What is a 'Certificate Of Title'

A certificate of title is a state or municipal-issued document that identifies the owner or owners of personal or real property. A certificate of title provides documentary evidence of the right of ownership. When issued for real property (such as land or a house) by a title insurance company, the certificate of title is a statement of opinion on the status of the title, based on a thorough examination of specified public records.

BREAKING DOWN 'Certificate Of Title'

The certificate of title lists any encumbrances on the property, such as liens or easements, but does not guarantee good title. Title companies provide certificates of title to lenders that require these documents prior to approving mortgage loans.


Certificates of title are also issued for vehicles, including automobiles, buses, motorcycles, motor homes, trailers and trucks, aircraft and watercraft. These are issued by a designated state agency to identify the owner of the vehicle, aircraft or water vessel. Any liens or outstanding loans will be identified on the certificate of title. Often, a lender (such as for an automobile loan) will hold the title until the obligation has been satisfied, at which point the lien is released and the certificate of title will be sent to the owner.

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