A common question is about the nature of a general warranty deed and what rights it conveys to the buyer. A real estate buyer is best protected by a General Warranty Deed. The seller or grantor conveys the property with certain covenants or warranties. The grantor is legally bound by these warranties. Whether expressly written into the deed, or implied by certain statutory words, basic warranties include:
- Covenant of seisin-Seisin means possession, and the grantor warrants that they own the property and have the legal right to convey it.
- Covenant against encumbrances-The Grantor warrants that the property is free of any liens or encumbrances unless they're specifically stated in the deed.
- Covenant of quiet enjoyment-The buyer is guaranteed that the title will be good against third parties attempting to establish title to the property.
- Covenant of further assurance- The Grantor promises, in order to make the title good, they will deliver any document or instrument necessary.
The covenants or warranties in a general warranty deed do not cover just the period of ownership of this grantor. They extend back to the origin of the property. Each grantor of a general warranty deed in the title chain would be liable for title problems, which would likely show up in an abstract of title, before and through their ownership.
Property Ownership Restrictions and Covenants
Over time, and with development and population growth, there has been a great deal of legal and societal attention paid to property ownership and the rights of others around your property, as well as your rights. Subdivisions and homeowner associations are created to create rules and manage the relationships of the homeowners.
HOA, Homeowner Association, documents for a subdivision can be quite a pile of paper. The covenants and restrictions range from fairly liberal to extremely limiting in how a property owner can use and enjoy their property. Homeowners buying in a subdivision should pay careful attention to the restrictions and covenants, as they could be planning on something that's against the rules. Look for:
- limits on the number of vehicles that can be parked on the property.
- limiting the places on the property vehicles can be parked.
- restricting the type of vehicles, trailers, boats, etc that can be visible on the property instead of housed in a garage.
- restrictions on renting out the home, either a total restriction or more likely requiring a long-term lease.
- fence height restrictions, or rules against fences.
- fence construction restrictions, such as no chain link, etc.
- limits on outbuildings, number, size, height, location.
- requirements for lawn and landscape maintenance, mowing, limits on grass height, etc.
- rules for exterior modifications, restrictions on colors, styling, etc.
- restrictions on adding swimming pool, outdoor hot tub, etc.
- rules for noise and annoyances to neighbors.
- limits or restrictions on types and number of animals, as well as size.
There are lots more, but you're getting the idea. We once owned a home in a subdivision in the Houston, TX area and kept our boat in the garage because that was one of the HOA rules. We wanted to sell the boat and called Boat Trader. They said we could leave a check in the boat glove box and park it outside so they could photograph it. We did that and came home to find a letter on my door about breaking the rules. Sometimes people have nothing more to do than drive around and look for violations of these restrictions.
In more rural areas, there may not be a subdivision or homeowner association, but there can be restrictions in the deed that conveys the property. If so, they will be continued in every deed into the future, so they're important. In one case in rural New Mexico, we sold a home on 30 acres. The owners two transfers back had placed a restriction in the deed on the number of trees that could be cut in building or doing any other improvements on the property.
The people who originally placed that restriction in the deed were long since deceased, and there really was nobody around with any great interest in enforcement, but it stayed in each deed moving forward. These are just things to check in property documents.