District of Columbia Warranty Deed Form
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What is a District of Columbia General Warranty Deed Form?
A District of Columbia general warranty deed form is a legal document used to transfer real property (real estate) ownership in the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) from one party (the grantor) to another (the grantee). It provides a warranty of title that covers all time periods, including the time before the grantor acquired the property. Any problem with the title to the property can breach the warranty of title.
The District of Columbia general warranty deed form is authorized by statute.1 It provides the grantee with the highest level of protection compared to other types of deeds because it includes warranties or guarantees from the grantor about the property’s title.
How Warranty of Title Works in District of Columbia
A warranty of title provides assurances to the grantee (buyer) that the title to the property being transferred is valid, free from undisclosed encumbrances, and without any legal defects that might affect the grantee’s ownership or use of the property. The warranty of title protects the grantee against any future claims or disputes that may arise concerning the property’s title. The warranty of title usually refers to a bundle of warranties of title, including:
- Covenant of seisin. This covenant ensures that the grantor (seller) has the legal right and authority to convey the property to the grantee. It guarantees that the grantor owns the property and has a valid title.
- Covenant against encumbrances. This covenant guarantees that there are no undisclosed encumbrances (such as liens, mortgages, or easements) on the property.2 It protects the grantee from any claims or restrictions that might affect their ownership or use of the property.
- Covenant of quiet enjoyment. This covenant guarantees that the grantee will not be disturbed in their possession of the property by any third parties with a superior claim to the title.3 It ensures that the grantee’s ownership and use of the property will not be disrupted by a third party’s claim.
- Covenant of warranty. This covenant guarantees that the grantor will defend the grantee’s title against any lawful claims made by third parties.4 It ensures that the grantor will bear the cost and responsibility of defending the grantee’s title in case of a dispute.
- Covenant of further assurance. This covenant guarantees that the grantor will provide any additional documentation or take any necessary actions to perfect the grantee’s title, should it be required in the future.5 It ensures that the grantee’s title will be clear and marketable.
When a warranty of title is included in a District of Columbia deed, the grantor is legally bound to uphold the warranties and may be held liable for any damages, costs, or losses the grantee incurs as a result of a breach of these warranties. The warranty of title gives the grantee peace of mind and protection when purchasing a property, knowing that they have recourse if any issues with the title arise. Title insurance is often purchased as a supplement to the warranty to assure that there is a payment source (the insurance company) to cover any financial loss caused by a title problem.6
Other Names for a District of Columbia General Warranty Deed Form
A deed that provides a full warranty of title may be called a general warranty deed or simply a warranty deed. The word general is often used to distinguish this deed type from a special or limited warranty deed that provides a lesser warranty of title.
How Do District of Columbia General Warranty Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?
A warranty deed is one of three District of Columbia deeds that are named after the warranty of title included in the deed. The other two types of deeds are quitclaim deeds and special warranty deeds.
District of Columbia Special Warranty Deed
A District of Columbia special warranty deed offers more limited protection compared to a general warranty deed. The grantor only warrants the title against defects or encumbrances that may have arisen during the grantor’s ownership of the property.7 A grantor who signs a special warranty deed does not provide any warranty for issues that may have existed before the grantor took ownership. A general warranty deed, on the other hand, offers the highest level of protection to the grantee. It includes several warranties that cover the property’s entire history, not just the time the grantor (seller) owned the property.
District of Columbia Quitclaim Deed
Compared to warranty deeds and special warranty deeds, a District of Columbia quitclaim deed provides the grantee with the least amount of protection. Unlike a general warranty deed, a quitclaim deed does not include any warranties or guarantees about the property’s title. Instead, it only transfers whatever interest, if any, the grantor has in the property to the grantee. The grantor makes no promises about the validity of the title or the absence of encumbrances. As a result, a quitclaim deed is considered a higher-risk instrument for the grantee.
District of Columbia General Warranty Deeds and Other District of Columbia Deed Forms
In addition to the three main deed types, the District of Columbia also recognizes two types of deeds that are named after their probate avoidance feature: Life estate deeds and transfer-on-death deeds.
District of Columbia Life Estate Deed
A District of Columbia life estate deed is a legal document that allows a property owner (grantor) to transfer future ownership of a property while retaining the right to use, occupy, and benefit from the property for the duration of the grantor’s life.8 Upon the grantor’s death, the property automatically passes to the designated remainderman or remainder beneficiaries, who are the ultimate recipients of the property.
To create a life estate deed, the grantor transfers a life estate to himself or herself and a remainder interest to the remainderman. The life estate gives the grantor the right to use the property during his or her lifetime, while the remainder interest ensures that the property passes to the remainderman without going through probate upon the grantor’s death. However, the grantor cannot sell or mortgage the property without the remainderman’s consent, as the remainderman holds a future interest in the property.
District of Columbia Transfer-on-Death Deed
A District of Columbia (TOD) transfer-on-death deed also known as a beneficiary deed, is a legal instrument that allows a property owner to designate one or more beneficiaries who will automatically receive the property upon the owner’s death without going through probate.9 During the owner’s lifetime, the owner maintains full control over the property, including the right to sell, mortgage, or change the designated beneficiaries. The TOD deed becomes effective only upon the owner’s death, when the property is transferred to the designated beneficiaries. Unlike a life estate deed, the owner’s rights over the property are not limited or shared with any other parties during their lifetime. Property owners who record transfer-on-death deeds can revoke or change the deed at any time, without consulting with or notifying the beneficiaries named in the TOD deed.
Common Uses of District of Columbia General Warranty Deed Forms
In the District of Columbia, warranty deeds are most often used to sell and purchase residential and commercial properties. They provide grantees with a high level of assurance about the property’s title and protect them against potential claims and encumbrances.
How to Create a District of Columbia General Warranty Deed Form
As with any deed, a District of Columbia warranty deed should be customized to reflect the specific terms and conditions of the transaction. Reliance on generic, fill-in-the-blank forms can lead to invalid documents and future title issues. A warranty deed form in the District of Columbia will include the following elements:
- Names and addresses of the grantor and grantee
- A valid legal description of the property being transferred
- Consideration paid for the property (usually a monetary amount)
- Special language to reflect the general warranty of title
- Signature of the grantor
- Notarization by a notary public
Need a general warranty deed that meets District of Columbia recording requirements?
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