Written by On Call Attorney Kevin Steinacker
A deed is legal document that conveys in interest in real property from one person to another. The basic requirements for a deed in Washington are simple: it must be in writing, contain a legal description of the property, be signed by the grantor, and the grantor’s signature must be notarized. The legal description is a specific way of describing the property and distinguishing it from any other parcel of property. Washington law is very strict about the requirement of a legal description. An address is not sufficient, nor is a tax parcel number. To be enforceable, a deed must contain either a “metes and bounds” description (a description of the property prepared by a surveyor) or a “lot, block, and plat” description (a description of the property referring to a prior plat recorded in the county records).
Although many types of deeds are possible, most conveyances in Washington are done with one of three deeds specified by statute:
Statutory Warranty Deed (or just Warranty Deed)
A statutory warranty deed conveys the property together with certain specified covenants from the grantor to the recipient. By using a this deed, the grantor promises the transferee (1) that he or she is the owner of the property and has the right to convey it, (2) that no one else is possessing the property, (3) that there are no encumbrances against the property, (4) that no one with a better claim to the property will interfere with the transferee’s rights, and (5) to defend certain claims regarding title to the property. Warranty deeds are commonly used in purchase transactions where the buyer wants assurances as to the title of the property.
Bargain and Sale Deed
A bargain and sale deed in Washington would be called a special warranty deed in many other states. By using a bargain and sale deed, the grantor makes some promises regarding title, but the covenants only relate to the period that the grantor owned the property. Thus, the grantor promises (1) that he or she is the owner of the property, (2) that there are no encumbrances against the property during the time the grantor owned it, and (3) that the grantor will not interfere with the transferee’s rights to the property. Bargain and sale deeds are commonly used by banks who have acquired property after foreclosure. A bargain and sale deed could also be used in other situations where the grantor is unwilling to make the broad covenants that go along with a warranty deed.
A quitclaim deed conveys title with no covenants at all. The grantor of a quitclaim deed does not even promise that he or she owns the property described in the deed or that he or she has the right to convey it. Quitclaim deeds are used for many purposes, including gifts of property, conveyances to correct prior deeds, and conveyances to settle a legal dispute. Quitclaim deeds are also used simply to confirm that the grantor does not claim any interest in the described property.
Once you have prepared the deed, it is always best to have it recorded in the county records. Recording a deed puts the rest of the world on notice that the transaction has occurred. In the event of a dispute between two grantees, Washington’s recording statute gives priority to the party who recorded first. Any conveyances of an interest in real property is potentially taxable in Washington, so in order to record a deed, the parties must also prepare and sign a real estate excise tax affidavit stating the purchase price or the grounds for any claimed exemption.
If you have additional questions about which deed is right for your situation, you should consult with an attorney licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction where the property is located.
Kevin Steinacker is a civil litigation attorney in Tacoma, Washington. He has been in practice since 2004 in the areas of real estate, business, contracts, and probate. He is also an adjunct professor at Seattle University Law School, where he teaches a class on real estate litigation.