We often hear the phrase “good as new” to describe an item that may have been damaged and then repaired to be of at least as good of quality of the item was when the item was brand new.
When it comes to real estate and its historical chain of ownership in the courthouse, there is no “new.” The titles and ownership of real estate cannot be replaced with “new” land grants from the federal government.
Thus, “good as new” real estate documents and files is the best that can be done to make real estate documentation “perfect.” In other words, when there is a change in circumstances affecting real estate titles or ownership, possession or other rights, the best we can do is to file updated documents.
Attorneys use multiple, different tools to attempt to clear up the paperwork documentation related to real estate to make it as good as new. Those tools include deeds, mortgages and leases. However, Ohio law also provides a catch-all “band-aid” to help clear up real estate paperwork documentation in many circumstances.
Essentially, there are a variety of facts that affect real estate that are not documented in the local courthouse in a way that ties the happening of those facts with the specific real estate affected by those facts.
For instance, if a parent owns property in a life estate and then dies, the community will know that the parent died, and a probate case may be opened in probate court. However, the county recorder’s courthouse file for the real estate owned by the parent would not have a direct record that the parent died.
Similarly, a tenant may have a right to rent land from a landlord in a binding written contract between the landlord and tenant. But, if the tenant is nervous that the landlord may sell the land to someone else who will not honor the lease, the tenant may want to have the courthouse record for that specific property officially note that the tenant has tenancy rights in that property.
If there is a fact that affects real estate, including a death, marriage, divorce, birth, acquisition of possession or relinquishment of possession, those facts can be explained in a sworn statement that can be filed at the local courthouse. That sworn statement is called an affidavit.
These types of affidavits must indicate that the person signing the affidavit has personal knowledge of the facts and can and would testify in court that the facts are true if the person was asked to testify in court about the facts’ accuracy. The affidavit must also include the “official” description of the property to which the facts relate, and the affidavit must be on the proper size of paper with a specified font size along with various other requirements.
Affidavits on title should be prepared with attorney assistance, because an affidavit on title could make the signer subject to a lawsuit for slander of title for inaccuracies in the affidavit.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.