Pennsylvania Special Warranty Deed Form
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What Is a Pennsylvania Special Warranty Deed Form?
A Pennsylvania special warranty deed is a legal document used in real estate transactions to transfer property from the grantor (seller) to the grantee (buyer) with a limited warranty of title. A Pennsylvania special warranty deed form guarantees that the seller has not encumbered the property in any way during his or her ownership period. The seller makes no promises about the presence or absence of title issues from before the seller took title.
Special warranty deeds are commonly used in Pennsylvania when the seller wants to provide the grantee some assurance about the property’s title but is unable or unwilling to provide a complete guarantee that covers the property’s entire history.
Pennsylvania law provides statutory model language for creating a special warranty deed that provides a limited warranty of title.1
What Is Warranty of Title?
A warranty of title is a guarantee a seller (or grantor) provides to the buyer (or grantee) when transferring real estate by deed. A complete warranty guarantees a valid and marketable title that is free from any liens, assessments, taxes, or other encumbrances not expressly disclosed in the deed. A complete warranty of title covers the property’s entire history—including any issues that arose before the seller acquired the property.
A complete warranty of title (called a general warranty) protects the new owner by making the grantor legally responsible for any problems with the property’s title. If a title problem arises, the grantor must fix the problem or compensate the grantee for any financial losses the problem causes.2
A Pennsylvania special warranty deed provides a limited warranty that only covers title issues that arose while the seller held title. The limited warranty works like a general warranty except that it does not cover title problems from before the seller took title. The parties therefore share the risk of unknown title issues—depending on when a particular issue arose.
- The seller has complete ownership of the property;
- There are no outstanding liens, mortgages, assessments, or other encumbrances on the property caused by the seller;
- The new owner’s possession of the property will not be disturbed by the seller or anyone with a claim on the property that came through the seller; and
- The seller will be responsible for, and will defend the new owner’s title against, any lawful claims by the seller or anyone whose claim came through the seller.
Other Names for a Pennsylvania Special Warranty Deed Form
Pennsylvania uses the term special warranty deed to describe deeds that transfer real estate with a limited warranty of title, and special warranty deed is the most common name across the U.S. Some states use different names for a deed with a similar warranty. Alternate names used in other states include:
There are sometimes slight differences between states in the details of how the limited warranty works, but the essential function is consistent: The deed transfers property with a limited warranty that covers some, but not all, potential problems with the property’s title.
How Do Pennsylvania Special Warranty Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?
In Pennsylvania, there are three main types of deeds: warranty deeds, special warranty deeds, and quitclaim deeds. Each type of deed can transfer title to a new owner, but they provide the new owner with different levels of protection against title problems. Special warranty deeds split the risk of title problems between the buyer and the seller. Warranty deeds and quitclaim deeds assign all risk to one party.
- Pennsylvania warranty deed form. A Pennsylvania warranty deed form—sometimes called a general warranty deed form—provides the new owner greater protection than a special warranty deed and places all risk of title problems on the grantor. The grantor who signs the deed warrants the title against all defects, liens, and encumbrances, whether they arose before or during the grantor’s ownership.4 A warranty deed absolutely guarantees the new owner a good title—subject only to issues specifically excluded by the deed.
- Pennsylvania quitclaim deed form. A Pennsylvania quitclaim deed form provides the new owner less protection than a special warranty deed and places all risk of title problems on the new owner. The grantor who signs the deed transfers whatever interest he or she has (if any) with no warranty or covenants of title.5 The new owner receives whatever interest the grantor can legally transfer but has no recourse under the deed if there is a problem with the title or if the grantor did not actually own the property.
Pennsylvania special warranty deeds split the difference between general warranty deeds and quitclaim deeds in terms of the level of protection provided to the grantee (and, correspondingly, the amount of risk placed on the grantor). Special warranty deeds offer less protection than warranty deeds but offer more protection than quitclaim deeds.
Pennsylvania Title Insurance and Special Warranty Deeds
Title insurance is a type of insurance policy that covers financial loss caused by an undisclosed lien, chain-of-title defect, or other problem with a property’s title.6 The insurance company compensates the insured person if a title problem emerges that was not discovered before the policy was issued.7
There are two types of title insurance policies:
- Owner’s title insurance protects a buyer’s investment in the purchased property.
- Lender’s title insurance protects a mortgage lender’s security interest in the property.
An owner’s title insurance policy often complements the protection against title problems that a Pennsylvania special warranty deed provides. While a special warranty deed’s warranty is limited to the period while the seller held title, a title insurance policy extends throughout the property’s entire history—also covering potential title issues that may have arisen before the seller’s ownership. If a title issue arises, the title insurance company will resolve the problem, cover the legal fees needed to defend the owner’s title, or compensate the owner for the financial loss the problem causes (up to the policy limit).
Pennsylvania Special Warranty Deed Forms and Other Pennsylvania Deeds Used in Estate Planning
While special warranty deeds are commonly used for general property transactions, other deed types—such as life estate deeds, transfer-on-death deeds, and deeds to a living trust—can be used for estate planning purposes in some states. Life estate deeds are a common estate-planning tool in Pennsylvania. A life estate deed gives a present, lifetime interest in real estate to a current owner (or life tenant) and gives a future interest to another person (the remainder beneficiary or remainderman). Upon the life tenant’s death, the property automatically passes to the remainderman without going through probate.
A few states allow property owners to use enhanced life estate deeds (commonly called lady bird deeds) to retain lifetime possession of real estate and avoid probate. Lady bird deeds are similar to traditional life estate deeds—except the owner also reserves the right to sell, transfer, or mortgage the property without the beneficiary’s consent. Lady bird deeds are also not recognized in Pennsylvania.
Common Uses of Pennsylvania Special Warranty Deed Forms
In Pennsylvania, special warranty deeds are often used when the grantor wants to provide some level of assurance to the grantee regarding the property’s title but does not want to assume full responsibility for the property’s entire history. Some common scenarios where a special warranty deed might be used include:
- Commercial real estate sales in which the seller lacks complete knowledge of the property’s history or previous title issues;
- Sales in which the seller has held title for only a short period and may be uncertain about the title’s status before the seller’s ownership;
- Sales by banks or other lenders that acquired the real estate following a foreclosure;
- Transfers from a trustee, executor or other fiduciary who has insufficient knowledge or authority to provide a complete warranty.
How to Create a Pennsylvania Special Warranty Deed
As with any deed, a Pennsylvania special warranty deed should be customized to reflect the specific terms and conditions of the transaction. Reliance on fill-in-the-blank forms can lead to invalid documents and future title issues.
Each Pennsylvania special warranty deed must meet Pennsylvania deed requirements. It should be formatted correctly and clearly identify the grantor and the grantee, provide a legal description of the property, and include a granting clause indicating that the grantor is transferring the property to the grantee.
A special warranty deed also must have the language necessary to convey the property with a limited warranty. Pennsylvania law implies limited warranties in a deed if it says that the grantor “grants, bargains, and sells” and “will warranty specially” the property to the grantee.8
The grantor must sign the deed in the presence of a notary public, who will notarize the document to confirm the grantor’s identity and their voluntary execution of the deed. To provide public notice of the property transfer and protect the grantee’s interest, the executed deed should be recorded in the recorder of deeds office in the county where the property is located. At the time or recording, the recorder of deeds will charge recording fees—which will vary by county.
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- 21 Pa. Stat. § 6.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 5.
- 21 Penn. Stat. §§ 6 and 8.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 5.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 7.
- 40 Penn. Stat. § 910-1.
- See 40 Penn. Stat. § 910-7 (requiring a title insurer to conduct or arrange for a title examination before issuing a policy).
- 21 Penn. Stat. §§ 6; and 8.