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Legal policy mandates that a deed to real property be a matter of public record; therefore, subsequent to delivery and acceptance, a deed must be properly recorded.

The recording process begins when the deed is presented to the clerk's or recorder's office in the county where the property is located. The entire instrument is duplicated, ordinarily by photocopying. The copy is inserted into the current book of official records, which consists exclusively of copies of documents that are maintained and labeled in numerical order.

A properly recorded deed provides constructive notice of its contents, which means that all parties concerned are considered to have notice of the deed whether or not they actually saw it. A majority of jurisdictions place the burden upon home buyers to investigate any suspicious facts concerning the property of which they have actual or constructive notice. If, for example, there is a reference to the property for sale in the records to other deeds, the purchaser might be required to determine whether such instruments give rights in the property to other individuals.

A map referred to in a recorded deed that describes the property conveyed becomes part of the document for identification purposes.

The original copy of a deed is returned to the owner once it has been duplicated, recorded, and filed in the office of the recorder.

A records or clerk's office maintains a set of indexes, in addition to official records, in which information about each deed is recorded, so that upon a search for a document such information can be disclosed. A majority of states have a grantor-grantee index, a set of volumes containing a reference to all documents recorded alphabetically according to the grantor's name. The index lists the name of the grantor first, followed by the name of the grantee, then ordinarily a description of the instrument and sometimes of the property, and ultimately a reference to the volume and page number in the official record where the document has been copied. A grantee-grantor index has the identical information, but it is listed alphabetically according to the grantees' names. A tract index arranges all of the entries based upon the location of the property.

Indexes are frequently classified according to time periods. Therefore separate sets of indexes covering various periods of time may be available.

A significant problem can result in the event that a deed cannot be located through the indexes. This situation could result from a mistake in the recording process, such as indexing the deed under the wrong name. In a number of states, the courts will hold that such a deed was never recorded inasmuch as it was not indexed in such a manner as to provide notice to someone properly conducting a check on the title. In these jurisdictions, all grantees have the duty to return to the recorder's office after filing to protect themselves by checking on the indexing of their deeds. A purchaser who lives in a state with such laws should protect himself or herself either by consulting an attorney or returning to the recorder's office to ascertain that the deed is properly recorded and indexed. Other state statutes provide that a document is considered recorded when it is deposited in the proper office even if it is improperly recorded such that it cannot be located. In these states, there are no practical steps for subsequent buyers to take to circumvent this problem.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Cross‐contamination to Deed of covenantDeed - Transfer Of Land, Delivery, Acceptance, Recording, Types Of Deeds, Validity - Execution, Defects