Virginia Special Warranty Deed Form

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What is a Virginia Special Warranty Deed?

A Virginia special warranty deed form transfers Virginia real estate from the current owner (grantor) to the new owner (grantee) with a warranty of title that is limited to the time that the grantor owned the property. If a title issue arises that relates to the period of the grantor’s ownership, the grantee may sue the grantor for breaching the warranty of title. If the title issue relates to the time before the grantor owned the property, the grantor is not responsible.

Virginia special warranty deeds are authorized by Va. Code Ann. § 55-69, which provides:

A covenant by any such grantor “that he will warrant specially the property hereby conveyed” shall have the same effect as if the grantor has covenanted that he, his heirs and personal representatives will forever warrant and defend such property unto the grantee, his heirs, personal representatives and assigns, against the claims and demands of the grantor, and all persons claiming or to claim by, through or under him.

The last phrase (“claiming or to claim by, through or under him”) limits the grantor’s warranty to the period when the grantor owned the property.

Other Names for a Virginia Special Warranty Deed Form

In Virginia, a deed that transfers property with a limited warranty of title is called a special warranty deed form. Other states use different terms. In California, the same type of deed is called a grant deed. In Michigan, it is called a covenant deed. And other states use limited warranty deed or different terms. These names all refer to a deed that limits the grantor’s liability to the period when the grantor owned the property.

Relationship of Special Warranty Deed Form to Warranty of Title

The term special warranty deed form relates exclusively to the warranty of title. The defining feature of a special warranty deed is a warranty of title that limits the grantor’s liability to the period when the grantor owned the property. This feature distinguishes a special warranty deed from two other Virginia deed forms with different warranties of title:

  1. Virginia Warranty Deed Form – Also called a general warranty deed form, this deed provides a full warranty of title that covers all time periods. The grantor is responsible for all title issues, including those that arose before the grantor owned the property.
  2. Virginia Quit Claim Deed Form – A quit claim deed provides no warranty of title. The grantee takes whatever title the grantor has, but cannot sue the grantor if there are title issues or if the grantor does not own the property. The grantor takes title “as is” and bears the risk of all title issues.

A special warranty deed also differs from two other Virginia deed forms that are named after their probate avoidance features:

  1. Virginia Life Estate Deed Form – Avoids probate by creating a retained life estate in the original owner (who becomes a life tenant) and leaving the rest of the property to remainder beneficiaries who inherit the property on the life tenant’s death. The life tenant cannot change or revoke the selection of beneficiaries or sell or mortgage the property without the written consent of the remainder beneficiaries.
  2. Virginia TOD Deed Form – Also known as a transfer-on-death deed, this popular deed form provides the benefits of a life estate deed without the drawbacks. The owner can name a beneficiary to inherit property at death without sacrificing control during the owner’s life. The owner retains the ability to change or revoke the beneficiary designation and freely deal with the property.

A Virginia life estate deed form can be drafted to include or exclude a warranty of title. If the life estate deed includes a limited warranty of title, the same deed may be both a life estate deed and a special warranty deed.

Key Term: Warranty of Title. Title issues can be caused by many things, including errors in the public record, unknown liens against the property, undisclosed prior conveyances, forged deeds, missing heirs or unprobated wills, or disputes about boundary lines or surveys. Title issues often require legal action to fix and can decrease the value of real estate. If the property has no title issues, it is said to have clear title. A warranty of title is a legal guarantee from the transferor to the transferee that there are no title issues. If a deed makes a warranty of title, the transferee can sue the transferor over any title issues.

Common Uses of Special Warranty Deeds in Virginia

In Virginia, special warranty deed forms are often used in:

  • Commercial real estate transactions;
  • Transfers to a living trust or an LLC that is owned or controlled by the grantor;
  • Deeds from trustees; and
  • Situations where the grantor acquired the property by special warranty deed and wants to convey the property in the same way.

In most of these settings—especially if money is changing hands—the warranty provided by a special warranty deed is usually supplemented by a title insurance policy. Title insurance policies shift the risk from the grantor to a third-party title insurance company. If title issues arise, the parties can file a claim against the title insurance company instead of relying solely on the grantor to resolve the issue.

How to Create a Virginia Special Warranty Deed

All Virginia deed forms must meet the requirements of Virginia law, which differ from the legal requirements of other states. These requirements include a valid legal description, statement of consideration, and a description of the manner in which co-owners will hold title, font size and page format requirements, and signature and notarization requirements.

A Virginia special warranty deed form must also include the correct vesting and warranty language to identify the deed as a special warranty deed. Small differences—even a single word—can result in a different type of deed than the one intended. The deeds prepared by our online deed preparation service were attorney-designed to meet the requirements of Virginia law and to be eligible for recording in all Virginia counties.