Whether you own your property or have partial rights to a property, it is important to understand what clear title means, and the possible issues that may arise if your title is not clear after a disaster strikes.

Disaster Legal Assistance Collaborative (DLAC) provides free legal information and limited scope representation to assist Californian homeowners with title clearing. If you are interested in participating please complete the sign-up form below.

Title Clearing FAQs

What does having a clear title mean?

Clear title is ownership of your property that is free of claims, doubts, or disputes about ownership. A clear title generally means that no one else has a financial interest in your property.

It also means there is no question of ownership, and that the ownership history of your property can be easily traced.  Meaning, if you look at the public records for your property and see that one person sold it to another person, and they transferred to another person, who then sold it to another, and so on.

What are common types of title issues?

Title issues arise when property is not legally transferred or deeded over to another person. This is when the title or ownership of a property can become “cloudy”. This can happen when someone dies without a will or something similar, or when a family doesn’t administer a will.

Title issues can also arise when there are claims, doubts, or disputes about ownership of a property that can arise from liens or encumbrances. An example would be a mortgage or mechanics line recorded against the property.

How do I know if my title is clean?

Property owners must complete a title search in the County where the property is located. This title search is done through the public records with the County Clerk.

There are also private search companies that can search the public records and provide information regarding the owner of record and liens or encumbrances that have been filed against the property.

Is there a cost to clearing a title?

Clearing title can be as easy as recording a previously signed deed or drafting a new deed to be signed and filed.

However, clearing a title can be a long and complicated legal process. Some options for clearing a title will require that you file forms with your local probate court or civil court, go before a judge, or be represented by a lawyer.

In any event, it is recommended that that you seek the guidance of a lawyer to help you.

What documents can I produce to prove home ownership?

To prepare for a disaster, you should have copies and digital copies of all your important papers, such as deed, insurance, wills, motor vehicle registration, and court documents.

FEMA requires the following documentation to prove that you own your home:

  • Deed or Title
  • Mortgage document
  • Homeowners insurance documentation
  • Property tax bill or receipt
  • Manufactured home certificate
  • Home purchase contract
  • Last will and testament naming applicant heir to the property
  • Receipts of major repairs or maintenance done within the last five years
  • Letter prepared after the disaster from a mobile home park owner that met with FEMA requirements
  • Letter or mail delivered to your address from an employer, public official, social services organization, school district, mobile home park owner

These documents should be kept in a safe and secure location, but also easily accessible and if you must evacuate your home, you can grab these documents and take them with you.

How do I prove that I lived at the affected residence if it was off the grid?

If your home is considered off the grid you must provide as much documentation from the list above.

In rare cases, FEMA as a last resort may accept a self-declaration statement form the property heir or owner of property or mobile home.

Where do I go to clear my title?

Follow these steps:

 

  1. Verify with the county recorder’s office who is the owner of record.
  2. If you are not and believe you should be the owner of record, contact our office and provide the details of the legal ownership of the property and how you came to be in possession and ownership of the property.
  3. Our office will either guide you with the next steps. These steps will vary depending on the circumstances of your situation.

Is a clear title needed to apply for FEMA aid?

FEMA is required by law to verify a survivor’s home occupancy or ownership before it provides certain types of assistance.

 

Additionally, other disaster relief agencies or organizations will likely need to verify a survivor’s home occupancy or ownership before it provides certain types of assistance.

How can an attorney help me with title clearing?

Yes, DLAC is available to assist you clear title to your property.
Please complete intake form to get help.

How to get help

Complete intake form found below.
Intake Form
You will receive an email letting you know if you are eligible.
If you are eligible, schedule an appointment with a lawyer.
Meet with a lawyer.
Complete instructions provided by lawyer.
Title Cleared.

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