Owning a piece of real estate — whether it is your primary residence, a vacation home, or a commercial property — is one of the great benefits of living in a free country. The last thing you want or need when buying, selling, or inheriting a piece of Texas real estate is a dispute regarding the property’s title. 

If a title dispute does arise, you can always hire a real estate attorney to represent you. But it is so much better to take all the steps necessary to try to avoid becoming embroiled in a title dispute in the first place. This article will cover what you need to know to avoid real estate title disputes when you are buying or selling property, including:

  • What rights a title grants to property owners in Texas
  • What a real estate deed is and how it impacts the owner’s title
  • What types of disputes can arise in connection with a real estate title transfer
  • How your real estate attorney can protect your title rights in a real estate transaction

What rights does a title grant to property owners in Texas?

When you hold legal title to Texas real estate, you are granted certain rights to the property. These include:

  • The right of possession. When you hold title to property, you have the right to claim ownership of the property and anything on it, with a few exceptions. A title to property may or may not include water and mineral rights, so it is important to research whether these rights come with the property title.
  • The right of enjoyment and control. When you own property, you can use it in any way that you please and control how others can use it. Of course, your use must not violate the law, or conflict with zoning or homeowner’s association rules.
  • The right of exclusion. With limited exceptions — including if someone has been granted access to your property through an easement — you get to decide who is allowed to be on your property.  
  • The right of disposition. You have the right to transfer ownership whenever you want and for as long as you want as long as there are no encumbrances — like a lien or a loan — on the property.

What is a real estate deed?

While having title to a property means you have ownership rights, the way you manifest those rights is through a deed. A deed is the written instrument that conveys title. Whenever the title to property changes hands from one owner to another, the deed must also change hands. 

A legal Texas real estate deed must:

  • Identify the seller (grantor) and the buyer (grantee/recipient)
  • Express that the seller/grantor intends to transfer the property to the grantee/recipient
  • Provide an accurate legal description of the property
  • Provide a detailed description of any rights associated with the property
  • Be signed by the grantor, notarized, and then be filed with the proper Texas county clerk

While conveying property title through a deed sounds simple, there is a lot that can go wrong. First, not all deeds convey the same type or level of title (ownership). And second, not every deed conveyance is handled according to the letter of the law. 

Types of Texas real estate deeds

  • General warranty deed. Typically, a grantor will provide the grantee with a full warranty of title under a general warranty deed. Under this type of deed, the grantor warrants to the grantee that the title to the property is free and clear of any other claims. Because of its broad warranties of title, the general warranty deed provides the best protection for the grantee.
  • Special warranty deed. More limited than a general warranty deed, a special warranty deed only warrants that title is free and clear from any claims arising during the time period of the grantor’s ownership. Because a special warranty deed offers no protection for claims arising prior to the grantor’s ownership, the grantee must rely on title insurance provided by a title company to protect them from any past title issues. 
  • Deed without warranty. This deed purports to convey real property, but without any warranties. There is no way of knowing if the grantor has any claim of title to transfer, so is considered a deed of last resort that is commonly used while past title problems are being cleared up.  
  • Quitclaim deed. Technically, a quitclaim deed does not convey anything. It is merely a form of release where the signer relinquishes any claim of title to the grantee. Most title companies will not recognize quitclaim deeds found in a chain of title, insisting instead that corrective action be taken before a property sale can be closed.

What types of problems can arise in a real estate transfer of title?

You might wonder how title problems can arise. After all, as long as every title holder transfers the property to the next owner through a general warranty deed, everything should be fine. The problem is that, like life, property transfers can get messy. Here are just a few ways that transferring title from one party to another can get fouled up resulting in title disputes. 

  • A person dies without a will and the property is not correctly handled during the probate process.
  • A property owner marries someone who is embroiled in bankruptcy and the spouse has not quitclaimed their interest back to the original owner, leaving the question as to whether the real estate is included in the bankruptcy proceedings.
  • An owner tells someone verbally he can have a property and then allows them to take possession of it. 
  • A deed transfer does not get recorded with the county clerk.
  • A tradesman has placed a mechanic’s lien on the property. 

These are just a few examples where the failure to follow the processes correctly can result in disputes over who has title to a specific property. 

How a Kelly Legal Group Real Estate Lawyer Can Help

The best way to address title issues is before they escalate into title disputes. The role of an experienced real estate attorney is to make sure that all relevant paperwork — and especially documentation conveying clear title — is properly executed and available. A Kelly Legal Group real estate lawyer will perform a title search, identify title problems, and work quickly to correct the title problems whenever possible. And in the event a title dispute can’t be avoided, your real estate lawyer can advocate for your rights under the law.

To learn more about how Kelly Legal Group can help you avoid a title dispute, give us a call at 512-505-0053 or contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to providing you with legal support in your real estate transaction.