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What do I do if I discover a title defect on my home?

Although Philadelphia residents may choose not to think of such a scenario, it is always possible that they could buy a house in either the city or somewhere else in southeastern Pennsylvania, move in and start fixing up the home and not find out until later that someone else has either a lien or some claim of ownership over the property, a scenario that in the legal world is referred to as a "title defect".

Even when there is a thorough title examination, items can get overlooked. Moreover, there are many types of title claims that may never appear in the public records, meaning that it would be hard for a buyer of property to know about them.

Although it can seriously disturb one's peace to find out about a title defect, particularly if the other party is asserting its claim, it is important not to panic. The first thing a person who is facing a title defect should do is to review their title insurance policy, if they purchased one. Title insurance is there to protect homeowners from disastrous title issues, so it often makes sense to first file a claim with the title insurance company.

If an owner did not buy title insurance, or the title policy truly does not cover the type of claim being asserted, then the new owner can also examine the deed which the seller provided at the time of closing. If the deed is a warranty deed, it means the seller was promising a title to the home clear of defects such as liens and claims of easements or outright ownership. Someone who gives a warranty to deed can be held legally accountable for breaking his or her promises.

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