What is an Ohio Limited Warranty Deed Form?
An Ohio limited warranty deed form is a deed that conveys Ohio real estate with limited warranty of title.1 Warranty of title—which the Ohio statute calls covenants of warranty—is the current owner’s guaranty to the new owner that the transferred real estate’s title is free of undisclosed title defects. Title defects might potentially include liens, an ambiguous ownership history (or chain of title), or unmarketability of an ownership interest.2
The warranty provided by Ohio limited warranty deeds is limited because it only extends to defects arising during the current owner’s period of ownership.3 The current owner promises to defend the property’s title against third-party claims made “by, through, or under the [current owner], but against none other.”4 That means a claim based on an event that occurred while the current owner held title—but not before—falls within the warranty. Defects rooted earlier in the property’s chain of title are the new owner’s responsibility.
The Ohio Legislature publishes a statutory form limited warranty deed at O.R.C. §5302.07. A properly executed deed substantially similar to the form conveys the current owner’s complete interest in the real estate with limited warranty of title.5 The current owner can transfer a lesser interest, reserve an interest, or alter the warranty through express language in the deed.6
Other Names for an Ohio Limited Warranty Deed Form
The Ohio Revised Code and Ohio courts both call deeds that transfer real estate with warranty of title limited to the transferor’s ownership period limited warranty deeds.7 Other states call deeds with limited warranty of title special warranty deeds, covenant deeds, or grant deeds.8 Special warranty deed is the favored term nationally.
Statutory warranty deed is occasionally used synonymously with limited warranty deed, but the two terms are not precisely the same in Ohio. A statutory warranty deed is a deed based on a statutory model for real estate transfers with warranty of title. The Ohio Revised Code provides statutory deed forms for both general warranty and limited warranty deeds.9 In Ohio, a statutory warranty deed can therefore be a deed with general or limited warranty of title. Further, an Ohio limited warranty deed can—but does not have to—be a statutory warranty deed because Ohio’s statutory deed forms are optional.10 Limited warranty deeds are derived from common law, and a drafter can create a valid Ohio limited warranty deed without using the legislature’s model language.
How do Ohio Limited Warranty Deed Forms Relate to Other Ohio Deed Forms?
Ohio limited warranty deeds distribute the risk of title defects between the current owner and the new owner by providing incomplete warranty of title. Ohio has two other statutory deed forms which place the risk entirely on one party or the other.
- General Warranty Deed Form. An Ohio general warranty deed form—sometimes just called warranty deed—transfers real estate with complete warranty of title.11. When executing a general warranty deed, the current owner extends four covenants of warranty:
- The owner holds complete title to the real estate.
- The real estate is held free of liens.
- The current owner has the right to transfer the real estate to the new owner.
- The current owner warrants the property’s title and promises to defend the title against lawful claims.12
The current owner who signs a general warranty deed shoulders all the risk of unknown title defects. The new owner has legal recourse against the current owner in the form of a breach-of-warranty suit if a title defect later emerges.
- Quitclaim Deed Form. An Ohio quitclaim deed form conveys the current owner’s present interest in real estate—if any—“without covenants of any kind.”13 A quitclaim deed places all risk of unknown title defects on the new owner. The new owner cannot assert a breach-of-warranty claim against the prior owner if a third party later makes a claim on the property.
Ohio Limited Warranty Deed Forms Compared to Specialized Ohio Statutory Deed Forms
- Fiduciary’s Deed Form. In the Ohio statute, a fiduciary’s deed form is called a deed of executor, administrator, trustee, guardian, receiver, or commission.14 An appointed fiduciary signs the deed in a representative capacity to transfer real estate legally owned by the represented person or entity. A fiduciary deed includes three fiduciary covenants from the fiduciary:
- The signer was appointed, qualified, and acting within the fiduciary capacity described in the deed when executing the deed.
- The signer has authority to transfer the real estate.
- The signer complied with all relevant statutes relating to the sale of the transferred real estate.15
In practice, the title of an Ohio fiduciary’s deed typically names the specific fiduciary signing the deed. An executor acting for a deceased owner’s estate—for example—could sign an executor’s deed derived from the statutory fiduciary’s deed form.
- Survivorship Deed Form. An Ohio survivorship deed form transfers real estate to two or more new owners who then own the property with a right of survivorship.16 When an owner dies, the deceased owner’s interest automatically vests in the survivor—with no need for probate. The survivorship tenancy created by an Ohio survivorship deed is a popular tool for estate planning—comparable to a joint tenancy in other states.
Ohio survivorship deeds can transfer real estate with complete warranty of title, limited warranty of title, or no warranty—depending on an individual deed’s wording. Therefore, a survivorship deed could also be a limited warranty deed if the deed conveys real estate with limited warranty of title. An Ohio property owner can execute a survivorship deed transferring real estate to the owner and another person jointly to create a survivorship tenancy.17
- Transfer on Death Deed Form. An Ohio transfer on death affidavit—or TOD affidavit—is a recorded instrument that designates a beneficiary to receive title to real estate upon the current owner’s death.18 Other states that allow TOD designations for real estate typically require a separate deed—rather than an affidavit. Ohio TOD affidavits transfer real estate with no specific covenants or warranty. The beneficiary receives whatever title the owner held at the time of death—analogous to a transfer via quitclaim deed.19
Common Uses of Ohio Limited Warranty Deed Forms
Sellers commonly convey by limited warranty deed commercial and multi-unit residential properties purchased for fair market value. A seller can be reasonably certain—and therefore willing to guaranty—that no undisclosed title defects arose while the seller owned the property. The same seller may be unwilling to assume unknown risks relating to earlier events of which the seller has no first-hand knowledge.
At the same time, purchasers want at least some assurance that they are acquiring good title from a property’s true owner. A limited warranty deed represents a compromise approach—acknowledging both parties’ interests and splitting the risk between buyer and seller.
Limited warranty deeds are relatively rare when a buyer purchases a single-family residence—especially if a third-party lender finances the purchase. Homebuyers and mortgage lenders are usually unwilling to accept any risk that real estate purchased at significant expense has an unclear or unmarketable title.
Title insurance—which mortgage lenders customarily require as a financing condition—shifts the financial risk of unknown title defects away from buyers, sellers, and lenders. In exchange for a premium payment, a title insurance policy covers financial losses resulting from liens, third-party claims on a property’s title, or unmarketability due to title defects.20 Title insurance companies also arrange for a professional title examination before issuing a policy—reducing the likelihood of future problems with a property’s title.
Fiduciaries transferring real estate in a representative capacity—such as trustees, executors, or guardians—commonly use special warranty deeds in other states. Ohio law provides a statutory deed for fiduciaries.21 Ohio’s statutory deed forms are optional, though, and a fiduciary may instead opt for a limited warranty deed to transfer Ohio real estate.22
How to Create an Ohio Limited Warranty Deed
The following model language within Ohio’s limited warranty deed statute offers a solid foundation for creating a limited warranty deed:
__________ (marital status), of ____________ County, _____________ for valuable consideration paid, grant(s), with limited warranty covenants, to ___________, whose tax-mailing address is ___________, the following real property:
(description of land or interest therein and encumbrances, reservations, and exceptions, if any)
Prior Instrument Reference: Volume _____, Page _____
___________, wife (husband) of said grantor, releases to said grantee all rights of dower therein.
Executed this _______________ day of __________________
(Signature of Grantor)23
The statutory form states that the transfer is made “for valuable consideration paid,” without specifying an amount. Drafters will sometimes include the specific amount exchanged or, more commonly, state nominal consideration—for example, for $10.00 cash in hand. Ohio law does not strictly require a statement of consideration.24
Ohio’s statutory deed forms are not mandatory and may be unsuitable for some transactions. The key phrase to create an Ohio limited warranty deed is with limited warranty covenants.25 Ohio law assumes that a deed with those words is a limited warranty deed—even if the deed does not use the model limited warranty deed form or expressly include covenants of warranty. The parties to a limited warranty deed can modify, limit, or supplement the deed’s covenants through express language included in the deed.26
While Ohio’s statutory deed forms are useful, the form language alone cannot create a recordable deed that validly conveys Ohio real estate. Ohio law has numerous technical requirements—not addressed in the statutory deed forms—relating to the formatting and execution of deeds.27 A deed must carefully observe all legal requirements and accurately reflect the parties’ agreed terms. An imprecise or inappropriate deed form can result in a failed conveyance or transfer under terms different from what the current and new owners contemplated.
- O.R.C. §5302.07.
- See O.R.C. §3953.01(A).
- O.R.C. §5302.08.
- O.R.C. §5302.08.
- O.R.C. §5302.04.
- O.R.C. §5301.02; O.R.C. §5302.04.
- O.R.C. §5302.07; Mulligan v. Campden Lakes Ass’n, Inc., 2012 Ohio 3121 (2012).
- See, e.g., Oreg. Rev. Stat. §93.855; Cal. Civ. Code §1092; Mich. Comp. Law §750.275 (prohibiting the term “warranty deed” within a deed conveying property with less than absolute warranty of title).
- O.R.C. §5302.05; O.R.C. §5302.07.
- O.R.C. §5302.01.
- O.R.C. §5302.05.
- O.R.C. §5302.06.
- O.R.C. §5302.11.
- O.R.C. §5302.09.
- O.R.C. §5302.10.
- O.R.C. §5302.17.
- O.R.C. §5302.18.
- O.R.C. §5302.22(A)(5).
- O.R.C. §5302.23(B)(7)(a).
- O.R.C. §3953.01(A).
- O.R.C. §5302.09.
- O.R.C. §5302.01.
- O.R.C. §5302.07.
- McGovern Builders, Inc. v. Davis, 468 N.E.2d 90 (Ohio App., 1983).
- O.R.C. §5302.08.
- See O.R.C. §5302.03.
- See, e.g., O.R.C. §317.114; O.R.C. §319.20; O.R.C. §317.111.