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Six Options to Quickly Resolve a Cloud on Title Mistake

BY Richard Montgomery TIMEJuly 20, 2022 PRINT

Dear Monty: We purchased a HUD home in 2004. We lost our settlement file. Now we want to sell it. We got an offer, but the buyer’s attorney found that a third name was also shown on the deed of ownership, which we never knew. The attorney advised us to correct the problem and get the third name removed. As we have no documentary record to prove anything, we asked the settlement company that prepared the deed, and there was no response. Kindly advise where we can get a copy of our record or HUD-1 to prove that there is no third person in the purchase.

Monty’s Answer: You have plenty of options to find your HUD-1. Eighteen years may seem long, but title companies keep title files forever. The closing statements are the critical documents they retain. It may take a more aggressive effort on your part to retrieve the HUD-1.

Here are six steps I would take in order, with option one being the first:

Option No. 1: You have to be more aggressive. It is unclear if you spoke to someone or left a message, but in either case, you have to solve this problem quickly. There are many possibilities as to why no one followed up on your inquiry. Call again, or better yet, stop into the nearest office of your title company and ask in person. I believe they will be accommodating and have what you are seeking.

Option No. 2: If your title company states they cannot help you, either your lender or your real estate agent would be the second and third calls I would make. I would call the lender first. Both of those sources may still have a copy of the HUD-1 form. It is very unusual to get to option No. 2. Title companies are regulated and may be penalized if they are uncooperative or involved in wrongdoings.

Option No. 3: Get a copy of the buyer’s attorney’s title report showing the third party. Take it to the Register of Deeds office, where they record deeds, and tell them there is an error. They will likely check it out.

Option No. 4: Another source may be the seller of the home you purchased. You may get the information you need from the seller’s HUD statement. Sometimes the seller has retained a file and may have been given a copy of both buyer and seller statements. Suppose you do not recall the seller’s name and your county maintains a public geographic information system (GIS). You could go online with the information from your real estate tax bill to learn the history of ownership in public records. Your title company may now have another way to search with the seller’s name.

Option No. 5: Call or visit another title company. Pay them to do a title search on your property. Their report may not contain a third name. If that happens, bring that report to your buyer’s attorney. If the report also shows there is a third party, move to option No. 6.

Option No. 6: Involve your attorney as you may need legal help to correct this mistake. I am confident that you will not have to invoke the sixth option.

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Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty or at DearMonty.com. Email him at monty@dearmonty.com.
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