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Title insurance is a form of indemnity insurance predominantly found in the United States which insures against financial loss from defects in title to real property and from the invalidity or unenforceability of mortgage loans. Title insurance is principally a product developed and sold in the United States as a result of an alleged comparative deficiency of land records in that country. It is meant to protect an owner’s or a lender’s financial interest in real property against loss due to title defects, liens or other matters. It will defend against a lawsuit attacking the title, or reimburse the insured for the actual monetary loss incurred, up to the dollar amount of insurance provided by the policy. The first title insurance company, the Law Property Assurance and Trust Society, was formed in Pennsylvania in 1853. The vast majority of title insurance policies are written on land within the United States.
Typically the real property interests insured are fee simple ownership or a mortgage. However, title insurance can be purchased to insure any interest in real property, including an easement, lease or life estate.
There are two types of policies – owner and lender. Just as lenders require fire insurance and other types of insurance coverage to protect their investment, nearly all institutional lenders also require title insurance [a loan policy] to protect their interest in the collateral of loans secured by real estate. Some mortgage lenders, especially non-institutional lenders, may not require title insurance. Buyers purchasing properties for cash or with a mortgage lender often want title insurance [an owner policy] as well. A loan policy provides no coverage or benefit for the buyer/owner and so the decision to purchase an owner policy is independent of the lender’s decision to require a loan policy.
Title insurance is available in many other countries, such as Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Mexico, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea and throughout Europe. However, while a substantial number of properties located in these countries are insured by U.S. title insurers, they do not constitute a significant share of the real estate transactions in those countries. They also do not constitute a large share of U.S. title insurers’ revenues. In many cases these are properties to be used for commercial purposes by U.S. companies doing business abroad, or properties financed by U.S lenders. The U.S. companies involved buy title insurance to obtain the security of a U.S. insurer backing up the evidence of title that they receive from the other country’s land registration system, and payment of legal defense costs if the title is challenged.