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Deed of Trust

A document that embodies the agreement between a lender and a borrower to transfer an interest in the borrower's land to a neutral third party, a trustee, to secure the payment of a debt by the borrower.

A deed of trust, also called a trust deed or a Potomac Mortgage, is used in some states in place of a mortgage, a transfer of interest in land by a mortgagor-borrower to a mortgagee-lender to secure the payment of the borrower's debt. Although a deed of trust serves the same purpose as a type of security, it differs from a mortgage. A deed of trust is an arrangement among three parties: the borrower, the lender, and an impartial trustee. In exchange for a loan of money from the lender, the borrower places legal title to real property in the hands of the trustee who holds it for the benefit of the lender, named in the deed as the beneficiary. The borrower retains equitable title to, and possession of, the property.

The terms of the deed provide that the transfer of legal title to the trustee will be void on the timely payment of the debt. If the borrower defaults in the payment of the debt, the trustee is empowered by the deed to sell the property

A sample deed of trust.

and pay the lender the proceeds to satisfy the debt. Any surplus will be returned to the borrower.

The right of the trustee to sell the premises is called foreclosure by power of sale. It differs in several respects from the power of a mortgagee to sell mortgaged property upon default, which is called a judicial foreclosure. A foreclosure by power of sale is neither supervised nor confirmed by a court, unlike a judicial foreclosure. While the rights received by a purchaser at a foreclosure by power of sale are the same as those obtained at a judicial foreclosure, there is a practical difference. Since the sale has not been judicially approved, there is a greater possibility of litigation over title, thereby making title to the purchased premises less secure than one purchased at a judicial foreclosure. In addition, the lender may purchase the property for sale under the provisions of a deed of trust, since the neutral trustee conducts the sale. This is not the case in a foreclosure, unless contract or statute provides otherwise, since the mortgagee must act impartially in selling the property to satisfy the debt. Some mortgages may, however, provide for foreclosure by power of sale.

The procedure for a foreclosure by power of sale is regulated by statute, a characteristic shared by a judicial foreclosure. All interested parties must be given notice of the sale, which must be published in local newspapers, usually in the public notice columns, for a certain period of time as required by statute. The sale is usually open to the public to ensure that the property will be sold at its fair market value.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Cross‐contamination to Deed of covenant