What is a deed?

Definition of Deed

A deed is a legal document that allows a property owner the ability to transfer ownership of a property to another person or legal entity. To be enforceable a deed must include an accurate legal description of the property, state on the face of the document that it is the deed for that property and be signed and witnessed by the appropriate legal entities, including lawyers, notaries, the legal buyer and seller.

Why is this term important?

To be enforceable, a deed must be signed by the seller and the buyer when transferring ownership of the property. The deed is then registered against the property at the Land Titles Office. A deed must be signed by the seller and handed over to the new owner of the property in order for it to be enforceable.

Most people assume that a deed and a property title are the same but they are not. Both documents are separate legal concepts. When a property owner possesses a property in entirety, this owner will have both a deed and a title. In real estate, a title to a property is the legal way of saying you own the rights to that property, which allows you use of the property.

In real estate, a title to a property is the legal way of saying you own the rights to that property, which allows you use of the property. Having title allows you to transfer ownership rights to another person or legal entity. It's a legal state of ownership that can be altered through legal paperwork.

Deed, on the other hand, is the actual legal document that transfers the title, or ownership, of a property from a seller to a buyer. It is a written document of ownership, a copy of which is filed during a transfer of ownership and kept at the municipal or provincial Land Titles Office.

It should be pointed out that an imperfect deed does not mean an error has been made. It means that the paperwork surrounding a deed was inaccurately handled. Perhaps the legal representative didn't file the paperwork, or the paperwork was lost decades ago when ownership transfers weren't yet documented in a central government agency.

Examples of term

Each property has a deed that specifies the owner. You cannot own a property if you do not have the deed. In the last few decades, the provincial or county Land Titles Office has collected and filed all deeds to all properties, when available.