Wednesday, January 15, 2014

degradation of legal descriptions

Oddly, we had 2 title examinations last month in which the current deed contained a crappy legal description.  In both cases we looked to the prior deeds in the chain to see if we could restore clarity and found some quirks.

In one case we found that a perfectly good metes and bounds description which had moved forward from an old plan.  Wondering why the last deed was prepped with such a crappy description, we found our clue in the tax assessment.  At some point the tax assessor had changed the shape of the lot by removing from the assessment a portion of land that abutted a river and by adding land that was not a part of the lot as described on the plan.  This extra land in a hillside next to a curve in a road and the developer didn't convey it to anyone.  We think the person who prepped the deed got confused with the tax map and decided to make the description vague enough to cover the extra land that the people thought they owned.  We discussed the description with the attorney representing the seller and said we would only insure the lot as it had been described in the plan as we could insure ownership based upon the 60 year chain. We wanted that description restored in the deed.  He agreed to restore the old description and per the buyer's request added language in which the seller quit claimed any rights to the hillside land.

In the other case, there was no description, just a reference to a deed that was older than 60 years.  We asked the abstractor to go back to the old deed so we could recite that description and guess what?  When she went back beyond the 60 year period to pull that old deed she found an outsale!  One of the three lots our seller was conveying had been sold back in 1945.  The seller thankfully has owner title insurance and has opened a claim.  The seller has an old unrecorded survey showing that no improvements are on this third lot so the buyer decided to move forward with a purchase of the two lots and a possible future acquisition of the third if they fix the title.  Looks like a quiet title situation as the folks who bought the property in 1945 seem to have disappeared. 

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