Title insurance in the United States is indemnity insurance against financial loss from defects in title to real property and from the invalidity or unenforceability of mortgage liens. Title insurance is principally a product developed and sold in the United States as a result of the comparative deficiency of the US land records laws. It is meant to protect an owner’s or a lender’s financial interest in real property against loss due to title defects, liens or other matters. It will defend against a lawsuit attacking the title as it is insured, or reimburse the insured for the actual monetary loss incurred, up to the dollar amount of insurance provided by the policy. The first title insurance company, the Law Property Assurance and Trust Society, was formed in Pennsylvania in 1853. The vast majority of title insurance policies are written on land within the U.S.
Typically the real property interests insured are fee simple ownership or a mortgage. However, title insurance can be purchased to insure any interest in real property, including an easement, lease or life estate. Just as lenders require fire insurance and other types of insurance coverage to protect their investment, nearly all institutional lenders also require title insurance to protect their interest in the collateral of loans secured by real estate. Some mortgage lenders, especially non-institutional lenders, may not require title insurance.
Title insurance is available in many other countries, such as Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea and throughout Europe. However, while a substantial number of properties located in these countries are insured by US title insurers, they do not constitute a significant share of the real estate transactions in those countries. They also do not constitute a large share of US title insurers’ revenues. In many cases these are properties to be used for commercial purposes by US companies doing business abroad, or properties financed by US lenders. The US companies involved buy title insurance to obtain the security of a US insurer backing up the evidence of title that they receive from the other country’s land registration system, and payment of legal defense costs if the title is challenged.