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What is the Difference Between a General Warranty Deed and a Special Warranty Deed?

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john preston
What is the Difference Between a General Warranty Deed and a Special Warranty Deed?

A deed is a legal document that transfers ownership of real property from one party to another. When it comes to real estate transactions, two common types of deeds that are often used are the general warranty deed and the special warranty deed. While both deeds serve the purpose of transferring property, they differ in the extent of protection they offer to the buyer regarding potential title issues. In this article, we will explore the key differences between a general warranty deed and a special warranty deed.


A general warranty deed is a type of deed that provides the highest level of protection to the buyer. When a property is conveyed through a general warranty deed, the seller guarantees that they have clear title to the property and that there are no undisclosed liens, encumbrances, or claims against it, except as specifically stated in the deed. This means that the seller is legally responsible for any title issues that may arise, even if the problem originated before they acquired the property.


Under a general warranty deed, the seller makes several covenants or promises to the buyer. These covenants typically include the covenant of seisin (ensuring the seller has legal ownership of the property), the covenant of right to convey (confirming the seller's authority to transfer the property), the covenant against encumbrances (stating that the property is free from liens or claims), the covenant of quiet enjoyment (ensuring the buyer will not be disturbed in their possession of the property), and the covenant of warranty forever (promising to defend the buyer against any future claims to the property).


On the other hand, a special warranty deed provides a more limited level of protection to the buyer. With a special warranty deed, the seller guarantees that they have clear title to the property during their ownership period, but they do not warrant against any defects that may have existed before they acquired the property. In other words, the seller's warranties are limited to the time they owned the property and do not extend to previous owners.


The covenants under a special warranty deed are narrower compared to a general warranty deed. The seller typically makes two key covenants: the covenant of seisin and the covenant against encumbrances. The covenant of seisin ensures that the seller has legal ownership and the authority to convey the property, while the covenant against encumbrances guarantees that there are no liens or claims against the property during the seller's ownership period.


The main difference between a general warranty deed and a special warranty deed lies in the extent of protection offered to the buyer. With a general warranty deed, the buyer is provided with broad protection against any title issues, regardless of when they arose. The seller is legally responsible for defending the buyer's title and can be held liable for any damages resulting from a breach of the covenants.


In contrast, a special warranty deed only provides limited protection, covering only the time period when the seller owned the property. The buyer assumes the risk for any title defects that may have existed before the seller's ownership. If a problem arises from a previous owner's actions, the buyer may have limited recourse against the seller.


When considering which type of deed to use, it is crucial for both buyers and sellers to understand the level of protection they are providing or receiving. Buyers seeking maximum protection and assurance of clear title may prefer a general warranty deed, while sellers may opt for a special warranty deed to limit their liability to the period of their ownership.


In conclusion, the main distinction between a general warranty deed and a special warranty deed lies in the breadth of protection provided to the buyer. A general warranty deed offers comprehensive assurances against title defects, while a special warranty deed limits the seller's warranties to the time they owned the property. It is essential to carefully consider the implications of each type of deed before entering into a real estate transaction to ensure the appropriate level of protection for all parties involved.

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