Q: A title company insured my home and failed to disclose a slope easement in favor of the City.
Eucalyptus trees growing on this back slope are constantly shedding leaves in my swimming pool/yard.
An appraiser retained by the title company says that the easement does not diminish the value of my property. But it has a negative impact as described above. The City has asked me to cease trimming the trees and remove rocks placed on the slope. My control on my property has been compromised by this undisclosed easement. The title company is not offering any compensation based on appraisal report.
What are my chances of successfully suing the title company in a small claim court or do I need a local attorney who specializes in title claims?
A: The basic underlying principle of title insurance is to protect a real estate buyer against a loss due to a title defect on the property purchased.
But you have fallen right into one of the problems many buyers discover when they find that the title company has failed to disclose a title issue when you purchased your home.
If you could develop and build on the easement area, you would have a better chance in your claim against the title company. Your loss would be your inability to develop your property due to the undisclosed easement and what that was worth. If you buy 10 acres of land to build 10 homes and can only build eight due to the easement, you have suffered a loss.
If you buy a home and find that an undisclosed easement is under your garage and the garage has to be torn down, you have a loss and have a claim against the title company.
If your sole issue is the leaves that fall onto your pool, you have a unique claim and probably won’t find a title company that will be sympathetic to it. That “loss” will probably not fall within the scope of the definitions of a loss of the policy.
Besides, you knew the trees were on the property when you bought the home and those trees can’t be the claim for the loss, it’s the easement.
If you were planning to remove the trees and plant fruit or nut trees for your business and later found out that you could not, you might claim that loss, but if you are located in a single family area and can continue to use your home as intended, the leaves falling would be no different than leaves falling from a neighbors’ yard.
If you decide to pursue it because you have additional information, your title claim will probably require the services of an attorney who has had ample experience with title claims against title insurance companies.
April 12, 2007.