Title Theft Debunked
Adds on Radio and TV
Advertising about title theft protection is creating a new industry that should not exist at all. In Colorado if you are worried that someone “stole” title to your home, you can, at no charge, access your local County Assessor’s website which will show who is the record owner of your home. This service is free and you can go there as many time as you want. Legally it is not possible for a bad actor to steal your home by recording a fraudulent deed. Here is why:
- A deed is the name of a legal instrument that is used to convey or sell a home. A fraudulent deed is a deed signed by some third party stranger that has no legal right to sign such an instrument. That stranger does not own any interest in your home. Such a deed is void (i.e. not legally effective) and the party receiving such title does not replace the party that rightfully owns the property Upson v. Goodland State Bank & Trust Co.,823 P.2d 704, 705-06 (Colo. 1992).
- Typically the party that recorded the fraudulent deed will either try to resell the home or place a loan on the home. Neither the sale nor the loan can pass real ownership to the new buyer or an effective lien to the lender. Even if the new buyer acts in good faith, pays money and has no knowledge of the fraud, the new buyer does not obtain good title to your home. If there is already a legitimate loan against your home, the second or fraudulent loan will not replace or even affect the loan you originally placed on your home. Most people in Colorado (and presumably any place else in the USA) will obtain the services of a title company to sell or finance a home. A title company is a company that handles all the transaction documents including the deed, prepares a settlement statement, records documents and disburses money. A title company also insures good title to your home for the benefit of any buyer or lender. Any licensed real estate broker, bank or credible loan broker will insist on using a title company. Under these circumstances the title company will refuse to issue title insurance or refuse to insure over any loss due to a fraudulent deed.
- In advertising their services the risk of “title theft” always seems to mention your home. Yet it applies equally to all forms of real estate ownership (e.g. commercial real estate, spec homes, farms and ranch property). It seems likely that home ownership is always mentioned because many home owners are less sophisticated about real estate (i.e. your home may be the only real estate you own).
- Remember no one can steal your home. If you are worried about title theft be your own detective. Go on the County Assessors website where you own a home (e.g. for Denver County go to https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-department-of-finance/our-divisions/assessor.html and for Garfield County go to https://www.garfield-county.com/assessor/) and enter your property address. If there is a fraudulent deed showing a change in ownership immediately contact a real estate attorney who can take legal action to remove any fraudulent deed or loan.
The real estate attorneys at Garfield & Hecht, P.C. are available to answer any questions or assist in cleaning up any problem with title to your home.