What is a Cloud on a Title Report?

As much as we all love to capture images of the beautiful and interesting “cloudscapes” above us, we know too, that clouds can signal storms. This holds true figuratively as well as literally. A cloud found on a title report during a real estate transaction can be quite disconcerting as well as potentially predictive of an impending problem.

Here at Veitengruber Law, we like to make sure that our clients as well as our blog readers have a clear understanding of as much legal language as possible. We’re the first to admit that almost every area of the law is absolutely bursting with legalese that can make many legal processes mind-boggling. We deal with these terms on a daily (dare we say ‘hourly’?) basis, but we know that you probably do not – so we always try to view legalese through your eyes.

What does it mean if there is a “cloud on title?”

If you are in the process of buying or selling real property (real estate), one crucial step in the process is the title search. This step is typically performed by a real estate attorney or a title company. The earlier in your real estate process the title search is performed, the better, because discovering a clouded title right before closing will put a real damper on your excitement.

When a title search comes back as “clouded,” one of several main reasons is generally the cause:

Issues with probate

These issues usually arise with older homes who have had a multitude of owners. There are a lot more opportunities for error when previous owners have died while still in possession of the home. Locating the necessary death certificates and other documentation can prove to be rather time consuming.

Previous foreclosures

While foreclosure on its own isn’t a sufficient reason to cause a cloud on a title, if there were problems with the foreclosure procedure or the judgement, they may appear as a cloud on a title. In order to clear up foreclosure issues, it may be necessary to resubmit foreclosure documentation or potentially re-open the foreclosure case.

Fraud

Although a rather uncommon reason for a clouded title, it is possible that the deed to the property was at one time recorded fraudulently. While rare, if fraudulent transfer of the deed has occurred, you’re in for a long road to resolving the matter.

Liens

The most common reason a property may have a cloud on its title is because the property has one or more liens attached to it. A lien is a notice indicating that the current owner of the home owes money to one or more creditor. Any outstanding liens must be cleared up before the property’s title will officially be called “clear.”

Paperwork/recording mistakes

Even though we’ve been living in the Technology Age for nearly two decades, it is only very recently that governmental agencies/bureaucracies have made the move to computerized record-keeping. This means that most past transactions of the property in question were likely done solely on paper, which is much more likely to lead to errors. Many recording errors can be relatively easy to fix, but some can prove to be quite challenging.

As you can see, a clouded title can often be rather difficult to fix. As you absolutely cannot move forward on your real estate transaction without a clear title, it is best to work quickly with a New Jersey real estate attorney who has experience with clouded titles. Attempting to fix the problem yourself or hoping it will go away on its own may very well end without the sale or purchase of your dream home.

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