What is a certificate of title?

A certificate of title is an official document that describes a property and
identifies the owners of such property or real estate. It is usually issued by the state or its
agencies that are empowered by law to do so. A certificate can be tendered in court and other
official places to prove the ownership of the property described by that certificate.

A certificate of title simply summarizes a host of public records on ownership by declaring the
owner. It is mostly issued by the vendor/assignor after completion of real estate transactions or
the purchase of vehicles.

Since it is a summary, a certificate of title is not a complete guarantee that the owners specified
on the face of the document are absolute owners of the property described. This is because
there can be unrecorded encumbrances present in public records but not on the face of the
certificate. These encumbrances make it difficult for there to be a successful transfer of
ownership to a third-party.

Encumbrances may include mortgage loans, charges, leases and so on which are legally
binding on the owner of the property. As such, until the encumbrances are discharged, the title
of the owner is not absolute.

Clearly, from the above, a certificate of title is a document that shown an opinion on the status
of ownership.

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