A deed is a legal document that allows the transfer of ownership and title of real property to take place between a seller and a buyer. In Florida, there are several different types of deeds; the general warranty deed offers the most protection, while a quitclaim deed offers the least.
A person filing a deed for transfer of Florida real estate ownership must do so through the county comptroller's office where the property is located. There is a small fee for filing and a document stamp tax, which is an excise tax on legal documents delivered, executed or recorded in the state. This tax may be greater if there is a lien on the property at the time of sale.
Definition of a Deed
A person or entity uses a deed to transfer ownership and title of real property. Signing it conveys that transfer. The seller provides the signed deed at closing in a real estate transaction. The document includes a detailed legal description of the property and identifies the seller (grantor) and the buyer (grantee). After the transaction concludes, the buyer takes ownership of the deed.
Two witnesses and a notary public must be present to execute a deed in Florida. Florida has many deed types, and using the incorrect one may prevent the buyer from obtaining a mortgage or transferring clear title.
Deed Types in Florida
There are several deed types in the Sunshine State, but the two most commonly used are general warranty deeds and quitclaim deeds. A warranty deed is more common than a quitclaim deed and offers the most protection. When someone signs a warranty deed, they:
- Claim ownership to the property.
- Claim the right to transfer the property.
- Acknowledge that there are no undisclosed liens or encumbrances on the property.
- Acknowledge that there is no defect of title to interfere with the grantee's ability to use the property.
- Agree to protect the grantee from damages caused by a title defect and defend them against property claims by others.
A quitclaim deed doesn't provide any warranties. It's a standard deed used in transactions where the parties usually know each other and accept the risks of limited buyer protections. Someone may use a quitclaim deed when transferring property ownership with no money changing hands, for example, a transfer between family members, or when correcting a defect on the title, like a misspelled name.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Florida Quitclaim Deeds
There are pros and cons to using quitclaim deed forms to transfer property. Grantors and grantees like their simplicity; they make it easier to transfer real property between family members or into a living trust. They are legally binding and can provide proof of ownership during a title search.
However, while general warranty deeds promise complete ownership and a guarantee that the seller has not transferred any part of their interest elsewhere, quitclaim deeds do not. The seller does not need to provide proof of ownership, making it possible for someone to sell property they do not own. A quitclaim deed does not guarantee against title defects, including tax liens or third-party title claims. A mortgage lender will often insist upon a warranty deed when backing a loan.
Other Types of Deeds
While general warranty deeds and quitclaim deeds are the most common, there are several other types of deeds used in the state of Florida. The main difference between them is the extent to which the grantor promises specific facts concerning the status of a property. The type of deed executed impacts the protection level the buyer receives. Understanding these differences ensures the use of the appropriate deed for a specific situation.
Additional deeds used for Florida property include:
- Statutory Warranty Deed: Provides the same assertions as a general warranty deed, but is shorter and made available through Florida statute. It may not guarantee a clear title, but may imply it and is legally enforceable.
- Special Warranty Deed: Provides the same assertions as a general warranty deed, but limits the time it covers those assertions to the time the grantor held the title. It does not cover the property for all previous owners.
- Fee Simple Deed: Conveys property title to the new owner. There are no warranties, covenants or guarantees from the grantor.
- Life Estate Deed: Transfers the property title to the new owner during and for their natural life. When they die, title passes to someone else.
- Personal Representative's Deed: Allows a personal representative to transfer real property to an heir or buyer. Based on a Fee Simple Deed, it doesn't contain warranties or covenants.
Filing a Deed in Florida
A person filing a warranty or quitclaim deed must first fill out a deed form; there are many templates for deed forms online. The document should contain the names and addresses of the grantor and grantee, the legal property designation and spousal signatures, if applicable. The person filing the deed should take the form to the comptroller's office in the county where the property is located.
The comptroller's office charges a small fee for the deed's filing in the form of a documentary stamp tax, levied at 70 cents per $100 of the sale or transfer amount. There will also be a $10 fee for the first page of the document and $8.50 for each additional page. There will be a larger documentary stamp tax if liens are still filed against the property. After recording the deed, the comptroller's office enters a copy of it into the county's official records, returns the original to the person filing, and the transfer from grantor to grantee is final.
- Consult a real estate attorney prior to filing the Florida quitclaim deed with the county to ensure it is legally sufficient.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.