The Statewide Title Newsletter and Legal Memorandum

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Issue  178  Article  308
Published:  5/1/2010

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Dirt Tales From the Deed Vault - Episode 35
John Dillard, Vice President and Legal Counsel

Angie Ambler looked around the small ten foot by ten foot cubicle and took in her surroundings. She was seated on a bed that was anchored to the wall and dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit. This was her second day here. As she sat in silence her mind went over the events that had brought her to this place.

As a divorced mother of a grade school aged son Angie had bought a house in another city to begin a new life. She was pleased that she had found what appeared to be an ideal home that was within her budget. Soon after moving in a neighbor had informed her that she did not have a right to use the long road that served four other homes before connecting with driveway that stretched to her new house. She was told that she wasn't going to be allowed to drive to her home on this road. Angie protested saying that there were no other roads that led to her house and the two mile road was too far for her to walk. But the neighbor persisted and the next day Angie went to see the attorney who had closed her purchase.

The attorney, Lester Dolittle, advised Angie that he had tacked onto an existing loan policy in order to save her some money and that he had not searched the title to see if she had a legal access. But he added, he felt comfortable because the policy he tacked to didn't have an exception as to access and so her policy didn't either. If she had any more problems she should contact the title company he added.

Angie continued to drive on the road despite her neighbor's protests. One day a deputy sheriff showed up at her door with a set of papers, a motion for injunction to prevent her from using the road. At the court hearing the judge ruled that Angle had no right to use the road since she had not deeded access in her chain of title. Angie set the court order to the side and kept driving on the road. She felt justified as there was no other way for her to get to and from her home and she had to take her son to school and go to work each day. The judge just didn't fully understand she thought.

A little over a week later the deputy sheriff showed up and served another set of papers on her. Again, she had a court hearing and the judge admonished her to abide by her previous ruling or be held in contempt of court.

Angie continued to drive on the road because she had no other choice; she had to get to work, take her son to school and get out to buy food. She felt like the judge was over reacting. But in a matter of days the deputy sheriff was on her doorstep again with more papers. This time at her hearing the judge was very angry at her and ordered her to go to jail for ten days for contempt of court. Angie remembered what her attorney had said and she asked if she could make a call to the title company.

Angie's story is true and underscores the danger in tacking onto lender only title policies, because lender policies often give coverage to a bank that would not be given in an owner's policy. Had her attorney conducted a full title search it would have revealed that the house Angie was buying lacked legal access.

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