Identify Recordable Property Documents
State statutes specify the requirements for recording a document regarding a property. Generally, any conveyance of any interest in land may be recorded. Typically, the state statute doesn’t require recording in order for a document (often generically called an instrument) to be valid, but if an instrument isn’t recorded, then a later interest may not be subject to the unrecorded prior interest.
Any document affecting ownership of real property may be recorded. Following are some of the common types of documents that may be recorded:
Deeds: The grantee of any deed should record it to give notice of her interest.
Mortgages and deeds of trust: A mortgage includes the right to sell the land at auction if the borrower defaults on the mortgage debt. A deed of trust is similar to a mortgage, except it gives title to a trustee with the power to sell the property in the event of default.
Installment contracts: Sometimes called contracts for deed, installment contracts are long-term purchase agreements. The buyer pays installments of the purchase price over a long period of time and receives a deed when she finishes paying the full purchase price. Even though she doesn’t have legal title until she receives a deed, she has a valuable interest in the land, which can be called equitable title.
Options: Some courts say an option doesn’t create an interest in land and isn’t recordable; others say that it is recordable.
Leases: A lease is a possessory estate in land and may be recorded in most states. However, if the lessee is in actual possession of the land, any later grantee will have notice of her leasehold anyway. Therefore, many leases aren’t recorded, or sometimes parties record a simple notice of the lease rather than the lease itself.
Contracts concerning real property: Courts generally construe recording statutes broadly to allow recording of any document that affects the ownership of interests in land. So other kinds of contracts that create rights concerning real property (such as an agreement among tenants in common that restricts their right to sell their fractional interests) may be recorded.
Judgments about land: A judgment, such as a decree in a quiet title action, may affect ownership of real property. Some statutes require such a judgment to be recorded in order to give constructive notice, whereas others allow it but don’t require it. In the states that don’t require recording of judgments in order to give notice, the public court records give notice of judgments even if they aren’t also recorded in the real property records.
Liens: Parties claiming statutory liens against the property, such as tax liens or mechanics’ liens, may record a notice of the lien in the real property records.