Questionable wording in a deed

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Brad L
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Questionable wording in a deed

Post by Brad L »

I am hoping to get some input on the unique language of a deed that I believe has bee interpreted incorrectly on two record of surveys

The title of the deed is QUITCLAIM and it is from a City which "releases, remises and quitclaims to the State of California, it successors and assigns, any and all right, title and interest in and to the real property located in the County...described on Exhibit A, attached hereto and made a part hereof."

One of the several descriptions in Exhibit A begins with "An easement for freeway purposes and incidents thereto upon, over and across that certain parcel of land..."

Both Records of Survey call out the boundary line prior to the quitclaim deed as being correct and this quitclaim deed creating a new easement, however I believe this quitclaim is the new boundary and the fee property was identified as an easement because that is what the State condemned 20 years earlier. A quit claim deed from the State recorded after this one from the City, quitclaims a portion of this easement back to the City.

Looking at the quitclaim deed, I do not believe you can create an easement by quitclaiming it. Me quitclaim an easement for freeway purposes isn't me creating an easement but quitting all claim to that easement and any other right I may have. It would make sense if it said, reserving or less & except, but it didn't. This is a potentially large material discrepancy which would require a new ROS and I'm not looking forward to that discussion.

Any insight would be much appreciated.
Brad Luken
mpallamary
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by mpallamary »

The word you should consider is Quitclaim.
A deed that transfers whatever ownership interest the transferor has in a particular property. The deed does not guarantee anything about what is being transferred.
Quitclaim deed

Definition
A document by which a grantor conveys his or her present interest, if any, in a given parcel of real property to a grantee without representing, covenanting, or warranting that the title is good.
Illustrative caselaw
See, e.g. Spreckels v. Brown, 212 U.S. 208, 210 (1909).
Brad L
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by Brad L »

In those definitions, it appears the quitclaim is an absolute grant of whatever rights one has in that specific property. If you are quitclaiming your title to land, you are giving up all of your rights to that land but without any guarantee you have a right to begin with. "A quitclaim deed transfers whatever present right or interest the grantor has in the property." (Westlake v Silva 49 Cal. App2d 476) emphasis is my own.

And while I appreciate the only reply, it doesn't quite answer the question I was intending to ask, so let me try it another way.

Can a grantor convey a lesser estate to the grantee by quitclaiming only a specific interest, such as an easement for freeway purposes, while still retaining the underlying fee ownership?

By the definitions it appears a quitclaim is an absolute transfer of all of ones rights at that specific time, but that isn't what this deed is.

I believe I found the the parties intent through other documents, and their intent was to grant an easement to by saying the Grantor is quitclaiming an easement to the Grantee. So case is close for now, but I would hate to be the retracing surveyor 100 years from now.

While replying, I started to read City of Manhattan Beach v Superior Court (13 Cal 4th 232) and this case may relate to my question. However, it appears they reached an opposite conclusion with the extrinsic evidence they were presented. (my evidence is a signed agreement from the State with an exhibit identifying each parties interest)
Brad Luken
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David Kendall
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by David Kendall »

I'm finding this difficult to follow, it might be prudent for you to post the actual documents rather then trying to describe your interpretation of the possible meaning of the terms.

To me, a quitclaim of an easement would be a release of all rights to said easement or it would extinguish the existing easement. I cannot imagine any mechanism to create an easement right via quitclaim deed. Simply, that is not how it is done.

As stated the quitclaim deed document would release all future claims to any and all title rights over the land described.

An intended easement for public use that was sanctioned by construction of roads and public utilities or other general public use would very likely indicate creation of a prescriptive right even if the proper title conveyance was botched. Especially if the limits and use were explicitly described in other private file documents.

I would consult with a land use attorney, county right of way agent, or other title expert before I would call off the other two surveyors interpretations and file a contrary record of survey. At this point it sounds like your explanation of the situation for the record would be tenuous at best
Brad L
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by Brad L »

The other surveyor's boundary determination agree with the interpretation that this quitclaim deed granted only an easement while the city retained fee ownership. I agree that it feels like the the wrong mechanism was used, or at the very least more information on the cover page to be certain easements were being created.

The roads and improvements were there before this deed and this deed was meant to correct the title but it seems to me to just make it more confusing.

I didn't want to make too much information public, but I've included the cover page (which is giving me the most grief), the preamble of one of the easements, and a snippet of the agreement confirming the State was granted a quitclaimed easement.
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Brad Luken
CB6753
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by CB6753 »

A quitclaim deed is the standard way for an agency to transfer an easement. It's often used to eliminate easements by transferring one back to the fee owner. Do not assume that the City is the underlying fee owner. Caltrans always acquires freeways in fee simple, but on occasion local agencies have purchased easements and then transferred the title to Caltrans. This happens when the local agency is the lead agency on a project, providing most of the funds. This looks like a locally-funded project was built by the city, who then transferred all of the project to the state. Several parcels were then described in the Exhibit "A". Its not clear where you thought the error was in the description, but I would accept each parcel as being the degree of title stated in the deed, and not assume that anyone holds the underlying fee without a full title report.
Brad L
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by Brad L »

Thanks for the reply. Using a quitclaim deed just seems like the wrong type of deed to use to convey an easement of this sorts. To me, the City should have granted this easement to the State. I have seen municipalities use "Easement Deed" for a granting easements and use "Joint deed"/"Exchange deed" when there is a combination of grants and quitclaims. I cannot recall seeing another quitclaim deed grant an easement, maybe reserving one, but not granting one. I am sure it does happen though.

At first I was under the impression that Caltrans did acquire this land in fee by specifically using the quitclaim deed and that is why I started this thread. However, I think the Caltrans agreement and exhibits show Caltrans does not always acquire freeways in fee simple. The agreement was finalized 6 months after the recording of the quitclaim deed, and was modified with the project. I have a current CLTA Guarantee/Policy of Title Insurance that shows no other transfers occurred in regards to that property. It was a locally funded project, but the exhibits in the agreement show not all of the rights for the project (underlying fee) were transferred.

The error was I thought the State took this land in fee because of the quitclaim. Since a quitclaim is a specific type of deed that transfers all of one's rights.

But if I "accept each parcel as being the degree of title stated in the deed", then the State only took "An Aerial Easement for freeway purposes..."

I'll chalk this up as a learning experience
Brad Luken
dedkad
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by dedkad »

Did you contact Caltrans District 4 to get a copy of their R/W map for this area? That might help with interpretation, or at least show you what their interpretation is.
JEH
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by JEH »

Caltrans District 4 has an online map portal- https://caltrans.maps.arcgis.com/apps/w ... 36b7dda48/
Be sure to check the box for the appropriate decade in the layer list.
Brad L
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by Brad L »

I have Caltrans' "ROW Record Map" and "Appraisal Map" and neither show the easement. Both have the ROW & boundary line referenced to a 1950's deed, which I know isn't current based on improvements.

Thanks for the suggestions.
Brad Luken
CBarrett
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Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by CBarrett »

You create a new easement by a grant deed, and that's where you want to describe which rights and restrictions come with the easement.

Quitclaim transfers ALL of the rights they had in the easement to the state without having to worry about describing each right and inadvertently missing something, just reference the original document which granted the easement. You transfer an easement by a quitclaim (I've seen quite a few of these).

This document transferred whatever easement rights they originally possessed to the state of California.

I am currently working on several projects where street easements are getting created and dedicated to a city, or a transportation agency LLC. Once the construction is completed and accepted the easements are to be quitclaimed to Caltrans, by the agency. Meaning all the rights the agency had in the piece of land is now moving to Caltrans.

Sometimes with these transactions you end up needing a chain of title on the easement itself to see what rights actually got transferred.

But, a word of caution in all this - this is where a surveyor can get in trouble trying to determine the nature of title. Since you are working with a title company I would have deferred to them to dig out the nature of interest in that strip. If you encounter a particularly inclined land attorney reviewing this, they are likely to tell you that by trying to determine the nature of title here (where there are ambiguities) you are trying to practice law.
Your 'job' may end at, I know where it is, but I don't know what it is, and let the title experts figure it out.
Brad L
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Joined: Thu Jul 23, 2015 11:33 am

Re: Questionable wording in a deed

Post by Brad L »

Thanks for the reply. The easements in question never existed prior to the quitclaim, the quitclaim "created" these easements. I understand this isn't possible by the definition of a quitclaim deed, but those easements never existed prior to this document.

I was thinking these were unrecorded Temporary Construction Easements that were released, but that State agreement signed after the recording of the deed provided the best evidence of the intent of this project.

I have seen many of easements quitclaimed and, in fact, discovered this anomaly, because the City is trying to have the County quitclaim an easement. What I have not seen before is a description for an easement not in any other record, appear in a quitclaim and create a right, unless a Condemnation (eminent domain) is a quitclaim and not a grant, however I cannot find a conclusive answer on this.

I agree a surveyor may get in trouble with this, heck this threw me for a huge loop. I read the deed thinking the City was giving up existing easements, but realized no prior easement existed and the agreement stating the State's interest, makes the title clear. With that said, it doesn't mean this couldn't be challenged and I am wrong, but I am showing the boundary and RoW as different lines and will advise the City they have a cloud, to say the least.

Thanks again and I really appreciate the input.
Brad Luken
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