How to Make Invalid Deeds Valid in Florida

September 16, 2023by Brandon Banks

If you’re a homeowner, you’re presumed to own your home … but how do you know? Is your name on the home? Maybe it’s on the mailbox … but that’s far from official. What if someone spray-painted over your name on the mailbox? Is it no longer home? Of course not?

Ownership of real estate arises not from names on mailboxes, but names on deeds. A deed is a legal document that acts as the instrument of “ownership” of a piece of real property. It is recorded with the county for official recognition; anyone can look it up; and if someone challenges your ownership of that property, claiming it’s not actually yours and you have to leave, you can point to that deed to say “Yes I do own that property! Here’s the official record!”

… Unless there’s a problem with the deed. As with all things legal, every “i” needs to be dotted, every “t” crossed. One word out of place, one typo or transposition error, even one punctuation mark added or omitted — any of these errors can call into question the validity of the deed and even render it invalid.

Title offices work hard to make sure deeds go to the county recorder error-free, but humans are human and mistakes happen. 

Don’t worry, you’re not getting evicted and your home sale isn’t scuttled. If all else fails, there’s title insurance. But before we even get there, most buyers, owners, and sellers have other corrective measures they can take to make the title valid again. Let’s look at how to make an invalid title valid in the state of Florida.

Errors on a Title That Require Corrective Action

Some of the mistakes that might require corrective action to validate a deed include:

  1. Insufficient or incorrect legal description of the property
  2. Incorrect name or nickname of the grantor or grantee
  3. Incorrect listing of “consideration” (usually money that changed hands)
  4. No notary seal
  5. Not enough subscribing witnesses 
  6. Defective or missing acknowledgments
  7. Undisclosed marital status of grantor on a non-homestead statement
  8. Missing joinder of grantor’s spouse for homestead property

Scrivener’s Errors

“Scrivener” is an antique term for the person in charge of physically writing official documents. Today we use the term scrivener’s error to describe an error on the deed caused by a mistake on the part of the person who drafted the deed. All the right information was available; the scrivener just made a typo, transposition, or other common error. These are often easy to fix (see below) but they do require corrective action to validate the deed.

Errors on a Title That Don’t Require Corrective Action

Some mistakes on a title actually don’t require any corrective action. If the error is deemed to be “harmless” to the effectiveness of the deed, it may still be perfectly valid. 

Examples might include typographical errors that don’t pertain to the property description, named grantors or grantees, witnesses, acknowledgements, consideration, and other material components of the deed.

Another example is a missing or incorrect date. This is technically a deed error, but under Florida law it doesn’t actually affect the force and effectiveness of the deed.

Some errors actually cure over time — specifically missing witnesses and missing acknowledgments (thought not a complete lack of acknowledgments). F.S. 95.231 and F.S. 694.08 lay out the stipulations under which these errors cure over time. 

When Are Title Errors Revealed?

Title errors usually come to light during the title work involved in the sale or transfer of property. This is to be expected, since usually no one looks at the title unless it is to be conveyed or transferred. A homeowner could live in a house for decades with an erroneous or invalid title, but the problem will never be revealed until it comes time to sell.  

A title error might also be revealed if someone contests the title — files a competing claim of ownership, for example, or claims an illegal use of the property. At that point, the title may be examined and errors may be discovered.

Ways to Correct Title Errors

Corrective Deed

A corrective deed is a kind of “confirmatory instrument.” It doesn’t replace the deed, but it gets filed alongside the erroneous deed. Its purpose is to correct the errors of the original deed.

A corrective deed will:

  • Identify the deed to be corrected.
  • Identify the exact error to be corrected. 
  • State the correction itself.
  • Be signed, notarized, and witnessed like any deed.
  • Be recorded alongside the original deed.   

Corrective Affidavit or Curative Notice

Sometimes a corrective deed isn’t necessary. In the case of a scrivener’s error or other minor errors, a corrective affidavit or curative notice may be sufficient.

A corrective affidavit is similar to a corrective deed in that it identifies the specific errors and stipulates the correction. It gets recorded alongside the deed. The difference is that the grantor and witnesses do not need to sign off on the deed. An affidavit is not an instrument of ownership — it is simply a sworn statement, of similar effect to testimony sworn to in court. Often an attorney can simply prepare and sign the document and file it.

If the corrective affidavit meets the burden of legal standards, the erroneous deed can convey exactly as if there were no errors at all.

Completely New Deed

Major mistakes in the deed may not be curable by a corrective deed or affidavit. In these cases, the best way to validate the deed may be to scrap the original deed and issue an entirely new deed. In this case, the old deed remains invalid, and a new correct deed is issued to replace it. If no one is contesting the deed, this should be relatively painless with the right legal representation. 

Deed Reformation Action

If someone has brought allegations of fraud, unjust enrichment, illegality, accident, or mutual mistake to contest the deed, the last resort is to settle it in court via a court proceeding called a deed reformation action. 

In this proceeding, each side presents its argument and a judge rules on the validity of the arguments. Once the judge has ruled, a new deed can be issued.

Who Can Correct a Deed?

Correcting a deed usually requires the consent of the grantor (that is, the seller in the case of a property sale), since the grantor is responsible for transferring valid title to the grantee. In some cases the grantee may need to correct the deed — for example, if errors are discovered after the transfer.

If both parties are affected, they may correct the title by mutual agreement. In some cases, the title companies or lawyers involved in the original title work may become involved.

Does My New Deed Need to Be Ruled On in Court?

Title to real estate is a big deal. A lot of money is at stake. Can you just scribble on some pieces of paper to fix serious problems? Shouldn’t the changes be ruled upon by a judge to prevent abuse of the process?

Typically the ruling of a judge is unnecessary as long as the corrective action meets legal standards set forth by Florida law. A judge’s ruling is only required if someone contests the title or the correction in court.

While title errors can be serious, don’t worry — property buyers, sellers, and owners have many legal recourses to correct those errors. Many of those recourses are quite painless with the help of the right title professional.

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