Sometimes in the real estate business, Realtors® find that do-it-yourselfers have used certain methods to convey property (albeit a bit recklessly) without really understanding the legalities or the risks involved. One day a potential seller, who had purchased a property without using the advice of a Realtor® or attorney, or without closing the deal with licensed closer, told me that the previous owner had filed a “quick claim” that had transferred the title to him. They hadn’t even recorded the deal at the court house!
At first glance I could tell that this property may have some legal issues to be resolved before we could proceed with another sale. The “quick claim” that the property owner was talking about is really called a “Quit Claim” and is a poor substitute for a statutory warranty deed. This type of deed is simple or quick, but is called a Quit Claim deed because it is the evidence of the owner (or one of the owners) saying that “I quit”, or in other words, “if I have an interest in said property, that I give up any real or presumed interest in such property.”
In Washington, like all states, real property can only be transferred in writing. The document that transfers property is called a deed. Quit claim deeds are the simplest way to transfer property, but they carry risks that other deeds do not. Unlike warranty deeds, where the person giving the property guarantees that they own the whole property free and clear, quit claim deeds make no promises that the property transferred is free of liens or encumbrances like mortgages. By accepting a quit claim deed you are assuming a greater risk than you would if the property was transferred by warranty deed.
Quit claim deeds are often used in divorce situations because they are simple and inexpensive, however a quit claim deed will not release you from any mortgage liability on real property. The mortgage agreement is a separate contract and is not tied to who has title to the property. In the case of a divorce it is important that your spouse refinance the property to their name alone before you sign a quit claim deed or you would continue to be responsible for the mortgage payments.
This article is intended as information and is not legal advice.