You work with a realtor, you enter into a contract, you attend the closing and you become a homeowner — but only if the deed depicts the property accurately. The “legal description” portion of the deed describes the property you purchased. If there are inaccuracies in your description or it is completely incorrect, the problem may take time and effort to fix.
Wrong Lot Number
If you intended to purchase Lot 5 of a subdivision, but your deed description recites “Lot 6,” then you may have no ownership interest in Lot 5 until the problem is corrected. If you intended to purchase Lots 5 and 6, but your deed only recites Lot 5, then you only own one of the lots you intended to purchase.
Bad Directional Call
An error within a metes and bounds legal description may be more difficult to discover. Metes and bounds is the method by which property is frequently described when there is no platted, recorded map of the property. Surveyors usually create these descriptions using degrees, minutes and seconds, which are bearings based upon North, South, East and West. Distance measurements are usually in feet. If a call goes in the wrong direction, such as south instead of north, or goes too many feet east or west, then the property you intended to purchase is not described in your deed where it is physically located on the ground.
If the error is so obvious that it is apparent what the deed intended to describe, the fix may be relatively simple. The attorney that prepared your deed may sign an affidavit stating that he prepared the deed and there was an error in the description and the property was intended to be described as in his affidavit. These affidavits are referred to as scrivener’s affidavits and would be reserved for errors such as an incorrect spelling of a subdivision name or incorrectly recited recording data for the subdivision when the subdivision name is clearly stated. More serious errors cannot be corrected in this manner.
Read More: What Is a Scrivener's Affidavit?
More severe errors such as a wrong lot number or a direction that runs east when it should’ve run west thereby changing the location of the property will have to be corrected by correction deed. This is basically a redo of the original incorrect deed. Both buyer and seller must sign a newly prepared correction deed reciting the correct legal description. The correction deed will recite the recording data of the original deed that is being corrected and the error that occurred. If a correction deed is difficult to obtain, such as when the seller is deceased or uncooperative or the error has occurred repeatedly in several deeds and the necessary signatories are unknown or cannot be located, then a court order may be required.
Deed Reformation Action
When all efforts to correct the problem by agreement of the parties have failed, you may file an action in court known as a “deed reformation action.” You will present the evidence before the judge showing that the problem was caused by an error in describing the property. If the judge rules in your favor, he may order the clerk of the court to sign a correction or reformation deed fixing the problem.
Marie Murdock has been employed in the legal and title insurance industries for over 25 years. Murdock was first published in print in 1979 and has been writing online articles since mid-2010. Her articles have appeared on LegalZoom and various other websites.