres of vacant land.  They SMARTLY decided to buy an owner title insurance policy.

This young couple bought the land with plans to build their dream home.  They are both accountants and so they are good planners.  When they purchased the land, they were childless and living in a small two bedroom house.  The plan was to build a four car garage with an apartment on top.  Eventually, when they started a family they would build a large addition which would become the main house.

The whole plan fell apart when they applied for a mortgage to do the first part of construction.  The bank used a different title agent to do the title examination for their loan title insurance policy.  This second title examination revealed that there was no legal recorded right of way to the land.  Though there was an old dirt road that looked like a right of way, it went over the land of the neighbor who when approached, refused to grant an easement.

They filed a claim with their title insurance company who then offered a nice chunk of change to the neighbor and met with another refusal.  Soooo....they went into arbitration and years later finally were set to go to court and on the eve of the trial, the neighbor finally agreed and accepted a paltry sum - much lower than the first offer and settled the matter.

Okay, well that shows the value of buying an owner title insurance policy, right?  The title company paid for all the legal work and the consumers eventually got their right of way.  On the surface, it all sounds peachy keen, however, this story helps to demonstrate the VALUE OF SELECTING A COMPETENT PROVIDER.

Now, I am not saying that we human beings do not make mistakes.  Everyone does, but we EARN OUR LIVING BY AVOIDING CLAIMS.  We do a full search and examination to ferret out details BEFORE the closing in an effort to help you avoid the entire claims process.  When you place an order for title insurance, pick your provider carefully.  Make certain you are getting a full search by a competent human being.  Keep your eyes open.  Read your title insurance commitment BEFORE you go to closing.  Complete your transaction with YOUR brain engaged.

WHY?  Well, let's discuss the rest of the story.  During the years this young couple's claim moved through the system, they had two children.  They had to buy a larger home and move on with their life, abandoning their plans for the dream home on their 20 acres.  Yes, in the end, they got their right of way.  Will they ever build there?  They don't know.  Life has moved on.  She is pregnant with their third child.  They are happy they bought title insurance.  In retrospect, they do wish they had paid more attention to the title work and not just trusted that the attorney did everything right.  They knew the dirt road was private but they presumed the attorney would check on the legality of the road.  Yes, the title insurance covered access but as you see from this case, the insurance is the safety net.  What you really want to do is avoid the problem in the first place.


No comments: