What Is a Register of Deeds?

The term register of deeds refers to a record of real estate deeds or other land titles maintained by a local government official. This is a centralized location where all legal documents are recorded, establishing ownership of property. It can also refer to a person responsible for keeping and providing access to deeds. The register is used in conjunction with a grantor-grantee index that lists the owner of the record and any transfers of property. The register is necessary when individuals or companies need to gather information about a property's history.

Key Takeaways

  • A register of deeds is a record of real estate deeds or other land titles maintained by a local government official.
  • The register can be a centralized location in a municipal or county building where documents are kept.
  • Registers can also refer to an individual responsible for overseeing the office where documents are housed.
  • The public is able to access documents, such as deeds, birth and death certificates, military discharge records, and others through the register of deeds.
  • There may be a fee to access or copy public records through the register of deeds.

Understanding a Register of Deeds

A deed is a legal document that proves ownership of an asset, such as a vehicle, land, home, or another piece of property. The deed holder, who is listed on the document, is granted certain rights to the piece of property in question. Deeds serve a number of purposes. For instance, a property owner needs a deed in order to transfer the title or sell the asset to someone else.

Deeds must be signed and notarized and must be filed with the local government. As such, they are considered public records and can be accessed by anyone. They are filed and kept with the register of deeds. This is a special area of the municipal office where deeds are located. In other cases, the register of deeds is the person who oversees deeds.

Registers are available for public viewing, it generally requires some time and government assistance to access particular mortgage records or deeds. Registers of deeds in the United States isn't a federal responsibility. It is normally maintained at the county, town, or state level.

Being able to access a deed through the register is important for a number of reasons. One of the most common reasons why these registers are necessary is because they provide access to information needed about the owner of a piece of property as well as details about the asset, such as lot numbers and addresses of homes, as well as makes and models of vehicles.

When Are Registers of Deeds Used?

The need for registers of deeds primarily arises when individuals or companies need to access important information about a piece of property. This is commonly done during real estate transactions. In these cases, the buyer and seller must be sure that the property's title can be legally transferred from one party to the other.

Registers of deeds also come in handy when:

  • Someone needs to conduct a title search
  • A person needs to verify if there are any liens on a property
  • You need to find any defects in the title
  • There is a dispute that needs to be settled

The office of the register of deeds may charge fees for copies of public records, depending on the type of record or document. For example, the cost for a copy of a deed might be $30 while other documents could be charged at a per-page fee.

Issues With Not Registering a Deed

It's very important that individuals register their deeds with the recorder. Not doing so can lead to a slew of problems for the property owner(s). One of the most important problems is the possibility of a dispute over the chain of title. A chain of title refers to the historic change in ownership of an asset all the way to the very first owner. Failure to register a deed leads to a break in the chain, opening the owner up to legal disputes.

Other potential problems that may arise if someone fails to register a deed include:

  • Property tax disputes
  • Property line and boundary issues
  • Delays and loss of profits

Although having or registering a deed isn't a legal requirement, expect delays and problems if and when you try to sell your property without one.

Recorder of Deeds

As mentioned above, a register of deeds is also a specific position within a government that oversees these public records in question. In some cases, the individual may also be called a recorder of deeds. This is often an elected position with a four-year term. In addition to real estate and property records, the individual may also be responsible for:

  • Issuing marriage licenses
  • Handling notary commissions
  • Recoding military discharges
  • Issue birth and death certificates

The office may also be responsible to assign the filing of Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) financing statements on personal property, which record and protect a secured party’s interest in the collateral offered by a debtor for a loan.

The collection of public records overseen by the register of deeds may extend back to the first documents kept by the government. This provides an in-depth history of ownership to be conducted to the original deed holders. Identifying records such as birth and death certificates can also be searched for back to the earliest available documents held by the respective government.

The specific duties of a register of deeds tend to vary by jurisdiction. Their responsibilities may extend to certain fraud prevention responsibilities. This can relate to identity theft, which could include the misuse of personal records such as birth certificates. As a government entity, the register may remind citizens of scammers who offer to sell them documents such as deeds by reaching out to them through unsolicited mail or other forms of contact.

Register of Deeds Definition FAQs

What Is the Difference Between Title and Deed Registration?

While a title and deed prove ownership of a piece of property, they are different. Titles are legal concepts that outline ownership. But deeds are physical documents that prove ownership. It is signed, witnessed, notarized, and filed with the municipality or county.

Is the Land Registry Proof of Ownership?

The land registry comes with some key pieces of information for a property, including the property address, a description of the property, the purchase price, and the current owners. It generally proves ownership by removing any claims against adverse possession by unintended inhabitants like squatters.

How Do I Record My Property?

As the buyer of a property, you are the one responsible for recording the deed. Deeds for real estate need to be filed directly with the municipality or county where the property is located. The documents must be signed, witnessed, and notarized in order to be registered.