October 17, 2018
Land Recording or Land Registration—Which Applies to My Property?
There are two different types of “property title systems” that apply in the United States. I deal with both of them in my work as a real estate attorney. These systems are known, generally, as “land recording” and “land registration.” In the United States, land recording is more common than land registration. (The same can’t be said for the rest of the industrialized world.) But we do have both here.
Whether your property falls under one or the other of these systems is determined on a State-by-State basis and, more minutely, on a case-by-case basis.
Put simply, the land registration is a centralized depository of land evidence records. Where this exists, a governmental body will determine ownership of title and encumbrances to the land. Generally, in this system, the government’s decision is final. The cost of this title determination system is paid for with taxes, putting fiscal responsibility for judgments and processing on the general public.
This system enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the US in the first couple of decades of the 20th Century. It lost its sheen, though, when a single judgment out in California bankrupted the state’s entire title indemnification fund.
The land recording system, on the other hand, is less centralized. In this system, there’s no official in the government handing down a final decision on title ownership. Rather, the government’s function (usually on the county level) is to record transfer instruments. It makes these records open to the public. Here only the interested parties in a sale of property are responsible for any errors or judgments against it. Title insurance helps keep the costs to either party from being at risk of growing too high. This system also ensures that there is redundancy in the records—so if there is, for example, a fire at the building that holds the records, there are other ways to seek out proof of title.
Which System Governs My Land?
Of the three States where Topouzis & Associates, P.C., does business—namely, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Florida—only Massachusetts has any semblance of a land registration system.
So, if your property is in Warwick, Rhode Island or Miami, Florida—or anywhere else in those two states—your property is under the land recording system, no question.
In Massachusetts, things are a bit more complicated. The State has a residual land registration system—including the Land Court—in place, but there is also a great deal of property that only falls under the land recording system. Whether the land evidence records for your property are in the recorded lands or the registered lands systems really depends on a number of things. Regardless of where the records are recorded, you’ll always want a real estate attorney involved at that point. Any title search will reveal this information.
My team and I do extensive title search work, here at Topouzis & Associates, P.C., in both the land registration and land recording systems. Contact us if you have any questions or if you would like our considerable experience in dealing with the particularities of either title system.