A warranty deed is a legal document used to transfer the ownership of a property to a new owner. Every state has its own distinct warranty deed form, and there are several types of warranty deeds, each of which differs in terms of how much protection they give the Grantee.
What is a Warranty Deed?
A warranty deed is a legal document that a Grantor (e.g., a seller) uses to promise to the Grantee (e.g., a buyer) that they have the right to transfer a piece of real property (e.g., a house, land, or building).
Warranty deeds are sometimes called full covenant and warranty deeds because they contain six key promises (or covenants) that the Grantor makes to the Grantee:
#1. Covenant of Seisin: Grantor promises that the deed describes the land being transferred
#2. Covenant of the Right to Convey: Grantor promises that they have the legal authority to transfer the property to the Grantee
#3. Covenant against Encumbrances: Grantor promises that there are no hidden or undisclosed mortgages, covenants, or easements that would burden the property or lower its value
#4. Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment: Grantor promises to defend against any future challenges to the Grantee’s title to the property
#5. Covenant of Warranty: Grantor promises to defend against any future encroachment challenges to the Grantee’s property
#6. Covenant of Further Assurances: Grantor promises to fix future problems with the title
It’s important to not confuse a warranty deed with other related legal documents because the consequences of using the wrong one could be severe. For instance, losing ownership rights to real property.
Does a Warranty Deed Prove Ownership?
Not necessarily. A warranty deed is the Grantor’s sworn declaration that they, as far as they know, legally own the property and intend to transfer ownership to you, the Grantee.
However, the Grantor may not be aware of claims against the title to a property. Without a warranty deed, you may have no recourse if you find out that the property you purchased is not free of debt or other liens (i.e., a claim someone else has on a property). Perhaps the Grantor did not even have the authority to sell the property.
If you have a warranty deed, however, you have the right to remedies, primarily in the form of suing for damages (i.e., monetary compensation).
If a warranty deed doesn’t meet your needs, consider using a different type of deed. There are six commonly used deeds – each one serves a unique function and offers varying levels of protection during the sale or transfer of real estate or land.
Types of Warranty Deeds
Warranty deeds differ by state, as does the degree of protection they offer to the Grantor and Grantee. The two main forms of this document are:
Each type differs in terms of how much protection is granted to the quality or health of the property’s title.
General Warranty Deed
A general warranty deed is a legal document used to transfer ownership of real property. It guarantees that the title to the property is warranted against all possible defects — even defects a Grantor isn’t responsible for causing.
Specifically, it offers more protection to the Grantee by guaranteeing the entire history of the property, including the time before and after the Grantor owned the property.
It’s typically used when a Grantee is paying for a property because it provides the maximum legal protection available.
Statutory Warranty Deed
A statutory warranty deed is an abbreviated general warranty deed that relies on state law to define the guarantees it provides the buyer.
Because some states have not passed laws setting up statutory warranty deeds, they may not be available in your state.
However, the protections are the same as those in a general warranty deed.
Special Warranty Deed
A special warranty deed (also known as a limited warranty deed) is a legal document that guarantees against defects to a property’s title for the period when the Grantor owned it.
It’s typically used when the seller doesn’t want legal responsibility for claims against the title before or after the time when they owned the property.
If such claims were to happen, you would have to defend your title in court.
What to Include in Your Warranty Deed
The key elements of a warranty deed include:
- Grantor: the individual(s) or corporation who currently owns the property.
- Grantee: the individual(s) or corporation who will be the new owner.
- Mailing Addresses: physical addresses (not P.O. boxes) of both parties.
- Joint Tenancy: warranty deeds can be used to transfer ownership to multiple new owners, who are referred to as joint tenants. Each joint tenant owns a share of the overall property and can sell or bequeath their individual share as they wish.
- Consideration: the amount of money that will be paid for the property, if any.
- Legal Description: usually located on your property deed, the legal description helps everyone identify which piece of property is being transferred.
- Parcel Number: this number is usually listed on the property’s tax statement, but if you have trouble locating the parcel number, you can also call or visit the city, county, or court office where the property taxes are paid to get it.
- Witnesses: some states require that witnesses watch the owner sign the deed.
- Notary: the person transferring the property must take the deed to a notary public who will verify that the signature on the deed is authentic.
The legal description on a warranty deed will look like the following example:
- Lots 6, 7, and the South ½ of Lot 3, West 60 feet of South ½ of Lot 4, West 60 feet of Lot 5 and Lot 8, Block 20, OLD SURVEY, Leesville, Vernon Parish, Louisiana.
Your warranty deed should be filed in the public records at your local land records office, sometimes called the County Recorder’s Office, Land Registry Office, or Register of Deeds. You can usually find the land records office in your local courthouse.
The clerk will stamp your warranty deed with the date and the book and page number where it can be found in the court’s files. The office will often charge a small fee (around $15 a page) to record a warranty deed.
Because land and property are valuable, deeds must always be notarized. And be sure to leave space at the top of your Warranty Deed for the County Recorder’s office to put their seal on the document. See that all property taxes have also been paid in full before filing the deed.
Additional Key Terms
In addition to the basic provisions stated above, here are some other terms you may want to include in your warranty deed if they apply to your property:
Easements: the Grantor can reserve the right to continue using the land (or part of it), perhaps to keep fishing in the pond or to drive along part of it to reach another property that they still own.
Life Estate: the Grantor can reserve a life estate interest in the property if they want to continue being the legal owner of the property until their death for tax purposes.
Mineral Rights: the Grantor can reserve any remaining interests in the property’s subsurface oil, gas, or other mineral rights.
In terms of mineral rights, be sure to not interfere with neighboring landowners’ rights to lateral support or subjacent support. In other words, any excavations needed to access the minerals should not cause nearby properties to cave in or subside. Otherwise, you may face negligence or strict liability for failure to support the land or any buildings located on the surface.
How to Get a Warranty Deed
A warranty deed (general and special) protects both the Grantor and Grantee, especially if the parties are not family.
Unlike a quitclaim deed, special and general warranty deeds act as both warranties as well as proof of ownership. They are best suited for the sale of real property, as opposed to inheritance or simple transfers of ownership (which are better suited to the use of a quitclaim deed).
Our free warranty deed template shows how an Owner would transfer whatever rights and titles to real property they have to a new Owner. This particular sample also allows for exceptions such as easements and life estates.
You can also produce a legally binding (special or general) warranty deed form in minutes with our free warranty deed builder. Simply select your state, and enter the key information it asks for to create your warranty deed.
Be sure to leave space at the top of your Warranty Deed for the County Recorder’s office to put their seal on the document. Be sure that all property taxes have also been paid in full before filing the deed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between a warranty deed and a title?
Confused about the concept of a deed vs. title? It’s simple really. A title proves an Owner actually owns a property. A warranty deed, on the other hand, is the document used to transfer a title from the old Owner to a new Owner.
If you own a property, you possess the title. You need to fill in and sign a warranty deed to transfer the title to a new owner when you wish to sell or give away the property.
What’s the difference between a warranty deed and a quitclaim deed?
Warranty deeds and quitclaim deeds are both used to transfer property from a Grantor to a Grantee.
However, the main difference between a warranty deed and a quitclaim deed is that a warranty deed offers more protection to the Grantee.
Specifically, warranty deeds are used to enforce the six covenants listed above that protect the Grantee’s claim to the title.
Warranty deeds are usually used when money is exchanged in a property transaction. Since the buyer is spending money, they want the most protection available, and should thus ask for a warranty deed.
A warranty deed guarantees that the seller possesses the title to the property (i.e., legally owns it) and warrants the title against any defects, even if the seller didn’t cause them.
Quit Claim Deed (aka Non-Warranty Deed)
In terms of a quitclaim vs warranty deed, a quitclaim deed offers no warranties as to the quality of a title. It doesn’t cover the entire history of the property — not even the period when it was under the ownership of the current Owner.
Liens, outstanding debts, and money owed are often transferred with quitclaim deeds to the new Owner or Grantee.
Quitclaim deeds (sometimes called non-warranty deeds) tend to be used when an Owner is transferring property while receiving no money for it. For example, a Los Angeles mother would need to use a California Quitclaim Deed when transferring her property to her son as a gift. Since she’s giving him the property for free, she isn’t willing to guarantee the quality of the title, so she uses a quitclaim deed to prevent legal action being taken against her.
What is the difference between a warranty deed and a deed of trust?
A deed of trust is unrelated to a warranty deed. A deed of trust is used as an alternative to a mortgage in several states (e.g., California, Texas, and Colorado) and the District of Columbia. A deed of trust ensures that a Lender (e.g., a bank) retains an interest in a property in case the Borrower defaults on his or her loan.