South Carolina Warranty Deed Form

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What is a South Carolina General Warranty Deed Form?

A South Carolina general warranty deed form is an instrument for transferring South Carolina real estate with warranty of title.1 Warranty of title is a property owner’s guaranty when executing a deed that the deed conveys a valid title free of outstanding liens or other title problems. The current owner (the grantor) essentially promises the new owner (the grantee) to bear the financial risk of unknown problems with the property’s title.

The South Carolina Code provides form language for general warranty deeds.2 A properly executed deed using the statutory form transfers the current owner’s entire interest in the real estate with a guaranteed clear title. The statutory deed form is optional, and parties to a deed can modify a general warranty deed’s language to reflect their agreed terms of transfer.3 South Carolina does not provide recommended language for South Carolina’s two other principal deed forms—quitclaim deeds and special warranty deeds.

How Does Warranty of Title Work with South Carolina Deeds?

Warranty of title consists of a series of promises—called covenants of title or covenants of warranty—the current owner makes to the new owner when executing a general warranty deed.4 South Carolina courts assume that a deed in the statutory general-warranty-deed form includes the following six covenants of title:5

  1. The current owner holds good title to the property (covenant of seisin).
  2. The current owner has a right to convey the property (covenant of right to convey).
  3. The property is subject to no undisclosed liens, mortgages, or other adverse interests decreasing its value or marketability (covenant against encumbrances).
  4. No third-party claims will disturb the new owner’s possession of the property (covenant of quiet enjoyment).
  5. The current owner will take any future actions necessary to confirm the new owner’s title (covenant of further assurance).
  6. The current owner will defend the transferred title upon receiving notice of a valid future claim against the property (covenant of warranty).6

The covenants of title implied by South Carolina’s general warranty deed statute come from common law.7 The current owner and new owner can agree to modify a general warranty deed’s warranty—such as by exempting disclosed conditions from the warranty’s scope—through express language within the deed.8

A recipient of real estate conveyed by a general warranty deed has legal recourse against the prior owner if the deed’s warranty is breached.9 The new owner can sue the prior owner for breach of warranty if the new owner later discovers—for example—a valid third-party claim on a portion of the transferred real estate or an unpaid lien decreasing its value.10 A deed holder who brings a successful breach-of-warranty suit can recover financial damages caused by the breach—including attorney’s fees if the prior owner had notice of a claim but failed to defend the property’s title.11

Other Names for a South Carolina General Warranty Deed Form

South Carolina courts call a deed transferring real estate with warranty of title a general warranty deed or sometimes deed with covenant of warranty.12 The South Carolina Code does not specifically reference general warranty deeds—referring instead to real estate conveyances that include clauses of warranty.13

Warranty deed in many states has the same meaning as general warranty deed.14 The shortened term can result in confusion with special warranty deeds—which offer less complete warranty of title.15 South Carolina lawyers occasionally use warranty deed, but the term appears less frequently in South Carolina case law.16

Statutory warranty deed—a relatively uncommon term in South Carolina—can be another name for general warranty deed when a deed’s warranty of title is derived from an authorizing statute.17

How do South Carolina General Warranty Deed Forms Relate to Other Forms of Deeds?

Of South Carolina’s deed forms, general warranty deeds provide the strongest protection to the new owner. The current owner guarantees the property’s title is clear and agrees to be legally responsible for unknown title defects. Potential title defects within the warranty’s scope include undisclosed liens, a broken chain of title, or third-party claims on all or part of the land.18

South Carolina law recognizes other deed forms that provide the new owner less protection.

South Carolina Warranty Deed Form vs. South Carolina Special Warranty Deed Form

A general warranty deed’s guaranty has a broad scope—protecting the new owner from any non-excluded title defects regardless of when a defect arose. A South Carolina special warranty deed form offers similar protection—but only covers title defects that arose while the current owner owned the property.19 The new owner bears the risk of defects caused by events before the current owner took title.

Example. Gerald executes a special warranty deed conveying South Carolina land to Randal. Shortly after closing, a contractor files a lawsuit to enforce a mechanic’s lien against the property. Because the lien arose while Gerald held title, Gerald is legally responsible for resolving the mechanic’s lien. The special warranty deed’s warranty would not have protected Randal if the lien had arisen before Gerald owned the land.

South Carolina General Warranty Deed Form vs. South Carolina Quitclaim Deed

A South Carolina quitclaim deed form passes—with no covenant, warranty, or guaranty—whatever interest in the real estate the current owner can lawfully convey.20 A quitclaim deed therefore assigns all risk of unknown title defects to the new owner.

Quitclaim deeds rarely transfer ownership to a buyer for fair market value because the new owner receives no assurance of a good title or protection against title defects. Property owners more commonly use quitclaim deeds to retitle real estate without affecting actual possession.21

South Carolina General Warranty Deed Form vs. Other Types of South Carolina Deeds

South Carolina recognizes other deed forms used in narrower settings than general warranty deeds. Deeds of distribution—for example—transfer legal title to real estate from the personal representative of a deceased owner’s estate to an estate beneficiary.22

South Carolina life estate deeds are often useful in estate planning—allowing a property owner to reserve a lifetime interest and convey a vested interest to a future owner who takes title when the current owner dies.23 A South Carolina life estate deed may also be a general warranty deed—depending on a specific deed’s language.

Life estate deeds have declined in popularity in states that have recognized transfer-on-death deeds—which also let property owners transfer real estate outside probate but without limiting an owner’s property rights during life. South Carolina does not recognize transfer-on-death deeds.24

Common Uses of South Carolina General Warranty Deed Forms

The most common use for South Carolina general warranty deed forms is to transfer real estate from its current owner to a purchaser for fair market value. Buyers providing significant consideration in exchange for real estate need to be confident they are acquiring good title. A general warranty deed expresses the seller’s confidence in the transferred title’s validity and gives the buyer recourse should the title prove defective. Deeds that re-title real estate or release a co-owner’s interest to another co-owner are less likely to be general warranty deeds.

A title examination and title insurance often accompany a general warranty deed conveying purchased real estate—especially if a third-party lender finances the purchase. Title examinations are thorough searches of a property’s chain of title that increase the likelihood potential problems are identified before closing. Title insurance is an insurance policy that indemnifies a property owner or other interested person—such as a mortgage holder—from financial loss resulting from unknown title defects.25 Title insurance protects both parties to a general warranty deed—shifting the risk of title defects to the insurance company in exchange for a premium payment.

How to Create a South Carolina General Warranty Deed

The South Carolina Code includes a statutory form for general warranty deeds.26 A South Carolina deed that follows the below form transfers the owner’s entire interest in the real estate and implicitly includes the six common law covenants of title—even if the deed does not expressly include the covenants.27

The State of South Carolina

Know all men by these presents that I, [CURRENT OWNER], of [COUNTY OF RESIDENCE], in the State aforesaid, in consideration of the sum of ___ dollars, to me in hand paid by [NEW OWNER] of [COUNTY OF RESIDENCE] County, State of __________, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, have granted, bargained, sold and released and by these presents do grant, bargain, sell and release unto the said [NEW OWNER] all that


together with all and singular the rights, members, hereditaments and appurtenances to said premises belonging or in any wise incident or appertaining; to have and to hold all and singular the premises before mentioned unto said [NEW OWNER], his heirs and assigns, forever. And I do hereby bind myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, to warrant and forever defend all and singular said premises unto said [NEW OWNER], his heirs and assigns, against myself and my heirs and against every person whomsoever lawfully claiming or to claim the same, or any part thereof.

Witness my hand and seal this ___ day of __________ in the year of our Lord __________ and in the ___ year of the independence of the United States of America.

South Carolina’s statutory general warranty deed form is permissive—not mandatory. A property owner can create a valid general warranty deed without relying on the model language.28 Parties to a deed can also modify the statutory form to correspond to agreed transfer terms.29 A general warranty deed might—for example—expressly exclude a disclosed condition from the warranty’s scope.

Along with vesting the property with the new owner and defining the warranty, a general warranty deed must satisfy South Carolina’s general requirements for a valid conveyance. All South Carolina deeds must include the current owner’s signature—acknowledged before a notary—and signatures of two witnesses.30 A deed must be in the proper format for recording and include a sufficient legal description of the property.31 Most South Carolina deeds—including general warranty deeds—must contain a derivation clause identifying the prior deed or probate estate through which the current owner took title.32

A South Carolina deed must also be delivered to transfer real estate to a new owner effectively. The delivery requirement is satisfied when the current owner takes an action showing an intent to transfer control of the deed and vest title with the new owner.33 An otherwise valid deed that is signed and then locked in a safe deposit box until after the owner’s death—for example—is ineffective because it was not delivered.

South Carolina’s real estate laws are unique and—in many cases—more than 100 years old. A general warranty deed form not prepared with South Carolina law in mind is unlikely to meet all legal requirements. A noncompliant deed—or a deed not tailored to the individual transaction—may be ineffective or result in future chain-of-title problems.

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  1. Bennett v. Investors Title Ins. Co., 635 S.E. 2d 660 (S.C. Ct. App. 2006).
  2. S.C. Code §27-7-10.
  3. S.C. Code §27-7-20.
  4. S.C. Code §27-7-10.
  5. Bennett v. Investors Title Ins. Co., 370 S.C. 561, 573 (S.C. Ct. App. 2006); South Carolina courts sometimes enumerate the first five covenants of title and consider the warranty to defend separately.
  6. See Black v. Patel, 594 S.E.2d 162 (S.C. 2004); quoting Jeter v. Glenn, 43 S.C.L. (9 Rich.) 374 (S.C. 1856) (A general warranty deed “binds the [current owner] to defend every portion of the land conveyed against all suits of which due notice shall be given to him, and…to pay the legal damages occasioned thereby.”)
  7. See Martin v. Floyd, 317 S.E.2d 133 (S.C. Ct. App. 1984).
  8. S.C. Code §27-7-20.
  9. Morris v. Lain, 174 S.E.2d 590 (S.C. 1934).
  10. See Morris v. Lain, 174 S.E.2d 590 (S.C. 1934).
  11. Black v. Patel, 594 S.E.2d 162 (S.C. 2004).
  12. See, e.g., Glasgow v. Glasgow, 70 S.E.2d 432 (S.C. 1952); Black v. Patel, 594 S.E.2d 162 (S.C. 2004).
  13. See, e.g., S.C. Code §27-7-20.
  14. See, e.g., Nev. Rev. Stat. §111.312(3)(c); Colo. Rev. Stat. §38-30-113(1)(a).
  15. See Bennett v. Investors Title Ins. Co., 635 S.E. 2d 660 (S.C. Ct. App. 2006).
  16. See J.W. Douglas, Jr. v. Threadgill, 110 S.E.2d 169 (S.C. 1959).
  17. See, e.g., Chaney v. Haeder, 752 P.2d 854 (Or. Ct. App., 1988); Gibbs v. GKH, Inc., 427 S.E.2d 701 (S.C. Ct. App., 1993).
  18. See S.C. Code §38-1-20(59).
  19. Knotts v. Joiner, 59 S.E. 2d 850 (S.C. 1950).
  20. Mulherin-Howell v. Cobb, 608 S.E. 2d 587 (S.C. Ct. App. 2005).
  21. See, e.g., S.C. Code §27-7-40(a)(v) (authorizing joint tenant to convey interest to other joint tenant to unite ownership of real estate).
  22. S.C. Code §62-3-908.
  23. Glasgow v. Glasgow, 70 S.E.2d 432 (S.C. 1952).
  24. See First Union Nat’l Bank of S.C. v. Shealy, 479 S.E.2d 846 (S.C. Ct. App. 1996) (“A grantor may not use a deed to transfer an interest which will take effect after the grantor’s death…A deed must transfer its interest, if at all, during the lifetime of the grantor.”)
  25. S.C. Code §38-1-20(59).
  26. S.C. Code §27-7-10.
  27. See S.C. Code §27-5-130(A); Martin v. Floyd, 317 S.E.2d 133 (S.C. Ct. App. 1984).
  28. S.C. Code §27-7-20.
  29. Bennett v. Investors Title Ins. Co., 635 S.E. 2d 660 (S.C. Ct. App. 2006).
  30. S.C. Code §30-5-30; S.C. Code §27-7-10.
  31. See S.C. Code Regs. §12-501.1; S.C. Code §30-5-35(a); S.C. Code §30-5-250.
  32. S.C. Code §30-5-35(a).
  33. First Union Nat’l Bank of S.C. v. Shealy, 479 S.E.2d 846 (S.C. Ct. App. 1996).