BUYING A HOME IN ARIZONA
RED FLAGS IN TITLE
A "Red Flag" is a signal to pay attention! Below are some of the items which may cause delay or other problems within a transaction and must be addressed before the closing.
Clearing liens and judgments, including child or spousal support liens
Encroachments or off record easements
Establishing fact of death— joint tenancy, trusts
Physical inspection results— Encroachments, or off-record easements
Power of Attorney—Use of, proper execution
Proper execution of documents
Proper jurats, notary seals
Transfers or loans involving corporations or partnerships
Last minute change in buyers
Last minute change in type of title insurance coverage
RED FLAG EXAMPLES
CC&R’S: These are standard. The CC&R’s should be provided to the buyer by escrow. The buyer should read these thoroughly, especially if improvements to the property are contemplated.
RED FLAG: Some CC&R’s prohibit certain types of improvements.
EASEMENTS: These are also standard. Most easements in newer subdivisions (20 years or less) are contained in the streets. Some subdivisions have nonexclusive easements over portions of the property for such things as maintenance of side yards, access to common areas (like golf courses), etc.
RED FLAG: If improvements are contemplated (such as construction of a pool or spa) the buyer should request the easements be plotted on a map to determine if there will not be any interference to contemplated improvements. Easements are very difficult to get removed and your client may be better off with another property if an easement interferes with his future plans for the property.
AGREEMENTS: Theses commonly take the form of road maintenance agreements, mutual easement agreements (like a shared driveway) or improvement agreements, and will bind the owner to certain actions. A copy of the agreement should be requested from title and provided to the buyer. It is the buyer’s responsibility to contact their own counsel if they do not understand how the agreement would affect them.
TRUST DEEDS: These are common. Escrow will order a demand from the lender(s) which will allow the title company to pay off existing loan(s) using the proceeds from the new buyer’s loan (or proceeds if all cash).
RED FLAG: Watch out for old deeds of trust from a previous owner (or sometimes the current owner if he has refinanced). If you find a deed of trust listed that has already been paid, or that looks like it was taken out by a previous owner, call your escrow officer immediately. Your escrow officer will research the deed of trust, and take the necessary steps to either remove it from the public record or by acquiring an “indemnity” from the title company who paid off the old loan. Old deeds of trust with private party beneficiaries (an individual acting as lender, such as an old seller carry-back) are difficult to get removed, especially if several years have gone by since the loan has been paid off.
ENCROACHMENTS: Sometimes a structure (commonly a fence or driveway) encroaches upon a property. This usually means that a client will have to take the property subject to the encroachment. Contact your title officer if you see encroachment language in your prelim.
RED FLAG: The lender will usually not want to lend on a property where encroachments exist. In some circumstances, an endorsement to the lender’s policy (usually with an extra charge) can allow the lender to close. These are determined on a case-by-case basis. Again, contact your escrow officer.
NOTICE OF VIOLATION: These will sometimes be recorded by the fire department, the health department or the local zoning enforcement division in situations where the property violates a local statute.
RED FLAG: These are always a red flag. The lender will not accept these conditions. The violation will have to be eliminated and the local enforcement agency will have to issue a release before closing. The seller or the seller’s representative will have to deal directly with the appropriate agency to resolve these types of issues.
COURT ORDER/JUDGMENTS: These are not a standard item. The most common type are support judgments. These are issued by the courts when child/spousal support is owed by the party named.
RED FLAG: Any order/judgment is a red flag. If you see an order or judgment, contact escrow immediately to verify that the demand has been ordered.
BANKRUPTCY: While not unusual, bankruptcies are not standard.
RED FLAG: All open bankruptcies require the debtor to get permission from the court to sell or encumber an asset (the home) or to take on new debt. Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcies against the seller are the most common found in a sale situation. A letter from the bankruptcy trustee will be required to close escrow. The trustee will sometimes require that a payment be made to the court at close. We sometimes find a Chapter 13 against a buyer, which will also require a letter from the trustee allowing the debtor to take on more debt. An open Chapter 7 against the buyer is rare, and the buyer probably cannot get a loan as long as he is in a Chapter 7. NOTE: Chapter 7 is a complete washout of dischargeable debt, Chapter 13 is a reorganization of debt and Chapter 11 is a reorganization of debt for a company or corporation.
NOTICE OF PENDING ACTION: This is also known as a “lis pendens.”
RED FLAG: This is a big red flag. This means that someone has a lawsuit pending that may affect the title to the property. These are often found in acrimonious divorce situations. A demand (the aggressing party usually wants money before releasing) and dismissal of the case and (a “withdrawal of lis pendens”) will be required before closing.
STATEMENT OF INFORMATION:
Also known as a statement of facts, statement of identity, or an SI. This required document will be provided to the parties by escrow. It asks for information about the parties such as social security number, residence history, marital history, job history, aliases, etc. Please fill this out as completely as possible. The SI allows the company to eliminate things recorded in the GI (General Index) against the name (as opposed to the property) such as tax liens, judgments, welfare liens, support liens and lawsuits that may be filed against people that have the same name as you. These types of liens may attach to any real property owned by the debtor, and therefore make the property liable for any payment due under the lien.
RED FLAG: If you have a common name (for example: Smith, Johnson, Garcia, Martinez, Lee, etc) it is important that the company receive the completed SI promptly in order to “clear” these items. Sometimes you may be unaware that a lien exists. More often, you may have resolved the situation but had never gotten the proper release documents recorded in order to remove it from the public record. We cannot close a file with unresolved liens against a seller. Contact your escrow officer if you find that this situation exists.
NOTE: If you obtain a judgement against a party that awards money damages if you, it may be wise to record the judgement in any county where the debtor owns or may own property. Consult your attorney. If you find something on your prelim that is not listed here, it is probably a red flag and you should contact your escrow officer. He (or she) will be happy to provide you with copies of recorded documents and advise you as to what is needed in order to remove the item (if necessary). Sometimes, though, removing an item is so time consuming, or costly, or both, that the buyer may elect to cancel a transaction. We cannot advise you regarding the risk in making such a decision. You should contact your own counsel if you have only concerns.