What Is a District of Columbia Quitclaim Deed Form?
A deed is a document that transfers title to real estate.1 A District of Columbia quitclaim deed transfers—with no warranty of title—an interest in real estate located in D.C. A property owner who signs and records a quitclaim deed transfers whatever rights he or she holds in the property but makes no promises about the validity or status of the transferred interest. The new owner receives whatever title the current owner can lawfully transfer (if any) with no guarantee that the current owner actually owns an interest in the property.
What Is Warranty of Title?
Warranty of title is a guarantee a property owner makes when signing certain deeds. The guarantee consists of one or more legal promises called covenants of title. A DC property owner who signs a deed that provides a general warranty guarantees a good, clear title and agrees to defend the transferred title against any adverse ownership claims that arise in the future.2
A new owner who receives DC real estate with warranty of title can seek payment from the prior owner for any financial losses caused by a problem with the property’s title. A new owner who wins a breach of warranty case can recover for damages caused by problems like:
- Unpaid tax or judgment liens;
- Unpaid assessments;
- Boundary disputes; or
- A title the owner cannot sell due to a defect in an earlier deed.
Note: District of Columbia law recognizes three other statutory covenants of title. These covenants are included only in deeds with the key phrases specified in the law:
- Covenant of quiet enjoyment. A current owner who promises in a deed “that the said [new owner] shall quietly enjoy said land” guarantees that the new owner’s possession of the property will not be bothered by ownership claims made by the current owner or anyone whose claim is derived from the current owner’s title.3
- Covenant against encumbrance. A current owner who promises in a deed “that [the current owner] has done no act to encumber said land” guarantees that the property is subject to no liens, mortgages, or other title issues caused by anything the current owner did or failed to do.4
- Covenant for further assurances. A current owner who promises in a deed “that [the current owner] will execute such further assurances of said land as may be requisite” promises to sign future documents and act as reasonably necessary to confirm the new owner’s title to the property.5
Warranty of Title and District of Columbia Quitclaim Deeds
A District of Columbia quitclaim deed by definition provides no warranty of title. The new owner receives whatever rights or interest the current owner can lawfully transfer. The current owner does not guarantee that he or she actually has a clear title or any interest to transfer at all.6 So, the new owner bears the risk of problems with the property’s title and cannot sue the current owner for breach of warranty if an unknown title problem causes the new owner future financial loss.
Other Names for a District of Columbia Quitclaim Deed Form
Quitclaim deed is by far the most common name for deeds that transfer real estate with no warranty of title. Quit claim deed and quit-claim deed are acceptable alternatives, but quickclaim deed is not a correct term. The word quitclaim may also act as a verb—as in “Current Owner quitclaims property to New Owner.”
Synonyms for quitclaim deed used in other jurisdictions—but rarely in DC—include:
- Quitclaim deed without covenants. A few states have laws that include implied covenants in deeds that use the word quitclaim.7 A deed titled Quitclaim Deed without Covenants clearly disclaims the covenants and works like a District of Columbia quitclaim deed.
- Release deed. Lawyers and courts sometimes use the name release deed for a quitclaim deed that gives up the signer’s rights to the other party. A release deed might, for example, give a co-owner’s interest to the other co-owner or release a creditor’s rights under a deed of trust.8
- No warranty deed or deed without warranty. Deeds titled No Warranty Deed or Deed Without Warranty replace quitclaim deeds in some states with laws that make title companies wary of the name quitclaim deed. Texas law, for example, implies covenants of title in deeds unless a deed clearly says there are no covenants.9
How Do District of Columbia Quitclaim Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?
A District of Columbia quitclaim deed transfers to the new owner any property rights or interest the signer currently holds with no guarantee. The new owner receives the current owner interest in whatever condition it happens to be and accepts all risk of problems with the property’s title. The District of Columbia’s other deed forms transfer property with partial or complete warranty of title, so the current owner keeps some or all of the risk of title problems.
- District of Columbia general warranty deed. A District of Columbia general warranty deed form—or just warranty deed—gives the new owner complete warranty of title.10 The current owner guarantees a good, clear title and retains the risk of title problems arising at any point in the property’s ownership history. Warranty deeds in DC typically state that the owner transfers the property “with general warranty” or that the owner “will warrant generally the property hereby conveyed.”
- District of Columbia special warranty deed. A District of Columbia special warranty deed form—sometimes called a limited warranty deed—gives the new owner limited warranty of title.11 The current owner guarantees a good, clear title, but the guarantee covers only the period while the current owner held title. Title problems derived from before the current owner took title are not covered by the warranty. The current owner and the new owner, then, each share some risk of title problems—depending on when a problem arose. Special warranty deeds in DC typically state that the owner transfers the property “with special warranty” or that the owner “will warrant specially the property hereby conveyed.”
Title Insurance and District of Columbia Quitclaim Deeds
A property owner who takes title to DC real estate through a quitclaim deed bears the financial risk of problems with the property’s title. An owner can reduce the potential financial loss with a title insurance policy. Title insurance is a contract under which the insurance company agrees to compensate the property owner (or other insured person) for financial loss caused by problems with the property’s title.12
A title insurance policy protects against financial loss or damages caused by problems that existed when the policy was issued and are not excluded from the coverage, such as:
- Tax liens, judgment liens, or mortgages;
- Boundary disputes;
- A gap in the property’s chain of title that makes the title unmarketable; or
- Absence of a legal right allowing the owner to physically access the land.
Quitclaim Deeds and Other District of Columbia Deeds Used in Estate Planning
Estate-planning deeds are designed to transfer title to a beneficiary named during the owner’s life effective when the owner dies. Estate-planning deeds allow property to pass outside probate and are named for their functions rather than the covenants of title they provide.
- Transfer-on-death deed. A District of Columbia transfer-on-death deed form—often called a TOD deed—transfers title to one or more named beneficiaries when the owner dies.13 A TOD deed must be recorded before the owner’s death but has no effect on the owner’s rights—including the right to sell or mortgage the property—during the owner’s life.14 TOD deeds cannot provide warranty of title and pass ownership subject to liens, mortgages, or other issues affecting the property’s title before the owner’s death.15
- Life estate deed. A District of Columbia life estate deed works like a TOD deed but limits the owner’s property rights once recorded. The owner typically reserves the life estate—the right to own the property for life—and grants the remainder interest to a child or other heir.16 The life estate ends when the owner dies, and the remainder interest holder receives the property. After recording a life estate deed, the owner can no longer transfer complete title to the property without the remainder interest holder’s consent.17
Common Uses of District of Columbia Quitclaim Deed Forms
Property owners often use DC quitclaim deeds to transfer title to a new owner for little or no consideration (i.e., value provided in exchange for the deed) or to retitle a property without changing who possesses and controls it. A quitclaim deed can transfer purchased real estate, but warranty deeds and special warranty deeds are more common when selling property for fair market value.
A District of Columbia quitclaim deed form can be suitable for any of the following goals:
- Create a right of survivorship. A property owner can record a quitclaim to the owner and another person as joint tenants to create a right of survivorship.18 A quitclaim deed can transfer property to multiple owners using any of DC’s forms of co-ownership—including tenancy by the entirety if the new co-owners are married.19
- Transfer title to a living trust. An owner or co-owners can record a quitclaim deed to transfer title to a revocable living trust formed to let the property bypass probate when the owner dies.20
- Divide property between divorcing spouses. Former spouses who co-own property can record a quitclaim deed to title the property in one spouse’s name pursuant to a divorce decree.
- Give real estate to a family member. A property owner can use a quitclaim deed to transfer property to a child or grandchild as a gift without consideration.
How to Create a District of Columbia Quitclaim Deed
Quitclaim deeds transferring DC real estate must satisfy all requirements for deeds under District of Columbia law. They must also omit any express warranty or words suggesting an implied warranty.21
District of Columbia Quitclaim Deed Requirements
District of Columbia law provides no statutory form for quitclaim deeds. A drafter can create a valid District of Columbia quitclaim deed that relies on the D.C. Code’s “Fee Simple Deed.” The document title should be revised to Quitclaim Deed, and the deed should state that the current owner quitclaims the property to the new owner.22
A phrase that shows there is no warranty or covenants of title is not essential to a DC quitclaim deed. However, a disclaimer avoids ambiguity.
District of Columbia General Deed Requirements
The District of Columbia’s general deed requirements—which deal with necessary information and signing standards—apply to all deeds transferring DC real estate.23 Requirements for a valid DC deed include (in part):
- Identification of the parties to the transfer:
- A legal description of the property;
- The current owner’s original signature; and
- A completed notary certificate.24
A DC deed filed for recording must also be accompanied by a completed Real Property Recordation and Tax Form FP-7/C and the recorder of deeds’ Document Intake Sheet (Form ROD 31). The District of Columbia has no deed-formatting standards by statute. Deeds should be formatted consistent with DC’s local customs.
Selecting a District of Columbia Quitclaim Deed Form
Every state has its own real estate laws for deeds, and the District of Columbia is no different. There can be significant differences between jurisdictions, so a District of Columbia quitclaim deed form must be tailored to DC law. A form designed for another state may omit necessary information, fail to transfer property as intended, or result in problems with the property’s chain of title.
- D.C. Code § 42-301.
- D.C. Code § 42-604.
- D.C. Code § 42-606.
- D.C. Code § 42-607.
- D.C. Code § 42-608.
- See Clark v. Clark, 644 A.2d 449 (D.C. Ct. Apps., 1994).
- See, e.g., 33 Maine Rev. Stat. § 765, S.D. Cod. Laws § 43-25-11.
- See, e.g., Colby v. Riggs Nat. Bank, 92 F.2d 183 (D.C. Cir., 1937), Henningsen v. Stromberg, 221 P.2d 438 (Mont. 1950).
- Tex. Prop. Code § 5.023.
- D.C. Code § 42-604.
- D.C. Code § 42-605.
- D.C. Code § 31-5031.01(24).
- D.C. Code § 19-604.05.
- D.C. Code §§ 19-604.09(c); 19-604.12(1)-(6).
- D.C. Code §§ 19-604.13(b) and (e).
- See D.C. Code § 42-601 (Deed of Life Estate form).
- D.C. Code § 42-514.
- D.C. Code § 42-516(a).
- D.C. Code § 42-516(c).
- D.C. Code § 19-1304.18.
- See, e.g., D.C. Code § 42-606 (implying covenant of quiet enjoyment in deed that says the new owner “shall quietly enjoy said land”).
- See D.C. Code § 42-601 (Fee Simple Deed form under which owner “grants” property to new owner).
- See D.C. Code § 42-601.
- D.C. Code §§ 42-601; 42-306(b); 42-407(1).