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Source of Title Blog : Texas Legislation

Are Quit-Claim Deeds Really Worthless in Texas?
by Robert Franco | 2011/06/07

I was stunned when I got a call from another Ohio attorney telling me that he was told by a title insurer that real estate he was dealing with in Texas was uninsurable because there were quit-claim deeds in the chain of title. He said "they treat them as if they don't exist." It didn't make any sense to me, so I did a little digging. I think I understand the logic of the insurers' position, but it seems like a huge problem that Texas really needs to address.

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Categories: Abstractors, Attorneys, Risk, Liability and Claims, Texas Legislation, Title Problems

Source of Title Blog :: 4 comments ::

Freehold Licensing Defends Covenants
by Robert Franco | 2008/01/31

My last post, Patently Stupid, addressed the pending patent of Freehold Licensing, Inc. - “Springing Interests Flowing From Benefits That Run With Land”. The company has a patent pending on a "real estate strategy" that is basically a covenant that runs with the land and requires the declarant of the covenant to receive a payment of one percent of the purchase price on subsequent sales of the property for a period of 99 years. If you haven't read the post, you should do so. Then, read the comment by Freehold Licensing, which I will parse through below.

Freehold claims that my post was incorrect - that the Texas legislators did not ban the use of the covenant on residential real estate transactions, but only prohibits the buyer from paying the fee - not the seller.


Robert, the Texas statute (5.017), crafted in subcommittee after the senate rejected a ban, only prohibits the buyer from paying the fee - not the seller.

I don't know what the subcommittee drafted, or what the senate rejected. However, after reviewing Texas Property Code § 5.017 - I think that Freehold is wrong about that. It appears to me that such covenants are void and unenforceable in Texas, at least as applied to residential property.

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Categories: Abstractors, Attorneys, Innovation, Texas Legislation, Title Industry, Title Problems

Source of Title Blog :: 4 comments ::

The Texas Two-Step
by Robert Franco | 2007/02/28

The Texas lawmakers and the county clerks seem to be involved in a rather un-eloquent dance that has left many title professionals wondering when they will be able to cut-in. The lawmakers obviously saw a need to provide their constituents with some protection against the dissemination of their social security numbers ("SSNs"), something Texas has already afforded to their sex offenders, but the restrictions seem to be too much for the clerks to handle. Several of the clerks have either prohibited access to their local records, or severely limited access to a small number of documents, making it nearly impossible to produce a title search.

Just today, Greg Abbott, the Attorney General of Texas, announced a 60-day abatement of Opinion No. GA-0519 to allow law makers ample time for "thorough deliberation and action."


Immediately after the opinion was issued, legislative leaders contacted this office with serious concerns about logistical implications surrounding the rapid implementation of statutorily-mandated SSN confidentiality. Complex problems were faced by county
clerks responsible for decades-old documents that are frequently laden with SSNs. Some clerks were left grappling with transitioning to a law that ensures SSNs are always kept confidential. The real-world consequence was a virtual halt to a tremendous amount of business and commerce in Texas. In response to these problems, a number of legislators have stated their intention to take immediate action to address the issues and conclusions discussed in Opinion No. GA-0519.

In light of these developments, I hereby abate Opinion No. GA-0519 for a period of 60 days in order to allow the Legislature ample time for thorough deliberation and action. During the time of this abeyance, Opinion No. GA-0519 will have no force or effect.

Now, the Texas House of Representatives is planning an emergency measure to address the problem created by Section 552.147. David Bloys, a title abstractor and publisher of News For County Officials, has recently passed along an email he received from the owner of a Texas title company. The e-mail asks for other title professionals to contact their legislators and request that the resolution be specifically tailored to address local access to the public records without devastating the protection that the law was created to provide.

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Categories: Abstractors, Texas Legislation

Source of Title Blog :: 4 comments ::

The Key Fob Incident
by Robert Franco | 2007/02/27

A few years ago I had an embarrassing moment - one of those moments when you hope nobody was watching. I was running a little late for work. On the way to my car, I pressed the unlock button on my key fob. But, when I got to the door it was still locked. I pressed the unlock button again but I didn't hear that familiar click of the locks. "Hmmm... what's the problem?" I thought. So I pressed it again, still nothing. I pressed it again, again, and again. "Must be a dead battery," my internal monologue continued. "Great, I'm already running late. I have no idea where the heck I put the other key fob. Why me... why today?"

Then, it hit me, that embarrassment that turns your face red. I just smiled and hoped that nobody was watching, or worse yet, eavesdropping on my internal monologue. Dangling from the other end of my key chain was the KEY. For crying out lout - how dumb I felt. For a brief moment, I forgot that I could actually insert the key and twist it to unlock the door.

Now, if you can stop laughing at me for just a moment, I'll make point; and that is, we have become so accustomed to using technology that we sometimes forget that it is not the only way to do things.

I bring this up today because many of the counties across the country have been pulling their records from the Internet in light of security concerns over the personal information that is sometimes contained in the public records. Most recently, counties in Texas have been responding to an opinion from Greg Abbott, the Attorney General, that indicates that county clerks may be subjected to criminal penalties for publishing social security numbers on the Internet.

The social security number ("SSN") of a living person is confidential and subject to mandatory exception from required disclosure under section 552.147(a) of the Public Information Act ("PIA"). Distributing confidential information under the PIA is a criminal offense. Section 552.147(b) of the PIA provides an administrative procedure by which a government body may redact confidential SSNs from public information without first obtaining an attorney general decision.

The confidentiality of SSNs of living persons under 552.147 of the PIA applies to all county clerk records subject to the PIA.

Section 552.147 of the PIA does not authorize a county clerk to redact SSNs from original documents maintained in the clerk's records.

When a county clerk redacts a SSN from a copy of a document maintained by the clerk's office, the clerk may label the copy as a "certified copy," but such certification must reflect that SSNs have been redacted.

Prior to posting a record on the Internet, the clerk must redact the SSNs of living persons from any record subject to the PIA.

For purposes of section 552.147 of the PIA, a governmental body may presume that a requested SSN belongs to a living person unless the facts before the governmental body show otherwise.

I have read the full opinion and I must say that it makes perfect sense to me. Abbot correctly concludes that in light of the growing trend of identity theft, the potential harm from the uncontrolled release of SSNs to the general public is high, while the public need for the disclosure is not significant. Furthermore, for years Texas has recognized exceptions to the public disclosure of SSNs for public employees and officials, crime victims, voters, etc. There are three laws that except the SSNs of sex offenders from public disclosure. As Abbot stated in the opinion, "If the Texas Legislature has seen fit to protect SSNs of convicted sex offenders, surely the Legislature intended for regular law-abiding citizens to be entitled to the same protection."

I was amazed to see some of the commentary floating around on the Internet about this opinion, mostly from title professionals. You would think that the world was going to suddenly stop spinning on its axis. Many folks seem to think that pulling public records from the Internet is somehow going to cause the real estate industry to grind to a halt. That is simply not the case.

The records are still available at the courthouse and "real" title abstractors will still be able to provide reliable title searches to the title industry. In fact, eliminating the on-line access will most likely result in more thorough searches that are only possible at the courthouse.

I don't think that anyone ever conceived that "open records" would mean that our county records should be displayed on the Internet for world consumption. Those records are an asset of the community that built them, not a commodity to be traded with the world. Protecting that asset should be a top priority of the elected officials. County officials that electronically publish their records are doing their constituents a huge disservice for the benefit of greedy corporations, or worse yet, criminals that have learned to use the data for illegal purposes.

If you have a problem with the records being removed from the Internet, remember that when the key fob doesn't work, you still have the key dangling on the other end of the key chain. Just like our county records tucked away in the safe confines of the courthouse, the key doesn't require batteries. They are reliable and available whenever you need them.

Robert A. Franco

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Categories: Abstractors, Texas Legislation, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 2 comments ::

Source of Title Blog

Robert A. FrancoThe focus of this blog will be on sharing my thoughts and concerns related to the small title agents and abstractors. The industry has changed dramatically over the past ten years and I believe that we are just seeing the beginning. As the evolution continues, what will become of the many small independent title professionals who have long been the cornerstone of the industry?

Robert A. Franco



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