What Is an Affidavit of Title?

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DEFINITION
An affidavit of title is a legal document that is commonly used in real estate transactions to verify facts about a property and relieve the new owner of legal responsibility for any outstanding liens.

An affidavit of title is a document commonly required when you purchase real estate. In it, the owner of the property swears that the facts they’ve provided about their property are correct. Most states require an affidavit of title when conducting a real estate transaction. 

Let’s take a look at what affidavits of title are, how they work, and how they play a role in the process of buying property.

Definition and Examples of Affidavits of Title

An affidavit of title is a legal document that is commonly used in real estate transactions to verify facts about a property and relieve the new owner of legal responsibility for any outstanding liens. It’s also used elsewhere like for vehicle titles.

  • Alternate names: owner’s affidavit, seller’s affidavit, owner’s declaration, borrower’s affidavit

In real estate sales, the affidavit of title is signed by the owner of the property. It is used to protect the buyer from legal issues over ownership by giving them assurance from the seller that the property is free and clear of other claims of ownership to the title. Title companies often require an affidavit of title before they will provide title insurance

Affidavits of title can vary depending upon the specific details of the property and the state in which it is signed. In general, an affidavit of title will typically contain:

  • The seller’s name and address
  • A statement indicating that the seller is the owner of the property
  • A statement that there aren’t any liens against the property
  • A statement that the seller hasn’t had a bankruptcy
  • A statement that the seller isn’t selling the property to anyone else
  • A statement that there aren’t any assessments against the property

Not all affidavits of title will be exactly the same. As a seller, for example, you may still have a mortgage on your property. In this common scenario, the affidavit of title that you sign will include an exclusion noting that there is a lien on the property. 

If any problems arise on the title after the sale, such as if a lender has a lien on the property, the buyer can use the affidavit against the seller to try to hold them responsible. Affidavits of title may also provide additional guarantees about the property. 

Providing fraudulent information within the affidavit of title is illegal. In order for an affidavit of title to be valid, it must be notarized.

How Affidavits of Title Work

Affidavits put the responsibility for any additional outstanding liens on the shoulders of the seller. Let’s say that you are selling your home. After accepting an offer, you and the buyer sign a sales agreement. Then, as a seller, you’ll likely have to fill out your affidavit of title and have it notarized before closing. 

The buyer’s title insurance company will require the affidavit before it insures the title. If, years later, one of your lenders claims ownership of the property as a result of a lien, then the new homeowner could use the affidavit to try to hold you accountable.

Or, consider a scenario where you are the buyer. If you bought a home and you’ve found out that the seller had some renovation done before they sold the house but they failed to pay the contractor. Then, the contractor filed a mechanics’ lien against the property. 

With a valid affidavit of title, you have sworn evidence from the seller that there were no claims against the property at the time of sale. This can protect you from direct responsibility for the mechanics’ lien. 

If the seller includes information that is concerning to you as a buyer in the affidavit of title, you can ask them to remedy it before closing.

What Affidavits of Title Mean For You

For sellers, an affidavit of title is a document that you’ll need to complete before selling your home. You’ll need to ensure that you’re correctly stating all the facts about your property and provide the affidavit of title to the buyer. 

If you’re a buyer, an affidavit of title is an additional layer of protection against legal issues. They’re designed to protect you from any future claims of ownership or other legal problems. Physically possessing a document stating that the property was free and clear of outside claims at the time of purchase will help clear you of responsibility. 

Key Takeaways

  • An affidavit of title is a document frequently used in real estate to assure the buyer of facts about the property.
  • Affidavits of title must be notarized in order to be valid, and making fraudulent claims on the affidavit is illegal. 
  • Affidavits of title provide additional protection to the buyer in the event of legal issues related to property ownership that may arise after closing. 

Article Sources

  1. Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School. “‘Affidavit’ Defined.” Accessed Jan. 11, 2022. 

  2. Thomson Reuters.”Owner’s Affidavit.” Accessed Jan. 11, 2022.

  3. First American Title Insurance. “Affidavit by Owners.” Accessed Jan. 11, 2022. 

  4. Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers. “Civil Liability for False Affidavits.” Accessed Jan. 11, 2022.