How Does Recording of Real Estate Records Work?

Just as in any transaction, keeping an official paper trail and record of any sale or change in ownership is an important part of verifying the history of a given property or purchase. Recording – the act of putting a document into official county records – is an important process that provides a traceable chain of title to a property. There are more than 100 types of documents that can be recorded, depending on the type of property and type of real estate transaction. The most common documents are related to mortgages, deeds, easements, foreclosures, estoppels, leases, licenses, and fees, among other kinds of documents.

The most important real estate documents list ownership, encumbrances, and lien priority. These are used to maintain proper real estate transactions.

Key Takeaways

  • Recording is the act of putting a document into official county records, especially for real estate and property transactions, that provides a traceable chain of title.
  • Recorded documents do not establish who owns a property. Rather, these public records are actually used to help resolve disputes between parties with competing claims to a property.
  • To understand which documents have been or must be recorded, check with your state and county recording division.

Real Estate Recording Systems

In reality, recording systems vary by state and are established by individual state statutes. Not all states use a process of instrument recording to track title; some states use land registration systems instead. In any case, it is the responsibility of the local county or state to make sure that these official documents are kept on file.

Recorded documents do not establish who owns a property--this is instead of the function of a title that establishes the legal owner of the asset. Rather, recorded documents are made public to be used to help resolve disputes between parties with competing claims to a property. For instance, if two different claimants have conflicting deeds to a property, the date of recording can be used to determine the ownership timeline. In most cases, these public records provide clarity, and typically the owner with the most recent deed would be considered the rightful owner. If there are any issues, it would be wise to seek legal counsel.

In the case of mortgage liens, courts use the date of a recording to determine the priority for which liens should receive payment first.

To understand which documents have been or must be recorded, check with your state and county recording division. Some states have also passed recording acts, which are statutes that establish how official records are kept.

Ultimately, recordings provide information for both government authorities and for the buyers and sellers of real estate property.

Each state has its own recording system for property records and various requirements that come along with it.

Examples of Real Estate Recording Requirements

Since each state and county has its own laws on what must be recorded, there are minute variations in recording requirements on what is required. For example, for Los Angeles County, all "courier services, third-party representatives, attorney services and messengers must drop off Deeds, Deed of Trust, Leases, and Notice of Default submitted for recording."