Deeds are legal documents used to convey or transfer title from one owner to another. They also serve as evidence of title to property. In Virginia, a variety of types of real property deeds are accepted, ranging from a general warranty deed to a quitclaim deed.
Some deeds in Virginia contain guarantees or promises from the seller to the buyer about ownership and encumbrances, while others, like the quitclaim deed, don't even promise that the grantor owns the land.
Deeds in Virginia
The terms "deed" and "title" are not exactly the same when used in the context of Virginia real estate matters, although both relate to ownership of property. "Title" is a general term describing the concept of ownership, and when someone says that they have title to land, it's another way of saying they own it.
On the other hand, a deed is an official document used both to evidence ownership and to transfer ownership. The use of a real estate deed in a conveyance of real estate or an interest in land is authorized by the Code of Virginia, under the Property and Conveyances Title.
Types of Written Deeds
The written deed is evidence that someone holds legal ownership, or title, to a property. Virginia has many types of deeds, but general warranty and special warranty deeds are the most common for use in residential and commercial property purchases.
These are property deeds that carry warranties or promises about title, made by the seller, or grantor, to the buyer, also called the grantee. Note that if the warranty statements made by the grantor in the deed turn out to be untrue, the grantee can take legal action to recover damages.
Requirements for Deeds in Virginia
Virginia statutes provide that every deed, and corrected or amended deeds, can be made in the following form, or to the same effect:
"This deed, made the __ day of _, in the year , between (here insert names of parties as grantors or grantees), witnesseth: that in consideration of (here state the consideration, nominal or actual), the said _ does (or do) grant (or grant and convey) unto the said __, all (here describe the property or interest therein to be conveyed, including the name of the city or county in which the property is located, and insert covenants or any other provisions). Witness the following signature (or signatures)."
But anyone preparing a deed in Virginia should know that there is no standard deed form in this state. Any writing that meets the requirements of a deed will be valid under Virginia law. Those requirements include:
- Grantor must be named in the deed.
- Grantor must have legal authority to convey the property or interest in property described in the deed, including being over the age of majority.
Grantee must be named in the deed.
Grantee must be legally authorized to own real property.
Property at issue must be identified with reasonable accuracy, preferably with a legal description.
- Intent to convey property must be expressed clearly in the deed.
- Deed must be signed by the grantor.
- Deed must be delivered to the grantee.
- Grantor's signature must be acknowledged by the grantor or proved by two witnesses.
Virginia Warranty Deeds
Most of the deeds commonly used in Virginia are warranty deeds, and contain promises about potential title issues. The two most common are the general warranty deed and the special warranty deed.
A general warranty deed includes the broadest guarantees about a title; a special warranty deed also contains important warranties, but the protection offered isn't as comprehensive as in a general warranty deed.
General Warranty Deeds
The general warranty deed is the strongest form of deed in Virginia and the most common deed in use for residential transactions. These deeds contain language essentially guaranteeing that nobody other than the grantor has any claim to the title being transferred.
In a general warranty deed, the grantor promises to defend the grantee against anyone claiming any interest in title, including claims that may have arisen during the grantor's ownership period as well as claims arising at any other point in the the chain of title.
Special Warranty Deeds
A special warranty deed in Virginia also transfers title with both express and implied warranties and offers promises from the grantor to the grantee about the state of title. That is, it promises that the title is free and clear from other claims, but the warranty is extended only to transfers that occurred during the time the grantor owned the property.
The warranties do not extend to claims that may have arisen before the time the grantor came into ownership. It does not protect a new owner against claims against the property that arose earlier in the chain of title.
Quitclaim Deeds in Virginia
A quitclaim deed is not really a deed, as such. In Virginia, these deeds simply release any and all interest the grantor has in the property to another person. The quitclaim deed grantor does not transfer any title or even state what interest they have or even if they have any interest at all in the property. Nor do they make any promises regarding the validity of the title.
This means that the buyer will be on their own if another person or entity comes forward and claims an interest in the property. Generally, these deeds are used only for matters like clearing up title issues or transfers between family members.
Deeds of Trust in Virginia
A deed of trust, or trust deed, is not a true deed either. Rather, in Virginia, it is a type of mortgage. Property title is transferred in a deed of trust to a trustee. This trustee is generally a trust or title company that has provided the borrower's loan. The trustee holds the real property as security for that loan.
When the buyer of the property repays the real estate purchase loan, the trustee transfers its title is transferred to the borrower. During the time the buyer is paying off the loan, the trustee cannot manage the property; it usually will have only a power of sale if the borrower defaults.
Importance of Recording Deeds
Virginia is a "notice" state, which means that recording a deed in the county where the property is located is necessary to protect the buyer's rights against third parties. Generally, the clerk of the circuit court is responsible for recording and maintaining real property records in each county.
Under property laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia, an unrecorded deed is still binding between the buyer and seller. But a recorded deed gives notice to the entire world of the transfer of the property interest, establishing priority for the buyer in case the seller tries to repeatedly convey the property.
Deeds Void Until Recorded
Recordation of the deed is required to protect the buyer's interest in the property against any interest held by subsequent buyers or lien holders.
A deed in Virginia is considered void as to anyone who buys the property in good faith after that transfer until the deed is recorded in the proper county. Recording a deed is usually required for anyone wishing to obtain title insurance.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.