Common Title Problems with Real Property

Legal Article

Common Title Problems with Real Property

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned real estate investor, title issues can arise when purchasing or selling real estate. Further, legal issues relating to the title of a property can slow, suspend, or completely stop real estate transactions. Additionally, these issues may arise after a property has been purchased. With a variety of different title issues affecting real estate transactions, experts estimate that about 11 percent of closing issues revolve around problems with the property title.

The best way to avoid issues with property titles is to enlist an attorney that specializes in real estate to conduct a title search. A title search is the most effective way to clear up any issues with the title of a property that could affect the sale or purchase of a property. Below are common real property title issues and how a real estate attorney can help.

Common Title Issues

Before you can resolve real property title issues, you must first identify them. Below are some of the most common issues people face with real property titles.

Errors in Public Records

In certain cases, there could be an error in the public record regarding your property title. These errors could stem from either clerical or filing errors. Further, if there is an issue in the public record, it could affect the deed or survey of your property and will require you to place a substantial amount of time and money into fixing the issue.

Unknown Liens

Previous owners of your property may not have paid their bills or kept records of the bills they missed. Even if these bills are not under your name, financing companies can place a lien on the property. These financial institutions can even create a lien after you sell the property. If you are considering purchasing a distressed property, you should be especially cognizant of this issue.

Illegal Deeds

While most of the prior owners of the title to your property owned this property legally, it is possible that a minor, person of unsound mind, undocumented immigrant, or person who was married but filed taxes as single owned the property. If any of these parties previously owned the deed and title to your property, this may affect the enforceability of prior deeds and the ownership of the property.

Missing Heirs

When someone dies, they can choose to pass on ownership of a property to their family or friends—collectively known as heirs. However, the heirs to the property may be missing or unknown at the time of the current property owner’s death. In other cases, family members of the recently deceased may contest the property owner’s will. Both of these scenarios could affect who owns the property even if you have already purchased the property.


Sometimes, a previous property owner may have forged a property title or deed. This dishonesty can affect the property owners when filed with public entities—obscuring the rightful owner of the property. If anyone discovers these forgeries, it could jeopardize your ownership rights to the property.

Undiscovered Encumbrances

When purchasing a property, a third party holds a claim to all or part of your property. Whether this encumbrance is due to a former mortgage, lien, or non-financial claim, it could limit the use of your property.

Unknown Easements

While you may own your home and its surrounding land, an unknown easement may prohibit you from using your property or could allow government agencies, businesses, or other parties to access all or portions of your property.

Boundary and Survey Disputes

You will likely have seen multiple surveys of the property prior to purchasing your home. However, different surveys may show different boundaries. Thus, a neighbor may be able to claim ownership or use a portion of your property.  

False Impersonation of Previous Owner

Common and similar names make it possible for people to impersonate a property owner. If you purchase a property from a false owner, you risk losing your legal right to the property.

Finding and Fixing Title Issues

When dealing with property title issues, title companies and real estate attorneys can help identify and resolve these issues. Below is a short description of how title companies and real estate attorneys can help you with property title issues.

  • Title Company: A title company is able to research the property you are buying to make sure the title on the property is legitimate. Further, these companies also provide title insurance that protects you in the event that any of the issues discussed above do surface.
  • Real Estate Attorney: A real estate attorney is crucial to help you settle any title issues that arise especially those connected to ownership, boundary disputes, a contested will, or a lien on the property. Additionally, a real estate attorney can re-file public documents to correct previous errors.

The tools title companies and real estate attorneys have not only helps you if issues do occur, however, they also work to mitigate most issues that could occur.

Final Thoughts

With over 20 years of experience, Antonoplos & Associates real estate attorneys have the knowledge and experience required to assist clients with real estate litigation in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Furthermore, our attorneys have a strong background in real estate, construction law, and business law. Because of this experience, we are can assist clients with most aspects of real estate litigation. Finally, we are able to help you before, during, and after your real estate litigation. This is true whether you need assistance with personal or commercial legal issues.

Contact Our DC Law Office for More Information

Finally, for more information on common title problems with real property, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding real estate law, check out our blog