Recording Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Recording, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Recording?

Having one’s ownership of real property officially recognized by notifying the county registry of the purchase of real estate.

History and Meaning of Recording

Recording is a term used in real estate law, referring to the process of officially recording a document with the county recorder's office in order to provide public notice of a real estate transaction or other legal action. This is necessary to establish a clear chain of title and ensure that the property's ownership is accurately documented. By recording the transaction, future potential buyers or lenders will be able to investigate a property's ownership history and know that a valid transaction has taken place.

The origin of recording can be traced back to the concept of "notice" in common law. Under the doctrine of notice, a potential buyer of real estate was responsible for investigating the property's ownership history and discovering any previous claims to the property. This was a difficult and time-consuming process, however, and in many cases, buyers were unable to determine a clear chain of title without extensive investigation. Recording emerged as a way to simplify this process by creating an official record of title transactions that could be investigated by future buyers for years to come.

Examples of Recording

  1. When a person buys a house, they must complete a deed and have it recorded with the county recorder's office in order to become the legal owner of the property.
  2. If a homeowner takes out a mortgage or refinance their current loan, they will need to record the mortgage with the county recorder's office.
  3. A person can record a lien against a property in order to secure payment of a debt.
  4. In some states, a landlord must record their lease agreement with the county recorder's office to establish a prior claim on the property in case the tenant fails to pay rent.
  5. When a property owner passes away, their will is recorded with the county recorder's office in order to transfer the property to their heirs.

Legal Terms Similar to Recording

  1. Chain of title - the sequence of ownership and title transfers for a particular piece of property.
  2. Deed - a written document that transfers ownership of real property from one party to another.
  3. Title search - an examination of public records to determine the ownership history of a particular piece of property.
  4. Lien - a legal claim on a piece of property that is used to secure payment of a debt.
  5. Escrow - a neutral third party that holds legal documents and funds for a real estate transaction until all conditions of the sale have been met.